The guttural roar that cascaded down from the Belmont Park grandstand was deafening as Affirmed, on the inside, nosed out Alydar to win horse racing’s last Triple Crown.
Back in June of 1978, a young sportswriter and some friends ventured down to Belmont Park. Little did we know we were embarking on a journey to see horse racing history.
That afternoon Affirmed won the Triple Crown, edging Alydar by a nose in what is often referred to as one of the greatest horse races ever. We pooled our money ($72 as I recall) and bet it all on Affirmed. If he had lost, we wouldn’t have had enough for the Whitestone Bridge toll.
Amazingly, 36 years later, Affirmed still stands tall as the last Triple Crown winner.
Since 1978, 12 horses have gone to the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. None of the denied dozen were able to seal the deal.
Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) all finished second in the grueling mile and a half race. Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Charismatic (1999) and Funny Cide (2003) finished third. Alysheba (1987) was fourth, War Emblem(2002) was eighth and Big Brown (2009 wound up ninth.
The last Triple Crown candidate, I’ll Have Another, was scratched and did not start the 2012 Belmont.
Will lucky number 13 California Chrome break the Triple Crown jinx?