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Breeders' Cup 2017
HRN Original Blog:
Bada Bing Inc.

Eleven Triple Crown Dreams Dashed - Part 2

I'll Have Another wins the Preakness over Bodemeister

By Tony Bada Bing


Part II of the 11 would-be Triple Crown winners takes a look at Charismatic to Big Brown…


Charismatic was decent sort, but not really considered anything special for trainer D. Wayne Lukas or his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis. In fact, Charismatic was twice entered into claiming races as his three-year including a $65,000 claiming race in February. He eventually won the Lexington Stakes, which earned him a Derby try, which he pulled off at odds of greater than 30-1. Still he was not favored at the Preakness going off at a gaudy 8-1, but no matter, he won.


While Charismatic made the lead briefly in the Belmont Stakes’ stretch, he faded to third before being pulled up by his jockey, Chris Antley after the finish line. More than the failed Triple Crown bid, the moment Antley pulled Charismatic up after the finish and tended to his wounded warrior became the real story. Antley, who had left horse racing due drug use and failures to make his jockey weight, is best remembered for the care he gave his mount following the Belmont Stakes. Antley died tragically a year later to a combination of a drug overdose and blunt trauma from falling.




War Emblem was a surprise at 21-1, winner of the Kentucky Derby, pulling off the feat by going coast-to-coast on the lead. His Derby win was enough to convince the betting public to make him the Preakness favorite and he proved most right winning again on the front end.


Trainer Bob Baffert knew the race was over the gates opened when War Emblem stumbled coming out the gate and now had to come from behind for the first time in the Triple Crown series. He made a move turning for home, but backed up badly while being beaten by 70-1 shot Savara.




Funny Cide was a fluke. A New-York bred, owned by a bunch of friends from the Saratoga area who rented yellow school buses to go the races and trained by a curmudgeon of man in Barkley Tagg. He was a stakes winner at two and finished second in the Wood Memorial – his final prep race for the 2003 Kentucky Derby. He won both the Derby and Preakness with ease and came into the Belmont Stakes as both the betting and sentimental favorite.


Funny Cide uncharacteristically took to the early on a sloppy Belmont. The pace was too much as Funny Cide faded to third behind the Derby favorite and now, Belmont winner, ironically named Empire Maker. In a stakes-filled career for Hall of Fame trainer, Bobby Frankel, it ended up being his only Classic win.




Smarty Jones, had talent and back-story (murdered trainer, sick, elderly owner and journeymen jockey) second to none. He easily won the Derby in the slop, before opening up and winning in style. Heading into the Belmont undefeated, Smarty Jones’ popularity grew to mythical proportions. Sensing the first Triple Crown champ in 26 years, a record-crowd  of 120,000 fans showed up hoping to witness history.


With jockey Stewart Elliot up, Smarty Jones was into his bridle early and was sent to the lead going through the three-quarter mile mark in 1:11 in three-fifths seconds. While Elliot tried to restrain his charge early, he let out his reins heading into the stretch opening up by about 4 lengths.


Birdstone, the small son of Kentucky Derby winner, Grindstone, was the only challenger left standing in the stretch. Owned by New York socialite Mary Lou Whitney and trained by New Yorker, Nick Zito, Birdstone spoiled the Triple Crown party by overtaking Smarty Jones in the final 200 yards to win by an easy length. Both Zito and Whitney were almost apologetic in winning.




Big Brown was like the 13-year-old middle-schooler that outweighed his peers and completely towered over them. The ultra-talented son of Boundary (not really a distance influence there) was lead to the track by Rick Dutrow, an oft-penalized trainer who never saw a spotlight he didn’t love.


Owned by Wallstreeters, IEAH Stables, Big Brown was dominant in both the Derby – from post 20, no less – and the Preakness. In both contests he faced less than talented competition. The Belmont Stakes was no different. Just as he had done in preparation of the Derby and Preakness, Dutrow was extremely confident heading into the race, despite a crack in his horse’s hoof.


In one of the stranger Belmont editions, rider Kent Desmoreaux, pulled Big Brown up as the horses entered the stretch. In just a few short strides, Big Brown went from mid-pack to failing to finish. Unlike the admiration that Antley garnered in trying to save Charismatic following the ’99 Belmont, Desmoreaux was criticized by commentators, trainer, owners and fans. His explanation that he “had no horse” didn’t seem to fly. Conspiracy theories abounded, but Big Brown made just two more starts before heading to retirement as the 11th Triple Crown hopeful to be swallowed up by Belmont Park.




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Tony Bada Bing began his lifelong quest of finding winners more than 35 years ago as a fifth grade student. This is when his grandfather first took him to the many Off Track Betting facilities sprinkled throughout Long Island, NY. While many kids his age were clamoring to hit the beach or an amusement park during summer vacation, Bada Bing was spending it in stuffy, smoked-filled rooms filled with retirees and reprobates listening to Marshall Cassidy on tape delay calling Saratoga.

This passion was further lit by his father, who took Bada Bing to East Boston's Suffolk Downs, only after Bada Bing learned to read the Racing Form. For most of his young adult life a summer rotation of NY OTB, Suffolk, and the now shuddered Rockingham Park in Salem, NH filled his betting days. 

Notable winners along the way: Willow Hour's and Runaway Groom's Travers wins as well as Derby winners Grindstone, Thunder Gulch (which he called in print the day before) and Super Saver. His latest quest is to hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta.

Bada Bing plays tournaments at Derby Wars, bets through several account wagering sites and has blogged about Thoroughbred racing for the past four years. He prefers the bigger meets of NYRA and California as well as seasonal meets of Gulfstream, Churchill and Oaklawn. He likes vertical, multirace wagers like Pick 4s.

He has produced several Horse Racing Nation videos, in addition to blogging. He can be found at Twitter @tonycbadabing. While away from the track Bada Bing enjoys time with his wife, who tolerates and supports his passion, and his two children.


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