05/29/2008 11:00PM

History challenge: The five most infamous Belmont favorites

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Big Brown will find himself in a familiar spot as the favorite in Saturday's 140th Belmont Stakes.

Since bookmakers took down their slates for the final time and New York became the last racing state to convert to parimutuel wagering in 1940, nearly three-quarters (50 of 68) of the Belmont Stakes favorites have won the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, or both.

Twenty-two of those 50, nearly 45 percent, went on to win the Belmont.

Horses who were favored in the final leg of the Triple Crown without having won either the Derby or Preakness fared much worse. Only three of the 18 - or 17 percent - won the Belmont: Sword Dancer in 1959, Jaipur in 1962, and A. P. Indy in 1992.

This trend may change. With careers of racehorses growing shorter, more and more top 3-year-olds are likely to skip the Preakness and Belmont. Recent Kentucky Derby winners Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) and Street Sense (2007) passed on the Belmont after losing the Preakness. And of the 20 starters in this year's Derby, only two ran in the Preakness.

See how many of these Belmont Stakes betting favorites of the past - who never won a Triple Crown race - you can name.

1. Big Brown is set to become the 26th horse to enter the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes having won both the Derby and Preakness, since the advent of parimutuels in New York.

All previous 25 were favored in the final leg except the 1946 Triple Crown winner, Assault. And he wasn't the only Triple Crown winner to not be favored in the Belmont Stakes. In 1930, Gallant Fox went off as the second betting choice to the 1929 Futurity winner, Whichone.

Who was the favorite in Assault's Belmont Stakes?

2. By the end of 1950, most horsemen were of the opinion there was a very strong crop of 2-year-olds heading into next year. But as the 1951 season unfolded, there was one disappointment after another.

The exception was the 1950 juvenile male champion, who had won 10 races, including the Sapling, Tremont, Hopeful, and Futurity stakes. But, when the spring classics were over, he, too, came up empty-handed. The colt did, however, win the Travers Stakes that year. Name him.

3. Despite winning only 3 of 14 starts at age 2, this bay California colt came around in the spring of his 3-year-old season and was the post-time favorite in all three legs of the Triple Crown. He lost each time.

Renowned racing writer Joe Estes said this colt's "superlative class was more than matched by a superlative capacity for trouble." The horse was plagued with chronically sore knees that often caused him to run erratically. Name him.

4. In 1960, this colt owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney was the 6-5 favorite to become the fourth Santa Anita Derby winner in eight years to take down the Kentucky Derby. He failed, finishing 13 lengths behind Venetian Way in the Derby.

Rather than running the Preakness, the colt rested in Lexington, Ky., before being shipped to New York. Meanwhile, the ill-fated Bally Ache easily won the middle jewel of the classics.

The Whitney colt was supplemented to the 92nd Belmont Stakes, in which he was sent off at odds of 4-5. After setting the pace, he tired and finished fourth to the winner Celtic Ash. Name him.

5. The voice of public address and television announcer Tom Durkin raised to a deafening crescendo as he proclaimed this 2-year-old colt "a champion" when he crossed the finish line in front at Hollywood Park in 1984 in the first-ever Breeders' Cup race.

Less than six months later, this horse embarked on a Triple Crown quest in which he would be favored in all three of the races. He finished close each time, but never collected the winner's purse. Name the horse.

Answers on page 16.

Answers:

1. In the 1946 Kentucky Derby, the powerful Maine Chance Farm of Elizabeth Arden Graham sent out a three-horse entry (Knockdown, Lord Boswell, and Perfect Bahram). The trio was favored at 11-10.

Lord Boswell was considered to have the best shot. His come-from-behind win in the Blue Grass Stakes had been breathtaking. Knockdown, off his victory in the Santa Anita Derby, was also accorded much attention.

Assault won the Derby for King Ranch by a record-equaling eight lengths, with the Maine Chance entry off the board.

In Baltimore, Assault was favored in the Preakness, but was all out to hold off a late charge by Lord Boswell, who was beaten by a neck.

Despite failing to get up in time in his next start, the Peter Pan Handicap, Lord Boswell was favored in the June 1 Belmont Stakes (1.35-1 vs. 1.40-1 for Assault). Many felt he was more suited for

1 1/2 miles than the Derby-Preakness winner. They were wrong. Assault won by three lengths.

Lord Boswell's dam, Fantine, was sired by none other than Whichone, who was favored over Gallant Fox in the 1930 Belmont Stakes.

2. The 1951 Kentucky Derby, won by rank outsider Count Turf, was such an odd race that the first eight finishers did not run in the Preakness Stakes. Bold, the fourth betting choice, beat 25-1 Counterpoint to the wire in the Preakness.

When the 3-year-olds reached the gate for the 83rd Belmont Stakes, 1950 juvenile champ Battlefield, owned by George D. Widener, joined the fray. The colt had skipped the Derby and Preakness because he had trained poorly after his first start of the year.

In his race prior to the Belmont, Battlefield was soundly defeated by Counterpoint in the Peter Pan Handicap, but that didn't stop the public from making the 2-year-old champ the chalk at 9-5 in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Counterpoint, sent off at 5-1, turned out to be a long-distance specialist, and easily defeated Battlefield in the Belmont.

3. In 1954, Correlation became the first horse to fly from California to Florida for a stakes engagement. Sent off at 7-1, the colt took down the Florida Derby before a record 31,764 onlookers at Gulfstream Park.

Correlation then shipped to New York, where he easily won the Wood Memorial Stakes at Jamaica.

As the 3-1 post-time favorite in the Kentucky Derby, Correlation was bumped at the break and finished sixth, beaten eight lengths by another colt from the West Coast, Determine.

The Derby winner went home to California. Correlation then won the Preakness Prep, beating Hasty Road, but the latter came back five days later to turn the tables. Correlation was odds-on in the Preakness, but just failed to catch wire-to-wire leader Hasty Road.

Despite his knees acting up, Correlation was favored again at 8-5 in the Belmont Stakes, but finished off the board. High Gun won.

4. Tompion hated the starting gate and was always slow entering and frequently slow in leaving. He developed at a leisurely pace in the winter of 1960, and came on to win the Santa Anita Derby before shipping to Kentucky, where he scored impressive victories in Keeneland's Forerunner Purse and Blue Grass Stakes.

After staying with the leaders for a mile, he slowly backed up as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. In the Belmont Stakes, at odds-on, he tried to hold the lead from gate to wire, but faltered in the stretch.

5. In the initial three years of the Breeders' Cup series, the Juvenile was the first Cup race run each year. Chief's Crown won the inaugural one-mile Juvenile en route to winning an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male of 1984.

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby the following spring, he never got near the front-running winner, Spend a Buck, finishing a distant third. In the Preakness, Chief's Crown (at even money) was beaten in the last jump by Tank's Prospect.

Favored again in the muddy Belmont Stakes, Chief's Crown faded to finish third behind the winner, Creme Fraiche.