We’ll have another Triple Crown letdown

Triple Crown, you devil on a racing saddle. You’re an incorrigible tease.

Belmont Stakes, I feel for you, buddy.

Triple Crown sat alone at her table, shot you an intoxicating glance, tossed her chestnut hair to one side and made you think you had a chance at the stunning beauty. Bartender, a drink for the lovely lady in the corner.

She smiles, so you go racing, eyes popping out of your head, trying not to stumble over your tongue as it hangs to the floor. Then, poof!

She’s gone. Two-thirds of the way there, she got up, walked to the door, went home alone. No wave. No indication you should try again next time, big fella.

I’ll Have Another, winner of the first two legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown, was scratched Friday morning from today’s Belmont Stakes, the crowning jewel of the illustrious trio. The race that breaks the pretenders and makes the legends: 11 of the latter to date.

But the Belmont’s an afterthought to all of us who don’t follow horse racing except to catch the Kentucky Derby, then the Preakness Stakes if the Kentucky winner is in the field, and then, and only then, the Belmont if a horse dared to tempt fate and headed to New York with a Triple Crown in its sights.

When the Belmont arrives with no Triple Crown at stake, it is the red-headed stepchild. Horse-racing enthusiasts and gamblers will still watch it. I won’t. And people like me — we are legion — won’t.

Until I got the news Friday, I was prepared to find my way to a television late afternoon today. The Triple Crown is a boon to the Belmont and its TV ratings. Could I’ll Have Another make one more late charge, this time capturing horse-racing immortality in the process?

Instead of a Triple Crown for I’ll Have Another, we’ll have another Triple Crown letdown.

Triple Crown, you ruined my weekend. You dashed my hopes. And I’ve been hoping for a long time. I remember the last Triple Crown winner: Affirmed in 1978. It was the first time I ever paid attention to horse racing. I heard about Seattle Slew, who won the Triple Crown a year prior, but didn’t see a single race of his.

Affirmed? I watched all three races. My memory three decades later told me he held off Alydar in each race, but I can’t always trust what’s stashed in my head anymore. So, I researched it. Indeed, that was the case. Yea, memory!

But that was the end of a stretch that produced three Triple Crown winners in six years, Secretariat having started the run in 1973, winning the Belmont in spectacular, record-setting fashion. Secretariat also ended a 25-year dry spell for Triple Crown winners, going back to Citation in 1948. With Citation’s triumph, horse racing had four Triple Crown winners in eight years, and six winners in 14 years.

Triple Crown, what happened to you in 1978? Who hurt you? You were so friendly, so giving. Now, you’re a recluse, the leading lady that doesn’t want the world to see her grow old.

You make us think you’re ready to return to us, then you vanish without apology.

What are you trying to accomplish? Which streaks do you seek to rival?

I’m betting you have baseball’s mythical streaks on the brain.

Major League Baseball hasn’t had a batter win a triple crown since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. It has an 11-year head start on you. Even back-of-the-pack late-charger Sea Biscuit would look at that as insurmountable.

Baseball hasn’t had a .400 hitter since 1941, Boston’s Ted Williams. That same year, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio fashioned his 56-game hitting streak, which hasn’t faced a legitimate challenge since.

The Curse of the Bambino ended in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918. That was an 86-year wait. You want a piece of that? It’s a long ride, sister.

Then, there’s the Holy Grail of ongoing sports streaks: the 104 years the Chicago Cubs have gone since winning their last World Series title in 1908. And maybe the Cubs’ new president, Theo Epstein, can work the magic he did in Boston and end the Cubbies’ drought. But Theo’s up against wicked powerful forces here. The Billy Goat Curse, in effect since 1945, may be more than any man, team and city can overcome.

Don’t chase them, Triple Crown. Don’t be that way.

Don’t do what you did this year. Or what you did to Big Brown four years ago and Smarty Jones in 2004.

Please come back. Hang out with us. Shoot us a glance. Toss your hair. We’ll come running. Again.


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