LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When Spectacular Bid failed to complete his Triple Crown bid in 1979, it didn't seem like that big a deal. Surely another would be coming soon. After a gap of twenty-five years between Triple Crown champs, Secretariat became a national hero by turning the trick in record-breaking fashion in 1973. He was soon followed by Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. There hasn't been one since.
Nineteen horses have won at least two legs of the Triple Crown in the last 36 years. Several dominant three-year-olds have had their misses in the Kentucky Derby. Risen Star was 3rd in the 1988 Derby, trainer Bob Baffert still laments Point Given's 5th place finish in the 2001 Derby and Afleet Alex was third in the Run for the Roses in 2005.
But California Chrome is the thirteenth horse since Affirmed to come to Long Island with a chance to claim racing's most elusive prize. A brief look at each of the previous dozen.
1979-Spectacular Bid-3rd to Coastal. Stepped on a safety pin the morning of the race. 1981-Pleasant Colony-3rd to Summing by a length and a half. 1987-Alysheba-4th to Derby and Preakness runner-up Bet Twice, who won the Belmont by 14 lengths. 1989-Sunday Silence-2nd to Derby and Preakness runner-up East Goer, who won the Belmont by 8 lengths. 1997-Silver Charm-Second to Touch Gold by 3/4 of a length. 1998-Real Quiet-Second to Derby and Preakness runner-up Victory Gallop by a nose. A second-straight heartbreaker for Baffert, this one in a photo after Real Quiet led by four lengths at the eighth pole. 1999-Charismatic-3rd to Lemon Drop Kid, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee pulled up after the finish line with a broken leg . 2002-War Emblem-8th to 70-1 shot Sarava after stumbling out of the gate. 2003-Funny Cide-3rd to Empire Maker on a sloppy track. The first Belmont I saw in person. I still have a hat that says "Funny Cide, Triple Crown Champion" that the gelding's handlers were looking to get rid of at the barn after the race. 2004-Smarty Jones-2nd to Birdstone by a length. The 2nd one I saw in person. It looked for all the world like the unbeaten Philadelphia Park-based underdog was going to do it, leading with a quarter-mile to go before being overtaken by the Nick Zito-trained Birdstone. Zito, a New York favorite, felt bad, but not too bad after the race. 2008-Big Brown-9th to Da'Tara. My third Belmont trip and the most bizarre. A dominant winner in both the Derby and the Preakness, the unbeaten Rick Dutrow-trainee struggled to settle throughout the race on a day in the mid-90's, had a displaced shoe and was eased up by jockey Kent Desormeaux as he headed into the stretch, the only horse to finish last in a Triple Crown bid. 2012-I'll Have Another-Scratched the day before the race. My fourth and second-most bizarre Belmont. After nearly finishing our stories on the Friday morning before the race, we got word that there may be trouble with the Derby and Preakness winner. Sure enough, he was being scratched with an injury to a leg tendon and would never race again. Time put together new stories. Almost as an afterthought, the Michael Matz-trained Union Rags won the race the next day.
So now it's left to California Chrome. Will lucky 13 end the drought and become the 12th Triple Crown Champ? Our John Lewis and Eric Crawford will be there to bring you all the storylines and perhaps a big win Saturday.