There are some things to be grateful for about this 144th running of the Belmont Stakes.
We should be grateful that I’ll Have Another did NOT run in this race. Because if he had run in this race he probably would have broken down in it. And the LAST thing we needed was for a Triple Crown candidate to have broken down in the Belmont.
That would have been almost as bad as Prairie Bayou breaking down and ultimately being sent to horse heaven after running in the 1993 Belmont. The only saving grace of that was that Prairie Bayou was posthumously honored as champion three-year-old (as opposed to that piece of shit Sea Hero).
It would have been as bad as Charismatic breaking down right around the wire in the 1999 Belmont. Charismatic was already beaten at the time the injury occurred. The injury did NOT prevent a Triple Crown. Lemon Drop Kid won that Belmont at long odds and went on to be champion older male the next year and a pretty good sire.
The only saving grace of that 1999 Belmont was that Charismatic’s jockey (the late Chris Antley) was smart enough to jump off the horse and support the injured leg long enough for the veterinarians to get there and SAVE the horse. Not that Charismatic was a particularly good sire. He was NOT. But at least he had a CHANCE.
Of course we are all disappointed that I’ll Have Another did not get a chance to prove (or disprove) that he was really a Triple Crown winner. Many in the FORMER camp. Many in the LATTER camp.
I like to think that I was in the MIDDLE camp. The group that just wanted to see history made once again (positively or negatively). Now that IHA is definitely retired, I feel more free to offer the following historical perspective on how he stacks up against the Triple Crown winners and losers (mainly the latter) of the past.
IHA was not nearly as good a racehorse as Spectacular Bid, Sunday Silence, or Alysheba (the last based more on his four-year-old campaign than his three-year-old campaign). IHA was not nearly as good a racehorse as Easy Goer (who foiled the Triple Crown bid of Sunday Silence by eight lengths in the 1989 Belmont).
IHA was approximately as good a racehorse as Pleasant Colony, Bet Twice (who foiled Alysheba in the 1987 Belmont), Silver Charm, and Real Quiet (and Victory Gallop, who foiled Real Quiet in 1998).
IHA was a better racehorse than Charismatic (who was Horse of the Year in 1999 only because it was such a pathetically weak year), War Emblem, and Funny Cide. And I have to add that Funny Cide was a better racehorse than War Emblem. Funny Cide (a gelding) at least raced until age seven and won some more races (including a G1). War Emblem was a piece of shit (unfortunately the BEST piece of shit of that crop and “champion” at age three supposedly).
I think that leaves only Smarty Jones and Big Brown unclassified. If I were a judge in this case I would have to seek a recusal for myself. I LOATHED both of those nags (the latter particularly, for reasons having more to do more with the persons associated with them and buying into them as future stallions than the nags themselves).
Suffice it to say that the 2004 and 2008 Belmonts were two of the HAPPIEST days of my life. Justice was meted out on those two days. REALITY prevailed over FANTASY on those two days.
Lauren Hillenbrand of Seabiscuit fame wrote in “Waiting for the Next Secretariat”:
“Deserving horses have lost the Triple Crown, but no undeserving horse has ever won it, and none ever will.”