My Triple Crown Dream Was Justified


June 12th 2018

I don’t even know where to begin when writing about my experience at the 150th Belmont Stakes or what adjectives to use to describe it. I checked off something that was at the top of  my bucket list by witnessing a Triple Crown Championship won in person. And the cherry on top was the fact that Justify became only the 2nd Triple Crown Champion to go through all three legs undefeated. Justify’s great-great-great grandsire Seattle Slew is the other.

I didn’t get to post this on my blog in time as this article for US Racing was posted while I was at the track Saturday but I did call this race. See: Why Justify Will Become the 13th Triple Crown Champion. 

Perhaps, it best that I share the two videos I took below and you will get idea of what I experienced. This race undoubtedly goes into my Top 5 sports memories viewed in person along with American Pharoah’s win in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic to make him the first Grand Slam Champion of American Thoroughbred racing.



I was really surprised how well the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt Gronkowski performed in the Belmont Stakes with his 2nd place finish. This colt had never raced further than a mile and had raced mostly on turf or synthetic surfaces. I didn’t really think this was the best race for him but he exceeded all expectations. Unfortunately for me and quite a few others, Gronkowski killed all of my exotic bets.

TV Ratings

Although the Belmont Stakes on NBC was the most watched TV program all weekend, the ratings are down from when American Pharoah and California Chrome made their Triple Crown attempts at Belmont. The theory is that since Justify didn’t race as a 2 year old, that he hadn’t developed the following along the way as the other two.

At any rate, my blog views this year were down considerably from January thru May over the last two years. I blame some of this on the fact the Older Horse division lacks stars due to so many key retirements. And also the fact that the most popular Derby contenders in this class entering the year were more lightly raced than in year’s past.

However, Justify is just what this sport needed. The interest seems to be back better than ever as my blog views for the month of June have already set a new record over previous years. So, I foresee that this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Churchill Downs will break a lot of records if Justify races in it as expected.

On the docket…

I am currently working on another article for US Racing that is tentatively titled: “Justify vs American Pharoah: Who’s Better?” This should come out in the next week or so.

For my blog, I also plan to preview this coming Saturday’s Stephen F. Foster Handicap if Patch is entered. So far this has not been confirmed.


Nyquist Still Unbeaten! Back to back Triple Crown Winners? A real legitimate possibility

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May 7th, 2016

GET EXCITED horse racing fans! We had a blast last year watching American Pharoah win a Triple Crown and then the very first Grand Slam of thoroughbred racing with his win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Nyquist’s winning time in the Kentucky Derby of 2:01.31 (shown below) was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 2:03.02 and the fastest since Funny Cide’s winning time of 2:01.19 in 2003. The opening fractions were fast which set up the race well for closers but Nyquist was simply too strong to beat.

We had back to back Triple Crown winners in the 1970s with Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Can lightning strike twice like it did in the 1970s?

It is a real, legitimate possibility. Remember that I correctly identified Nyquist as the Kentucky Derby favorite 241 days ago in this blog. And I had 1st and 2nd place Kentucky Derby finishers ranked 1-2 in my last Kentucky Derby Contenders blog.

How well did Nyquist run in the Kentucky Derby? He earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Last year, American Pharoah received a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kentucky Derby win. But the revealing fact is that Nyquist would have beaten the 2015 Kentucky Derby version of American Pharoah by 5 1/4 lengths when you look at the final quarter mile fractions. The pace was faster this year than last (2015: 23.24, 47.34, 1:11.29 & 1:36.45 vs 2016: 22.58, 45.72, 1:10.40 & 1:35.61). Nyquist should have been a little more tired having gone through a mile 0.84 seconds faster than American Pharoah had to in 2015. But the final 1/4th mile fraction of this year’s Kentucky Derby was 25.70 vs last year’s time of 26.57. That is 0.87 seconds faster for Nyquist which equates to at least 5 1/4 lengths.

It is time to get REAL excited again. Nyquist has a better resume thus far than American Pharoah. The Preakness Stakes will be another difficult test but I am confident that Nyquist can handle the competition.

So now I leave you with the #1 hit in 1978–Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing–the last year we had back-to-back Triple Crown winners. It is time to get dancing again! Nyquist will undoubtedably be in the shadow of American Pharoah but that is a very good shadow to be in.



Triple Crown Fever: Thank You American Pharoah!

American Pharoah wins the Preakness Stakes – Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Santa Claus. He was a real at one time, long ago. As a kid, there was a time when you were told by a friend that Santa Claus wasn’t “real.” You denied it for a few years because you wanted to believe in Santa Claus. You were getting presents and you just didn’t want to believe that he didn’t exist. He did at one time just like a Triple Crown winning thoroughbred. We had three of them in the 1970s but they are deceased now.

Step back to 1978, the last time we had a Triple Crown Winner in Affirmed. Let’s see, Jimmy Carter was President and he taking advice on how to manage the country from his daughter Amy.

And this was the #1 song in 1978.

And we have been shadow dancing for a Triple Crown winner ever since.

I can’t tell you what this video does to me except I had to have a trashcan nearby. I liked this type of music at one time—like quite a few people reading this did at one time.


So we don’t have to go back in time and revisit this era (and the blurry race tape) every time we have a Triple Crown contender. Pretty Please? With whipcream and a cherry on top?

So that we can put an end to the bloody long streak. I was a teenager who loved sports, so I got a Sports Illustrated subscription as a birthday gift in the 70s. One of the issues that I remember vividly pulling out of the mailbox was an issue that had 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen on the cover riding Affirmed to a Belmont Stakes Victory–thus winning the Triple Crown. As a teenager myself, I could relate at that time. But nobody can relate now. I have children, and grandchildren, who have never seen a Triple Crown winner.

So what are American Pharoah’s Triple Crown chances? Much better than California Chrome’s.

Why? American Pharoah is a better horse than California Chrome.

Consider the following:

  • Experience. Victor Espinoza was California Chrome’s jockey for his Triple Crown run last year and he is also American Pharoah’s jockey. Is this man living right or what?
  • American Pharoah’s winning time in the Kentucky Derby was 0.64 seconds faster than California Chrome’s. This was backed up by American Pharoah’s Beyer Speed Figure of 105 compared to Chrome’s 97.
  • American Pharoah’s winning time in the Preakness Stakes was just 3.62 seconds off California Chrome’s on a sloppy wet track.. And American Pharoah wasn’t pressured for the win like California Chrome was by Ride On Curlin in last year’s Preakness—very Impressive!
  • American Pharoah’s average Beyer for the two Triple Crown races is 103.5. California Chrome’s was 101.

So “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I am going against the odds and betting that American Pharoah wins the Belmont to capture the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Yes, just like you, I want to believe.