By Thomas Garcia
We may witness history in three weeks. There has not been a Triple Crown winner in United States thoroughbred horse racing since 1978, when Affirmed became the 11th horse to lay claim to that prestigious title.
While some might not share my excitement, I believe winning the Triple Crown just may be the hardest accolade to win in sports today.
The Preakness horse race in Baltimore, Md., ran last weekend and the favored horse, California Chrome, followed up his stunning Kentucky Derby win with another strong victory, placing him one race away from the Triple Crown.
As a sports fan, the prospect of a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime is something I’m really excited about, and I’ve only been truly vested in thoroughbred horse racing for three years. I always watched the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the past as a fan of all things sports. My increased interest and admiration for horse racing has increased because of my friends who have graciously shared with me their passion, knowledge and “horse sense.”
Now I’m no expert, nor would I even begin to claim to be a novice when it comes to horses. I am always interested to learn more about horses and have a new-found respect for the majestic animals. I am fortunate to have good friends who will teach and not laugh when I ask a question that to them is common knowledge.
This being said, I can only imagine the excitement my friends, who are avid horsewomen, must be feeling about the possibility of California Chrome winning a Triple Crown in three weeks. It has been 36 years since the last Triple Crown, and the closest before that was in 2008 when Big Brown failed to finish the Belmont Stakes in Belmont, New York.
There was hope in 2012 when “I’ll Have Another” won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but those hopes where dashed when the horse scratched the day before the Belmont Stakes due to tendonitis.
The National Football League and Major League Baseball, respectively, have the perfect season and the perfect game. There has not been a perfect season in National Football League, which would include a perfect regular season, a playoff run, then a Super Bowl victory, since the 1972 Dolphins went 17-0 winning Super Bowl VII. The closest to perfect season since then was the New England Patriots 2007 record. The Patriots finished the regular season 16-0, entered Super Bowl XLII with a record of 18-0 and would lose 17-14 to the 13-6 New York Giants.
In MLB the definition of a perfect game has been changed largely in part to the league’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy. Although sticking with traditional views, a perfect game is “27 up and 27 down.” Meaning that for nine innings a pitcher does not allow any hits or walks, or even hit a batter, to allow a man on base.
Now I’m not exactly sure, but I’m sure my editor David Stevens will let me know if I am wrong, but in the 135 year history of MLB there have been 23 perfect games. The last perfect game thrown was in 2012. I don’t know the pitcher’s name and while I could Google it, I am doing my best to write from memory. However, I think he played for Seattle.
These milestones are earned by entire teams or by individual pitchers who have numerous opportunities throughout their careers to achieve them. Quarters are times and innings can seem, you know, endless. Achieving one of these pinnacles will earn a team or individual a place in sports history and trivia questions, and make their fans grin ear to ear.
The horses vying for a Triple Crown usually only get one chance in their lifetime to race for the prize. The first leg to the Triple Crown is the Kentucky Derby that is limited to three-year-old horses. A horse can run if it is two years old and will turn three later that year. Thre three-year-old must win in a field of over18 competitors and do it all in just over two minutes.
There is no second chance for the horses, trainers and jockeys pursuing horse racing’s grandest title.
A football team that has fallen short could come back for that perfect season. A pitcher with a less than stellar record may yet throw that perfect game. But for California Chrome, who has captivated the world with two amazing wins, he has one last shot on June 7 at the Belmont Stakes, to lay claim to thoroughbred horse racing’s Holy Grail.