05/22/2012 11:41AM

Triple Crown Stoppers

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Since Affirmed became the 11th and last to sweep the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 horses were denied a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes. As it turns out, the majority of the winners of these Triple Crown-denying Belmonts had something in common: They were already experienced under Triple Crown fire.

The 11 since Affirmed who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but came up short in the Belmont, and the winners of those Belmonts, were:

Spectacular Bid – Coastal (1979)

Pleasant Colony – Summing (1981)

Alysheba – Bet Twice (1987)

Sunday Silence – Easy Goer (1989)

Silver Charm – Touch Gold (1997)

Real Quiet – Victory Gallop (1998)

Charismatic – Lemon Drop Kid (1999)

War Emblem – Sarava (2002)

Funny Cide – Empire Maker (2003)

Smarty Jones – Birdstone (2004)

Big Brown – Da’ Tara (2008)

Only four of these Triple Crown stoppers were newcomers to the Triple Crown – Coastal, Summing, Sarava, and Da’ Tara. Coastal (especially) and Summing were well regarded colts. Coastal was second choice in his Belmont by a long way at 4-1, while Summing was third choice among 10 betting interests at a tick under 8-1. But Sarava and Da’ Tara were major surprises. Da’ Tara went off at 38-1, while Sarava was the biggest price winner ever in the Belmont at 70-1.

But the other seven of these Triple Crown stoppers were already known Triple Crown figures, and a few were very familiar. Bet Twice, Easy Goer, and Victory Gallop all finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and were the only ones in this group who started in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Empire Maker finished second in the Kentucky Derby. Touch Gold finished fourth in the Preakness (and to this day I maintain he was unquestionably best in that race). Birdstone finished eighth in the Derby, and Lemon Drop Kid was ninth in the Derby.

The big question looming over the game from now until the early evening of June 9 is who might be capable of denying I’ll Have Another a sweep of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, if anyone. With all due respect to the promising, but unseasoned Paynter, it would seem that the most likely suspects would be those we have already seen in the Triple Crown. As of this writing, that would be Dullahan (third in the Kentucky Derby), Union Rags (seventh in the Derby), Rousing Sermon (eighth in the Derby), Optimizer (11th in the Derby, sixth in the Preakness), and Alpha (12th in the Derby).

Of course, there is a huge difference between being a potential upsetter, and actually being an upsetter.