06/03/2004 12:00AM

Crowning Moments: From the publisher

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On the eve of Smarty Jones's bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown

winner and the first in 26 years, Daily Racing Form is pleased to present this commemorative section detailing both the ancient and recent history of the chase for Thoroughbred racing's most storied prize.

This "Crowning Moments" section includes vignettes of the 11 champions who have worn the elusive crown, including a rare presentation of their lifetime past performances, and a chronicle of the nine consecutive recent bidders who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but could not complete the triple in the Belmont Stakes.

The owners of the three most recent winners - Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed - recall and reflect on those classic campaigns. Jay Hovdey, DRF's executive columnist, recreates Affirmed's memorable duel with Alydar in the 1978 Belmont Stakes, as told by the people who raced the great archrivals.

Also included are keepsake reprints of Daily Racing Form's original coverage of Smarty Jones's victories in this year's Derby and Preakness.

While the 26-year drought and the flood of near-misses have frustrated many racing fans, time has served to accent just how difficult and rare an achievement the Triple Crown is in the world of racing and all of sport. Whenever it happens again, whether in a day or a decade, it will be a spectacular accomplishment.