05/31/2012 1:49PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Alysheba, 1987


Alysheba, the Derby and Preakness hero of 1987, entered the Belmont Stakes with a bi-coastal fan base and a rip-roaring story, led by larger-than-life trainer Jack Van Berg and his quietly confident jockey, Chris McCarron.

“I told Chris in the paddock he could go to the lead and gallop them to death,” Van Berg says whenever someone asks. “Alysheba had all the speed to put those horses away any time he wanted to.”

Instead, McCarron rated and waited. Around the far turn, as Derby and Preakness runner-up Bet Twice kicked for home, Alysheba was briefly boxed in. By the time they escaped, Bet Twice and Craig Perret were on their way to a 14-length victory as Alysheba struggled home fourth, losing second by a nose and a neck, and a million-dollar Triple Crown performance bonus in the process. Afterward, McCarron offered a mea culpa.

“I misunderstood Jack’s instructions,” McCarron said. “And I admitted to riding poorly, which probably cost me second place. But no matter how bad I might have ridden Alysheba, it didn’t cost him 14 lengths.”

Triple Crown near-misses

Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981) Alysheba (1987) Sunday Silence (1989)
Silver Charm (1997) Real Quiet (1998) Charismatic (1999) War Emblem (2002)
Funny Cide (2003) Smarty Jones (2004) Big Brown (2008)  


Jordan More than 1 year ago
I agree with McCarron; Alysheba wasn't winning that race that day. Alysheba could have still grinded his way to a close 2nd from where he was early(4th), but he lost by 14. He just didn't have it that day, and didn't have it a number of occasions as a 3 year old. But at 4, well then he was a true superstar. Maybe as a 4 year old Alysheba could have pulled off the Triple, but he just wasn't consistent enough nor good enough at 3.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Gone West will not win this one? Who cared about Gone West at that point(deep stretch)? Alysheba, yes. Gone West, no. By the way, notice that on the backstretch Alysheba was both leading and in 4th according to Mr. Cassidy(sp?).
Ray More than 1 year ago
Gone West was trained by Woody Stevens, who had won, amazingly, the previous five Belmont Stakes. So the horse was getting lots of pre-race attention despite being overmatched. That's why he gets that call at the end of the race despite being nowhere in sight.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Thanks. Now the call makes sense. Woody going for 6. Got it.