05/31/2012 2:01PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Silver Charm, 1997

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Silver Charm, the star of the 1997 show, tangled with what was probably the deepest, meanest bunch of 3-year-olds since the 1975 Triple Crown dramatics provided by Foolish Pleasure, Avatar, Master Derby, and Diabolo.

Through sheer determination, the gray colt from out West had come out on top of both the Derby and the Preakness by a head, mixing it up in various combinations with Wood Memorial winner Captain Bodgit, Santa Anita Derby winner Free House, and Lexington Stakes winner Touch Gold. There was no reason to believe Silver Charm couldn’t do it again in the Belmont Stakes, although he didn’t have much room to spare.

It therefore should not have been a surprise that the Triple Crown went down in flames when Chris McCarron pushed Touch Gold to the front in the closing yards of the Belmont to beat Silver Charm by three-quarters of a length. After all, went the common wisdom, the trouble encountered by Touch Gold in the Preakness was worth at least as much as the 1 1/2 lengths he was beaten that day. And even though the colt was running in New York on a hoof he injured in Baltimore, trainer Dave Hofmans thought the Belmont was his to lose.

“If he doesn’t stumble at the start of the Preakness, we might not be talking about a Triple Crown,” Hofmans said on the eve of the Belmont. “We don’t know how good this colt is yet, but I hope we’ll find out.”

We did, as Touch Gold spread heartbreak and joy in equal measure. Gary Stevens, dismounting from Silver Charm, insisted his colt had never run a better race.

“If anyone ever had any doubt about how hard it is to win the Triple Crown . . .” Stevens said.

Then he said no more.

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)