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By Nash Black
May 6, 2023 all eyes will be focused on Kentucky. The four legged superstars, the sponsors, the sportscasters, the owners, the trainers, the jockeys, the celebrities, the fans and anyone else who can beg, borrow or steal a ticket for the Run for the Roses. This is the beginning of three-weeks of nail-biting intensity until the Preakness to see if another crown prince in waiting to become a King of flat-track horse racing.
The Kentucky Derby is the baby of the three races that make up the Triple Crown. It was established in 1875. The course is one and a quarter miles.
The Preakness, held in Baltimore, Maryland is a couple of years older than the Derby having been inaugurated in 1873. It is slightly shorter at one and 3/16th miles.
The Belmont Stakes is the longest track in thoroughbred racing at one and a half miles. It was first held in 1867, making it the oldest of the three jewels and is run five weeks after the Derby in New York.
Will there be another super star the likes of Citation or Secretariat? Only time will tell and I leave that up to the punters. So far, in over 100 years of racing only thirteen horses have worn the crown. It began in 1919 when Sir Barton was the first winner of the Triple Crown and has continued through Justify in 2018.
Several have won two-legs but there were no shows or also-rans for one of the shots.
Legends and stories of hope, dreams, faith, bad luck, and greed abound about Kentucky’s favorite (for one-day) sport and a major industry.
A stallion’s value does not end with wearing the crown. He is syndicated for millions and spends the remainder of his life at stud. The great Secretariat holds many records including winning the Belmont by 31 lengths. During his stand at Claiborne Farms, outside of Lexington he sired over 600 folds many of which became stakes winners.
Affirmed won the crown in 1978, but his prodigies never developed the promise of their father. Staringly enough, the horse that places second to Affirmed in all three races, Alydar, proved to be a great stallion.
Edie Arcaro is the only jockey to ride two horses, Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948), to the Triple Crown.
D. Wayne Lucas, trainer, in 1955 became one of the legends of the sport when Thunder Gulch won both the Derby and the Belmont yet another of his horses Timber Country won the Preakness. This made him the only Triple Crown winning trainer without a triple Crown-winning horse.
The Derby is when the ladies bring out their fancy bonnets. Mine is rather special that I’ve had for some years. It is a Southern Planters style Stetson, from Pairs Hatters, San Antonio, TX. The same place John Wayne bought his hats. So on Sat., May 6th I’ll be wearing it – that is if it doesn’t rain.