Ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown, the runaway victor of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, could become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown Saturday in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, N.Y. Five 3-year-old colts have won the first two legs since 1998, most recently Smarty Jones in 2004, but none has claimed the Triple Crown since 1978.
The extra distance (11/2 miles compared with 11/4 at Churchill Downs and 13/16 at Pimlico Race Course) and running three Grade I races in five weeks create one of the most grueling accomplishments in sports. These colts will never race this distance or this frequently again.
How many horses have won the first two Triple Crown legs and lost the third?
Twenty, some regarded among the sport's greatest. They include such names as Northern Dancer (1964), Forward Pass (1966), Majestic Prince (1969), Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981) and War Emblem (2002).
Burgoo King (1932) and Bold Venture (1936) won the first two legs but did not enter the Belmont.
Big Brown has never lost. Has there been an undefeated Triple Crown winner?
Only one. Seattle Slew in 1977.
Who was the last Triple Crown winner?
Affirmed (1978), who was bred in Florida. Affirmed was also the last odds-on favorite to win the Belmont.
What are the odds for Big Brown to win the Belmont Stakes?
Pretty good. Though the official betting line won't materialize for days, he'll go off as a big favorite assuming he's healthy. The cast trying to derail him has looked anemic. His trainer, Rick Dutrow, all but promised victory before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. If any colt is to spoil it, smart money says it's Casino Drive, who is closely related to the last two Belmont winners, Jazil (2006) and filly Rags to Riches (2007).
What about that hoof injury?
Long Island-owned Big Brown has a "quarter crack," a 3-inch vertical split in the front left hoof wall between the toe and heel. The crack was repaired with stainless steel wire last week and he trained without incident. Healing can take days to months, but the injury is not considered serious unless infections follow.
How many Triple Crown winners have there been?
Eleven: Sir Barton (1919); Gallant Fox (1930); Omaha (1935); War Admiral (1937); Whirlaway (1941); Count Fleet (1943); Assault (1946); Citation (1948); Secretariat (1973); Seattle Slew (1977); Affirmed (1978).
What's at stake?
Beyond fame and fortune for the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years, the purse is $1-million.