In Pursuit of the Crown – by John Doyle
I’m hoping to see two of the longer sport droughts come to an end this year; the Triple
Crown in Horse Racing and the Triple Crown in Baseball. While Texas Ranger Josh
Hamilton’s quest to lead the American League in HRs, RBIs and Batting Average is still
too far off, the Belmont is almost here bringing the excitement of the possibility of a new
Triple Crown winner in horse racing; the first since Affirmed in 1978. Paul Reddam’s I’ll
Have Another is now on the brink of racing immortality.
I’ll Have Another’s accomplishment will not be easy. Since 1978, eleven horses have
tried and failed to complete the elusive sweep. I admit rooting against some of them
because I deemed them unworthy of wearing the crown, but what I realized is that the
crown itself distinguishes the worthy from the unworthy. The actual achievement of
the triple crown feat, by definition, is greatness. After riding Big Brown in the Belmont
I remember Kent Desormeaux saying, “… it’s hard to fathom what kind of freaks the
previous 11 triple crown winners were..” He was so right. On June 9, I’ll be rooting for I’ll
Have Another to be the newest freak.
Over the last several decades the Triple Crown sweep has almost become rarified air;
some people wonder if the feat is still viable or even relevant. Others have suggested
formatting and spacing changes, but the traditionalist in me will not budge. The Triple
Crown should stay the way it is. It’s still one of the greatest achievements in sport and
the only series of racing events, including the Breeders Cup, that raises racing into the
If I’ll Have Another wins the 144th Belmont he would have truly earned the Triple Crown
and the prestige that comes along with it. He defeated the formidable Bodemeister in
both the Derby and Preakness and if he accomplishes this feat he will have beaten one
of the largest and deepest Belmont fields in recent memory… all with a jockey who was
riding races on a bullring in Canada last year.
So the question remains… can I’ll Have Another do this? Is he a super-horse or another
nice horse who will hit the Belmont wall. It will come down to what it always comes
down… his physical condition, the trip and racing luck. After running two taxing races
in the Derby and Preakness, he will face a new race track, more distance, a new pace
dynamic, and a slew of fresh horses who sat out the Preakness. If he is in contention in
the stretch, lets hope he will summon the ghosts of past champions to help carry him to
the finish. Here’s hoping one crown down, and one to go.