Recent Triple Crown Near Misses
California Chrome (2014)
California Chrome swept the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness convincingly, but at Belmont he broke haltingly out of the gate, was stepped on by another horse and never found his best run. Chrome (left) finished in a dead heat for fourth place while Tonalist (center), who last raced four weeks earlier, won the race. In his post-race interview on NBC, owner Steve coburn ranted about the Triple Crown setup, lamenting the fact that horses that don’t run both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are still eligible for the Belmont Stakes, making them fresh for the tortuous 1 1/2-mile test. “This is coward’s way out,” Coburn said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.”
I'll Have Another (2012)
I'll Have Another, the hard-finishing winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, was scratched from the Belmont Stakes the day before the big event due to a tendon injury. The track veterinarian described the injury as slow-healing, requiring up to three to six months for recovery, and if the horse had raced, the risk of a bowed tendon would be very high. Trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam decided to retire the horse from racing. I'll Have Another, who opened as a 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont, became the third horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then not start the Belmont Stakes. Bold Venture in 1936 and Burgoo King in 1932 were the others.
Big Brown (2008)
Big Brown, the favorite who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, finished in last place at the Belmont Stakes, a first for any Triple Crown hopeful. Big Brown mysteriously getting eased at the top of the stretch left nearly 95,000 fans stunned at the sight of the colt with the bad feet failing to finish. Two weeks after the Belmont, a picture revealed a dislodged shoe on Big Brown's right hind leg that could have been the cause of his poor performance. The race was won by Da'Tara (38-1), who led the race wire to wire.
Smarty Jones (2004)
The little horse took America by storm in the summer of 2004, thanks to a Derby win and a record-breaking 11 1/2-length victory at the Preakness. Smarty Jones took an undefeated record and a world of momentum into Belmont. Once again, a horse hit the homestretch with a lead and the Triple Crown in clear view. Once again, that horse was caught from behind — this time by little-known Birdstone (left), who won by a length.
Funny Cide (2003)
The New York-bred gelding upset favored Empire Maker in the Derby and rolled to a nine-length win at the Preakness. Trainer Bobby Frankel held Empire Maker out of the Preakness to have him rested for the Belmont. A sloppy track and fresh competition was enough to take out Funny Cide (right), who finished third. Empire Maker (left of Funny Cide) won the Belmont Stakes.
War Emblem (2002)
War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby wire-to-wire and the Preakness by 3/4 of a length. But the big colt never got it rolling in the Belmont, where he (10) stumbled out of the gate and finished eighth. It was the worst showing of any horse at the Belmont with a shot to win the Triple Crown, until Big Brown in 2008.
Starting the journey as a long shot, Charismatic won the Derby by a neck and the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths. The magical run ended when he broke two bones in his lower leg on the Belmont homestretch, leading to a third-place finish and a sudden end to his racing career.
Real Quiet (1998)
The closest call of them all. Real Quiet (right) was running free and clear at the Belmont — up by four lengths with a quarter of a mile to go. Victory Gallop (left) charged at the last possible moment to steal victory at the wire in a dramatic photo finish. It remains the narrowest defeat any horse has suffered in the final leg of a Triple Crown.
Silver Charm (1997)
It looked like trainer Bob Baffert was about to put an end to the Triple Crown curse with Silver Charm (right). The gray colt had the lead down the Belmont stretch and the Crown in sight. But a late rush by Touch Gold (left) was just enough to steal the race — by 3/4 of a length.
Sunday Silence (1989)
Sunday Silence faced off with rival Easy Goer in each leg of the 1989 Triple Crown. Running as the second-favorite, Sunday Silence first upset Easy Goer by 2 1/2 lengths at the Derby. The two colts then hooked up in a famous duel down the stretch at the Preakness, where Sunday Silence won by a nose. But Easy Goer (left) would have the last laugh, winning the Belmont by eight lengths ahead of Sunday Silence (yellow).
Just months after surgery to correct a breathing problem, Alysheba stumbled in the homestretch at Churchill Downs but still hung on to win the Derby. But his luck ran out at Belmont, where Bet Twice blew away the field to win by 14 lengths. Alysheba finished fourth.
Pleasant Colony (1981)
Pleasant Colony won six of 14 career starts including the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. His bid for the Triple Crown ended when Summing beat him by 1 1/2 lengths in the Belmont.
Spectacular Bid (1979)
Just one year after Affirmed, Spectacular Bid seemed poised to become the third Triple Crown winner in as many seasons. Legend has it that a safety pin became lodged in the colt's hoof the night before the Belmont, where "The Bid" (right) finished a lackluster third. Coastal (center) would become the first supplemental entry to ever win the Belmont.