The Triple Crown Awaits Big Brown
UPDATE: Casino Drive officially pulled out of the Belmont Stakes this morning, making my preview essentially worthless only 8 hours after I wrote it. Thanks Casino Drive. Considering Casino Drive was the one horse that could legitimately challenge Big Brown in my mind, you might as well just hand Big Brown the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown now.
Even though horse racing in the United States isn't what it used to be in its golden days, whenever a race horse steps to the gates at the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown, for at least one day, the sport of kings reigns supreme again.
I remember in 2004 when Smarty Jones headed into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown. I was in Barcelona and tried like hell to find a bar that had the race on TV, and not one place did. It made me incredibly angry, and I still hate Spain to this day because of that.
Horse racing is a part of American culture, whether PETA likes it or not. And today, with Big Brown looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, horse racing is the center of the sports universe.
Big Brown is naturally the favorite since he won the Derby and the Preakness, but he's also starting on the rail, an absolutely prime position to be in.
However, as most people know, the Belmont is notorious for chewing up potential Triple Crown winners. It's a more grueling 1.5 miles, as opposed to a mile and a quarter for the Derby and a mile and 3/16ths for the Preakness. That last quarter mile is where most horses bred purely for speed lose the race.
The real lone challenger to Big Brown, barring something crazy happening, is Casino Drive. If you don't know who Casino Drive is, that's understandable. He's from Japan and didn't race in either the Derby or the Preakness. But he's won the two races he's been in so far by significant margins. Interestingly, in his second race, he was ridden by current Big Brown jockey Kent Desormeaux.
But while none of that should scare Big Brown, this should. Casino Drive definitely has the genetic background to dominate at the Belmont. Casino Drive's mother, Better Than Honour, produced the last two Belmont winners, Jazil and the filly Rags to Riches. His father, America's 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, is the son of 2002 Belmont winner A.P. Indy and the grandson of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
All I know is that combined with the lingering questions about how well Big Brown's cracked hoof has healed, this should be one hell of race.
Odds and starting positions are listed below.
(1) Big Brown, 2/5
(2) Guadalcanal, 40/1
(3) Macho Again, 30/1
(4) Dennis of Cork, 10/1
(5) Casino Drive, 10/3
(6) Da' Tara, 33/1
(7) Tale Of Ekati, 16/1
(8) Anak Nakal, 33/1
(9) Ready's Echo, 40/1
(10) Icabad Crane, 35/1
And in honor of the Triple Crown, here's a look back at the greatest race horse in history, Secretariat, winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes to take the Triple Crown. Secretariat also was #35 on ESPN's 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century. He beat Pete Sampras on personality alone.