Friday, June 06, 2014

The Triple Crown - the mark of a champion - is California Chrome one?

California Chrome wins Kentucky Derby
As California Chrome enters the starting gate in the number 2 pole position, it will make the third straight race in which this invader from California will have the exact pole position in each race as the greatest Triple Crown winner of all time, Secretariat in 1973.  Both Secretariat and California Chrome were assigned post position #5 in the Kentucky Derby, #3 in the Preakness and #2 in the Belmont.  Destiny?  Fate?  Or luck?

The Triple Crown has three races of over a mile against the best horses in the world during a five week period and is the true test of champions. In the 140 years since the Kentucky Derby began only 11 horses have won the coveted Triple Crown. It has been 36 years since the last Triple Crown champion, Affirmed in 1978, the longest drought ever between Triple Crown champions.

Secretariat wins Belmont by mile
Since Affirmed won in 1978 eleven horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but none won the Belmont Stakes to claim the Triple Crown. The closest was Real Quiet in 1998 who lost by a nose in the Belmont.  In fact, more people have walked on the moon than there have been horses winning the Triple Crown.

Secretariat at play in Kentucky
Now no horse will ever be the champion like Secretariat in 1973 who blazed to glory winning the three races by a record total of 36 lengths. It had been 25 years since the previous Triple Crown winner and to this day Secretariat holds the records in the Derby and Belmont, and would be the record holder in the Preakness except for a freak breakdown of timing devices in the race.

Affirmed  beats Alydar by nose in Belmont
As for the last winner, Affirmed, his legendary races against Alydar rank as the best competition of all time. Alydar was the only horse to ever finish 2nd in all three races and in the Belmont when Affirmed was going for the Triple Crown they were nose to nose at the finish line with Affirmed winning in a photo finish by a nose. In all three races the two horses finished just two lengths apart.

According to Fox News this will be a banner year for the Belmont track and the State of New York.

Here is some of what Fox had to say about the Triple Crown excitement.

California Chrome is the 12th horse to reach Long Island with wins in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, since Affirmed won all three in 1978.

Attendance for those 11 races averaged nearly 30,000 more than in years without a contender -- going from a low of 37,171 in 1995 when Thunder Gulch and Timber Country split the Derby and the Preakness, to a record 120,139 in 2004 when Birdstone upset Smarty Jones in the last of a three-year stretch of Triple Crown contenders in the Belmont Stakes.

On-site wagering on the race-day program also surged in those years, according to track records, jumping from $6.8 million in contender-less 1996 to $9.2 million the following year when Silver Charm took the first two races, and from $8.8 million in contender-less 2007 to $13.3 million when Big Brown raced for history in 2008.

I'll Have Another's wins in Louisville and Baltimore sent attendance for the 2012 Belmont Stakes to nearly 86,000 and on-site wagering to $13.8 million even though the horse was withdrawn the day before the race due to a leg injury.

The head of the track's management team said ticket sales for this year's Belmont Stakes, with its emphasis on high-level racing and daylong entertainment, were already brisk before California Chrome broke from the gate at Churchill Downs in May.

More than 70 percent of tickets and premium tables for the race were sold before the Derby and all were gone before the Preakness, according to New York Racing Association president and chief executive officer Christopher Kay.

After the Preakness, Kay said, they added a trackside tent and additional seating to accommodate the surge of interest in a potential California Chrome coronation.

General admission and grandstand tickets costing $10 remained available through the track late in the week and more than 3,000 tickets, ranging from $12 for grandstand to $2,300 for a table for two at the Garden Terrace Restaurant, were available on the secondary ticket sales website

Good weather -- 82 degrees and sunny, according to the National Weather Service -- could push the crowd into record territory.

"Our intent is to make Belmont Stakes day an important day year in and year out," Kay said.
This year it has been an important day -- and week -- for business.

The largest hotel on Long Island, a Marriott with more than 600 rooms in Uniondale, and the ornate Garden City Hotel --  where management said all of the owners, trainers and jockeys in the Belmont Stakes were staying and where the menu includes a cocktail named for each horse -- have sold out under race-related demand.

Other hotels were also booked solid, officials said, forcing some out-of-town fans to find lodging in Suffolk County, about 20 miles east, or stay in Manhattan, about 15 miles west.

"This Triple Crown opportunity doesn't come too often," state hotel association chairman John Tsunis said. "But, whoever wins in the race, the real winners will be Long Island and New York State

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