07/30/2002 11:00PM

The after effects are hard to gauge


PHILADELPHIA - It has become an accepted fact that the Triple Crown is too hard on the modern American race horse. Just because it is accepted does not make it true.

I looked back 15 years and came to one conclusion. There is no conclusion.

The horses that don't survive the Triple Crown are often those that should never have been in the series. And there is a separate category for horses trained by D. Wayne Lukas. The Triple Crown is very often the end of the line for them.

Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park is usually the race where the stars of the Triple Crown emerge for the first time since the Belmont Stakes. That has been especially true in recent years.

In 1987, Alysheba and Bet Twice dominated the Triple Crown. Bet Twice edged his arch-rival in the Haskell with the great Lost Code in the picture, too.

Bet Twice had a few more moments after that, including a victory in the 1988 Pimlico Special. But the horse never really recaptured the consistency of his Triple Crown form.

Alysheba went on to become Horse of the Year in 1988 and was probably a nose short of winning the award in 1987.

Hansel was the beaten favorite in the 1991 Derby before winning the Preakness and Belmont. He was 1-2 in the Haskell, ran a terrible third, then finishes second in the Travers, and never raced again.

Skip Away was second in the 1996 Preakness and Belmont after running poorly in the Derby. He won the Ohio Derby before coming to Monmouth as the 3-5 favorite. He won by a length and went on to have a long and very productive career with earnings just shy of $10 million.

Touch Gold did not run in the 1997 Derby before running a heroic race in the Preakness where whatever could go wrong did go wrong. He upset Silver Charm in the Belmont and came to the Haskell as the 6-5 favorite. Coming from fifth and last, he won by 1 1/2 lengths. A series of physical setbacks prevented him from ever fulfilling his potential.

Menifee was second the 2000 Derby and Preakness before going way off form to run eighth in the Belmont. He won the Haskell at 3-2.

Point Given, you know about. He became the first horse to win four consecutive $1 million races - the Derby, Preakness, Haskell, and Travers. Then, he was retired because of an injury. Was that because of the Triple Crown or was just it just inevitable?

Which brings us to War Emblem. I know some very knowledgeable people who were convinced he would never run again after the Belmont. I did not subscribe to that theory. I just thought he was a victim of terrible luck in the Belmont and, if given the chance, would prove his Derby and Preakness wins were not illusions.

War Emblem gets that chance in Sunday's Haskell. I am convinced this is a colt with great talent. Yes, he almost certainly needs to have his head in front early in the race. The really good horses find a way to do what they do best.

Look for War Emblem to do what he does best. Look for him to emerge from the Triple Crown with the same form he brought to racing's showcase series. Look for him to win some more races, maybe many more races.