05/30/2012 1:22PM

Hovdey: How would world react to a Triple Crown winner?

Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another will take his shot at the Triple Crown on June 9.

Of all the thorny questions dividing the nation -- Obama or Romney, Phillip or Jessica, one-piece or two – nothing seems to stir the emotions quite like the rampant speculation over the potential impact of what could be the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.

Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald Leader warns against assuming that a Triple Crown winner will solve racing’s ills, but does hold out the hope that, “Should I’ll Have Another take the Triple Crown and remain in training for the months ahead, the sport could have a marketing dynamo on its hands.”

Paul Moran, a winner of two Eclipse Awards, makes the case that the anticipation of a possible Triple Crown winner is the real rush.“The streak of failure has become more interesting than a single success,” Moran writes on ESPN’s horse racing site. “It has a life of its own and it may be eternal.”

Of course, 33 years is not an eternity. It only feels that way. And believe it or not there are tougher Triple Crowns to win, but not many. The list would include the English racing version (Nijinsky was the last colt to do it, in 1970) and Major League Baseball (the last was Carl Yastrzemski, who led the American League in average, home runs, and RBIs in 1967). Parallel parking an aircraft carrier would seem to be an easier task, and yet we live in hope.

[ANDREW BEYER: Triple Crown bid a race against history]

So count this reporter among the starry-eyed legions who would love to see a Triple Crown winner, although perhaps not for the same reasons.

It is not that a Triple Crown winner could be a shot in the arm for an often struggling sport. Horse racing’s Ship of Overnight Remedies sailed a long time ago.

It is not because racing fans everywhere deserve a Triple Crown winner after being deprived of the experience for so long, like well-behaved hostages who have earned a square meal. As William Munny growled to Little Bill at the end of “Unforgiven,” just before he put a bullet in Bill’s head: “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

And it’s not that I would like to see one more Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, since I like to think I’m relatively healthy and could have a few more chances, although the cholesterol number does need some work.

No, I would love for a horse – yes, this horse – to win the Triple Crown for a very mischievous reason. Quite simply, I am curious to see what happens if he does, because at this point the reaction will be totally unpredictable, and after so many years of a Triple Crown almost but not quite happening, the happening would be far more interesting than another cold shower after another agonizing tease.

In winning, I’ll Have Another would instantly overlay a dusty relic from the distant past over a modern age so different from 1978 as to be laughable. As Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated tweeted recently, “1st Triple Crown try in blown-up Twitter era.”

That ain’t all, folks. There are precious few things lingering in 2012 that were around in the late 1970s, and not just hairlines and first marriages.

Dependency on foreign oil – okay there’s a tradition America clings to. And a preoccupation with celebrity misbehaviors. But back then, a man walking down 5th Avenue talking aloud and gesturing with his free hand was probably wearing a tinfoil hat. Now it’s a Bluetooth earpiece. And the closest thing to social media was talk radio, or screaming out a window.

There were computers in 1978, big old clunky things like suitcases that went grrrr-thonk-twee when you fired them up and chucka-chucka-chucka when you hit the keys. They kept their counsel and stored surprisingly little. But they were obviously the future, and the future was bright with pirated music.

A recent ramble through the sporting press of 1978 provided a reminder that were it not for the presence of 18-year-old Steve Cauthen among Affirmed’s cast of characters, the Triple Crown would have been treated as nothing more than that week’s horse story. Attention spans were longer then. Hearts were still pounding from Secretariat’s Triple Crown in 1973. And wasn’t there a Triple Crown winner just the year before? Named Seattle something?

I was encouraged, though, to believe there was an ongoing appreciation for Affirmed’s achievement -- particularly for all things Cauthen – after flipping through a local library’s bound volume of Time magazines from 1978. Arriving at the issue dated May 29, which according to the table of contents contained a recap of the Preakness and a cover story on Cauthen himself, I discovered that both the cover and the pages containing the Cauthen-Preakness piece had been neatly razored from the magazine.

Whoever sought the souvenir was not interested in the Clint Eastwood-Burt Reynolds cover from an earlier 1978 issue, or other ’78 Time covers featuring the images of such important world leaders as Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, the Shah of Iran, and Warren Beatty (“Mister Hollywood”). They wanted Stevie, as captured on the brink of Affirmed’s Triple Crown, and they got him.

By 21st century standards the slate is clean as far as behaviors and reactions to a horse actually winning this Triple Crown thing. If I’ll Have Another is the one, will trainer Doug O’Neill get his own reality show? Will jockey Mario Gutierrez syndicate his smile? Will Paul Reddam, the owner of the hour, float gently back to earth?

“No matter how good the horse looks going into the race, the last 11 times this situation has presented itself, he’s lost,” a realistic Reddam said this week. “So I’ve tried not to think too much about what’s actually going to happen.

“But tell me,” Reddam added, “who do you think is the biggest threat in the race?”

