Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
I'll Have Another will bid to claim coveted Triple Crown in Belmont StakesPICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Matt Wooley
A chance to celebrate a historic Triple Crown bid
IN my 41 years around thoroughbred racing as a journalist I've been privileged to have seen more than a few genuinely great race horses.
The decade of the 1970s was a special treat, one that blessed us with the likes of Secretariat, Ruffian, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid.
Three of those horses - Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed - won the coveted Triple Crown.
We've seen several near misses by horses attempting to achieve instant immortality in the sport since Affirmed did so in 1978.
Some were just not good enough while others fell short due to human error.
The latter category, at least in my opinion, most recently involves Spectacular Bid, Real Quiet and Smarty Jones, all of whom fell victim to poorly-judged rides by their respective jockeys.
Each of the Triple Crown events is unique in the challenge it presents.
The Kentucky Derby, run in early May over 1m2f, now attracts a full field of 20 and places mental demands upon its participants as well as those of a physical nature.
The Preakness Stakes, run two weeks later over 1m1½f, often places a great premium on speed than does the Derby.
The Belmont Stakes, run at 1m4f three weeks after the Preakness, challenges the staying power of its participants as well as the judgment of those who ride them.
The three most recent winners of theses races offered something special.
Secretariat, in 1973, became the first Triple Crown winner since Citation 25 years earlier. Seattle Slew four years later became the first unbeaten winner of the Triple Crown. And a year later Affirmed blazed his way to glory with stirring victories over his arch rival Alydar in each of the three Classics.
All three provided racing a very prominent and positive place on America's sports pages over the five-week period that encompasses the Triple Crown.
That brings us to Saturday's Belmont, in which I'll Have Another will bid to become the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner.
Nnever before has so much crap been written, whether on opinion pages of newspapers such as the News York Times or on any of the seemingly millions of blogs available today, about the 2012 edition.
You would think from some of these sources that trainer Doug O'Neill was Jack the Ripper reincarnate and a rabid drugger of all the horses in his care to boot.
His record is not perfect. Nor is it as shameful as some would have you believe.
Where I'll Have Another is concerned, he and his loyal team have made no mistakes. The horse simply gets better from race to race and his courage and will to win cannot be questioned.
I'm truly sick of all the rubbish that has been written about this Triple Crown. There will be a suitable time and place to resolve the problems that are attached to today's racing game.
For now, let's celebrate once again the attempt of a talented horse to bring some joy to the sport. After all, he's just doing his job, and he's doing it well.
I will be rooting my guts out for I'll Have Another to get it done.
And I believe he will.