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There are any number of reasons to root-root-root for Derby hero Animal Kingdom to win the Preakness on Saturday, not the least of them the fact that there can be no Triple Crown winner this year unless he does.
This is important, we have been told, because, a) a Triple Crown winner will save horse racing, b) no one really believes the Triple Crown can be won, c) NYRA needs the cash and, d) Sir Barton would like to stop spinning in his grave.
Word is also getting around that Preakness Day will mark the end of the world as we know it (please refer to http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/outreach/tracts/may21/), ushering in something called The Rapture, which I thought was one of the rock bands playing on Saturday in the Pimlico infield. A case can be made that the folks who run Belmont Park might be leaning that way if Animal Kingdom does not win, since the chance of a Triple Crown winner makes the Belmont Stakes the race of the year. But then, New York's got slots coming, so they'll be fine.
When it comes to making predictions, dire or otherwise, radical evangelicals have got nothing on the post-Derby media. They are, if nothing else, predictable. Here is a sampling of what issues forth each year before the Derby winner's test has even cleared:
"There was good reason to predict a Triple Crown sweep for Fusiachi Pegasus after his seemingly effortless performance in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday." -- New York Times, May 8, 2000.
"Saturday's winner of the 127th Kentucky Derby (Monarchos) has solid credentials to complete the sweep that has been denied such recent challengers as Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic." -- New York Daily News, May 7, 2001.
"It has been 28 years since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner, but based on his Derby performance Barbaro forcefully suggested that he can end that drought." -- Sports Illustrated, May 15, 2006.
"'Going into the Preakness, this horse (Street Sense) is just going into his fourth race of the year, and that's significant,' Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas says. 'He's in a real good position to ge the second leg.'" -- USA Today, May 7, 2007.
The anxiety is undestandable. It has been 33 years since the Triple Crown was won. The median age of the 308 million or so residents of the United States is 36. That means before too long more than half the population will have been born since Affirmed took the crown in 1978. Soon it will be easier to explain mule-skinning and gaslamps to the kids.
Of course, there are very good reasons there has been no Triple Crown winner since Affirmed. The first one that comes to mind is that there has been no 3-year-old colt as good and consistent and sturdy as Affirmed since 1978. Cite all the Funny Cides, Big Browns and Smarty Joneses you want -- all Derby winners who romped at Pimlico -- winning a Derby and a Preakness is a tall order, and it takes a young horse who is both very good and very lucky, at least for these two weeks of his life, and still have a winning race left for the Belmont Stakes three weeks down the line.
So if Animal Kingdom should fail, and go down swinging, please let there be no hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth. To win he will have to be both good and lucky again, because Mucho Macho Man brings his game every time, Dialed In has too much ability to hold the Derby against him, and Dance City bears the look of a colt who is ready and willing to play at this level.
Good prose. The lust for speed, speed, speed has led to less sturdy, less confirmed progeny-and the toll taken by a Triple Crown quest seems to trump talent. AP Indy, Afleet Alex, and Barbaro (among possibly a couple others) most likely had the talent to win the Triple Crown, but racing luck and soundness are every bit as important as talent. We may not see a Triple Crown winner for another 33 years-or we may see the 5th most talented 3 year-old catch a weak bunch of classmates and get lucky, leaving Eskenderya to just shake his head. As the years go by with one unfulfilled promise after another, the Triple Crown-at least its pursuit-continues its ascent towards holiness..
In the Preakness- No need to give positive comments on half the field. I will say Animal Kingdom's win doesn't seem like a fluke in the Derby. That being said I like Shackleford. He is the only horse that went against the grain in the Derby. Just print/pull up the Derby Charts and you will see what I mean. The only one in the top 8 finishers that were even near the lead was Shackleford. A slow pace or a holding track that day? If the pace was so slow thus helping the front runners how come everything near the pace folded up shop and ran down the track? Except for Shackleford that is. When you see faster than normal fractions it could be that the track is tight, and when you see slow fractions it could be a closers and or an outside bias, and by the looks of the Derby fractions it must of been like a plow field, (at least on the inside), in which is the worst for speed. In the Florida Derby, Shackleford ran every step of the way with fractions of 23.1, 46.1, 1:10.3, and you can't say he quit because he was almost 7 clear of the third horse. I don't like the fact that Flashpoint and Dance City are in there. Dance City will stalk but I don't think Shackleford can stalk and I don't think he should. His best weapon is his speed, so he might be out throwing down with Flashpoint in the early stages (who couldn't go this distance in a pick-up truck). I will not feel sorry for Flashpoint he he breaks down as a result of trying to go with Shackleford early because Flash shouldn't even be entered here. Well you can't always have things your own way (like a few late speed scratches and 3 inches of rain) so I will just have to run Flash into the ground and keep going. No one has said anything good about Shackleford. I haven't read anything positive about him. So I expected to get way over the 12-1 morning line right?, but late Friday night he is still at his morning line. It seems that I am the only one in the world that likes him and I can't get over 12-1 ?? Anyway, I pick'em like this; 5-11-10-9-3 (and I'm not boxing it).... Because of the weather I will be keep an eye on how it plays on the track, and to try figure out just what the track superintendent did and does to the track and hope he doesn't decide to dig it up. It looks like Pimlico missed the storm but I will pray it comes back before race time. I am also starting to like Heritage hall in the 8th. Maybe I can snag some more preakness dough.
Hi Jay, Just back from the research desk and I always assumed that most people knew that Rapture was a #1 hit by the rock band Blondie. Released in 1980 it was alleged to be a direct result of Spectacular Bid NOT winning the Triple Crown of Horse Racing in 1979. with lyrics like: "And you get in your car and you drive real far And you drive all night and then you see a light And it comes right down and lands on the ground And out comes a man from Mars And you try to run but he's got a gun And he shoots you dead and he eats your head And then you're in the man from Mars You go out at night, eatin' cars You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too Mercuries and Subarus" Rapture, indeed! Is there any wonder that nobody has succeeded in the TC quest since? Or that no one knows the time? Good Luck!
Great link! Thanks, hopefully it's gonna happen after results are posted official!