History, pal. History. And he’s got a huge head start.


steve More than 1 year ago
p.s.....This horse will get the credit he deserves soon. This is one of the most beautiful horses ever. Solid as a rock.
steve More than 1 year ago
I believe anyone who was actually at the track in 1998 when "Real Quiet" lost by a nose after seemingly having a insurmountable lead. The thrill at that Belmont was the greatest sporting event I have ever been too. That includes A World Series, Super Bowl. or NBA Finals. So at least the feeling of a winner was electric that day!!!!
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Sunday June 3rd " New York Stallion Spectacular Bid Stakes " IF anyone is keying in on this race - take a good look at ( 4 Western Tryst ) ! Since I have arrived here in Elmont last week for theBelmont Stakes - even though im not High on NY Breds , but the word is traveing swiftly about this colt running Huge . So , just to keep that in your back pocket if ya happen to like something in that race - ya might want to view the Post Parade ............................... Good Luck to all
Del Donaker More than 1 year ago
If I'll Have Another wins, it may not be good for the sport. Look at all the whiners that hate that he won the first two legs already.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
I am not a fan of ILL HAVE ANOTHER , but I have been very loyal to Doug O'Neill through the years . ILL HAVE ANOTHER - Deserves where he is ! Some people just dont get - it ! This colt has actually embarrised most of these colts , and Owners / Trainers this season . Though im not on the band-wagon of ILL HAVE ANOTHER - this colt has been absolutely impressive . As so has Doug O'Neill . I would be proud to shake O'Neills hand IF BY CHANCE this colt Wins the Triple Crown ! As Good As I Know UNION RAGS Is : if by chance ILL HAVE ANOTHER beats UNION RAGS ( for the win or not ) I Still Stay With What My Heart and Feeings have been telling me ever since Last year in the Champagne Stakes ................................ DO NOT GET OFF UNION RAGS NO MATTER ANY TYPE OF HYPE . So , as long as UNION RAGS is doing as well as this colt is - Belmont Stakes is where ( CHAMPIONS ) are made . So - IF BY CHANCE - ILL HAVE ANOTHER Wins , there will be NO Arguement from me . It will be earned - thats for sure
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
ILL HAVE ANOTHER - DULLAHAN - UNION RAGS - STREET LIFE nt in any order , but those in my opinion are the Only plays in the Belmont Stakes , which is not surprising . What may be abit surprising is that the fact maybe ( UNION RAGS ) as fresh and Fit as this colt has been * Peter Brette * is seriously considering sending UNION RAGS towards the lead during the early stages to set up the Tempo ! Now that kinda surprised me coming from Brette .
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
The last time we had such a formful result in the Belmont was in 2007, a 7 horse field with 4 standouts: Curlin, Rags to Riches, Tiago and Hard Spun. I guess we could make the case that IHA and Union Rags are on the level of Curlin and Rags to Riches. Hard Spun and Dullahan both have good turf pedigree but that's about the only analogy, Hard Spun was a much better horse witth a much better distance pedigree, a proven winner 7 wins in 13 races (5 on dirt and 2 on synthetics) while Dullahan is a proven plodder with 2 wins in 9 starts (2 wins on synthetics, best finish on turf is 2nd, best finish on dirt is 3rd). Tiago and Street Life are both late runners except Tiago runs 15-20 higher speed figure - Tiago closed from 10.5L back in the G1 Santa Anita Derby with 1:11:40 pace to win by a half length, Street Life closed from 9L back in the G2 Peter Pan with 1:09:59 pace to finish 3rd lost by 2L. Boxing all 4 of those runners in 2007 returned $242 superfecta for $2. Sounds like a no-brainer right? No handicapping needed. Unfortunately, the Belmont Stakes result has never been formful when the field is made up of 8 or more runners.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
MR. GREENER??? with all due respect.. you seem like you can read and understand tomlinsons and beyers and are a great historian.. but have you ever touched a great racehorse and looked them in the eye???? your posts while enlightening give me a head ache....
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
STREET LIFE is gonna run huge. HUGE!!!!
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
By the way, some commentators need to simmer down and take their meds.
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
One would think that winning a Triple Crown would confer instant stardom on a horse. Indeed, it would confer racing immortality on him. However, the short-term reaction among wizened railbirds and snooty clubhouse folks alike will contain at least a dash of skepticism, until that horse confirms his superiority by trouncing other foes. Most will be delighted by the history-making, jinx-breaking feat. Still, fairly or unfairly, many will demand further proof. After all, the TC winners of the seventies went on to accomplish outstanding things beyond the TC, so that nobody can dispute their greatness. Lest anyone demean his achievement, IHA or whichever three-yr-old finally does win the TC will need to establish his credentials conclusively, probably with a couple more major victories. Otherwise, some may never take him all that seriously. IHA didn't come into his sophomore year with a dazzling resume, as did Secretariat, et al, so he may have more to prove in the future than they had, if he wants to ascend the same pedestal. Beating top handicap runners this year or next is a must.
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
To Paul: 1) Your Trainer 2) Your Chiro 3) Dullahan 4) Union Rags 5) The Master, Commendable/Optimizer, Sir Lukas 6) The GQ Disciple, Dandy Bob B. & Paynter. These are the biggest threats in the race, in my opinion. The incredibly likable Jockey, Super Mario, is your greatest asset, but I do not feel he can pull a Willie the Shoe or Legend Lafit performance June 9.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
One of the Articles that im talking about is under ( BING ) THE BIG QUESTION : IS HORSE RACING FIXED or JUST A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE SPORT ................................................ you be the judge in what you believe . Either way you believe - its your Income that you wager , its your Income that creates Fun / Pleasure / Ups n Down Moments in winning n losing . I Myself love our Sport . WIN or LOSE
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
William J. Brune : I could write a Diary reguarding races that were fixed ! There have been several articles written reguarding such issues . This is not a world shocker by no means . You live in a Dream World if you think other-wise ! " July 5 , 2006 " By Chris Mc Grath - Racing Correspondent " Why Is Race Fixing In The News " ! I have been on Both sides of the fence . I knew things time to time . So , you can talk your talk all ya desire about thinking horse racing is an Honest sport . It is nice to believe that way - but in all Honesty - so far from the Truth . TIME to TIME , this happens ! Im not bashing my sport I love at all ! I love the sport of thoroughbred racing . Its my retirement , its been my life . Sorry you feel so diffrently