05/31/2012 12:49PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Alysheba, 1987

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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)