06/20/2012 12:38PM

Jerardi: 2012 Triple Crown had a little bit of everything

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Michael Amoruso
Union Rags (right) runs down Paynter to win the Belmont Stakes.

This Triple Crown had everything but a Triple Crown – great finishes, politics, terrible starts, confused bureaucrats, suspicion, assumptions, jockey changes, an unknown jockey who ended up at the top of the Empire State Building, three weeks of anticipation, and a final-hours scratch that changed everything.

The races themselves were great theater, with enough good and bad luck to give everybody something to consider as they evaluated what they saw.

The back stories never ended. Opinions about some of the participants hardened quickly. Occasionally, facts were even considered.

It was absolutely fascinating from beginning to end, which, for me, came as I was standing right behind Phyllis Wyeth as her horse of a lifetime came through that hole on the rail at Belmont Park. More than anything, this is a sport of emotion. You could feel what Union Rags meant to his owner in those final yards.

I do not have an answer to the I’ll Have Another question. If he could have duplicated his Preakness form, he very likely would have won the Belmont Stakes. But I have no idea if that was the horse we were going to see – under the best of circumstances.

I do have the answer to the Union Rags question. If the colt had been in the top five coming out of the first turn of the Kentucky Derby (which was the plan), he would have been right there at the finish. Would he have won? We will never know. Obviously, he would have needed a career-best Beyer Speed Figure. I believe it would have been there, and he would have run just as trainer Michael Matz expected him to run.

Union Rags does not get tired. He does not get passed in the stretch. He will need to get bigger Beyers. And he will now have the summer and fall to prove himself.

The Triple Crown races are run over 6,930 yards. By my count, Bob Baffert-trained horses led 6,780 of those yards and won none of them. That is a record that won’t be broken.

Neither will the one Wayne Lukas set. Only one horse ran in all three races. Optimizer’s odds kept going down (due in part to field size and in part to insanity) as his finishes kept getting worse. The colt was 42-1 in the Derby and was beaten 12 lengths. He was 23-1 in the Preakness and beaten by 15 1/2 lengths. He was so good in the first two races, he was bet down to 14-1 in the Belmont, where he was beaten by 30 3/4 lengths.

I did not go back through all the charts, but I have to wonder if a horse that ran in all three races ever got beat by a combined 58 1/4 lengths. Let’s call it a modern record and assume it won’t be topped.

Speaking of Lukas, when he trashed recent Derby-winning trainers Doug O’Neill, Richard Dutrow Jr., and Chip Woolley before the Preakness, did he forget his history? Did he not remember Union City and Prince of Thieves, two of his 3-year-olds that did not survive their 3-year-old seasons?

And speaking of odds, one of the recent mysteries of the Triple Crown is how these races get bet in the win pools, with the Belmont Stakes being the most recent example.

In an 11-horse field, no horse was 30-1. Guyana Star Dweej had won a single race and never gotten a Beyer higher than 84. He was 23-1. That was strange. Five Sixteen was stranger. He also had won one race. His best Beyer was a 78. He was 19-1.

If I could set up a stand and accept bets on all the no hopers in these Triple Crown races, this really would be an easy game. Well, maybe not. No offense to Woolley, but I certainly would have set up a stand on Mine That Bird. That would not have ended well.

Now that the Triple Crown has ended, I noticed there are other horses racing. Did you see Frankel at Royal Ascot?

Has any human ever been more flattered by his namesake? I spent enough time with Bobby Frankel to know he would love this colt. Horses do not win major European Group 1 races by 11 lengths. Horses do not run as fast as Frankel was running at the end of races.

I watched Frankel on my laptop on Preakness morning. That was really good. This was ridiculous.

If Black Caviar wins again Saturday, shouldn’t some enterprising promoter put up a crazy amount of money and have them meet somewhere at seven furlongs.

Failing that, how about Black Caviar down the hill and Frankel in the Mile at the Breeders’ Cup? I get that isn’t going to happen, but, after this wonderful Triple Crown season, I find myself thinking just about anything is possible – except a Triple Crown, of course.