Race of the Week 2017

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The Kentucky Derby Post

2014 Triple Crown: The Toughest Score in Sports


The Triple Crown, it’s worth talking about. In fact, there’s no reason the horse racing news should not be dominated by it – and it is. Some might argue that the industry does not need it. Okay, but who in their right mind would claim that the industry doesn’t want it.


As fans, we want it too. Regardless of whether you are rooting for California Chrome or not, I’m willing to bet that it cannot undermine the hunger you have for it. But why - it’s simple; the Triple Crown is not easy to win.


To shed a little more light on the phrase, term or achievement of legendary proportions let’s look at another drought that recently ended.


In 2012, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became the first player in Major League Baseball history to win the elusive Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. We have switched gears to another sport but this should prove how just revered the words Triple Crown truly are.


There was another athlete that year that almost had an attempt at making it even more special. In 1937, War Admiral and Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals both scored the Triple Crown. Something that makes it so difficult is avoiding injury. Unfortunately for team I’ll Have Another there would be no Belmont Stakes and no chance at the Triple Crown prior to Miguel Cabrera cementing himself as one of the best hitters of all time.


Triple Crown Winners   


             Major League Baseball        Horse Racing
1878 Paul Hines Providence (NL)   1919 Sir Barton
1887 Tip O'Neill St. Louis (AA)   1930 Gallant Fox
1901 Nap Lajoie Philadelphia (AL)   1935 Omaha
1909 Ty Cobb Detroit (AL)   1937 War Admiral
1922 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis (NL)   1941 Whirlaway
1925 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis (NL)   1943 Count Fleet
1933 Jimmie Fox Philadelphia (AL)   1946 Assault
1933 Chuck Klein Philadelphia (NL)   1948 Citation
1934 Lou Gehrig New York (AL)   1973 Secretariat
1937 Joe Medwick St. Louis (NL)    1977 Seattle Slew
1942 Ted Williams Boston (AL)   1978 Affirmed
1947 Ted Williams Boston (AL)      
1956 Mickey Mantle New York (AL)      
1966 Frank Robinson Baltimore (AL)      
1967 Carl Yastrzemski Boston (AL)      
2012 Miguel Cabera Detroit (AL)      


Unlike horse racing baseball seems endless. To be eligible or in contention you have to be durable, relentless, on top of your game at all times and prepared for the most difficult challenge of them all; the competition.


Yet, that is where the two are so similar. The Triple Crown season in horse racing may only be a fraction of the amount time it takes to play 162 games but within these 35 days everything I mentioned above is still required. As for comparing the two side by side it’s apples and oranges.


Sports fans often ask which achievement is tougher. I have thought about it several times but on each occasion I tend to sway from one end to the other. I wrestle with the time it takes to win. As mentioned I can’t decide whether or not it is easier to accomplish something so grand in only 5 weeks versus 6 months. Or, if the test of leading in multiple statistical categories outweighs the drive it takes to just win.


Baseball, like its season, is long. There’s so much more time to correct any minor errors. In the pursuit of the original Triple Crown, however, an athlete has no more than two minutes and thirty seconds to make all the right moves and barely any mistakes. But that’s just racing. Line up, off you go, may the best horse win.


In baseball you can enter the batter’s box and fail. You can then fail again before you manage an RBI single during your third at bat. Next time around a batter may get what anyone would love; a walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth that scores a win, an average of .500 for the day and a whole lot of stats in the bank. On the contrary you may also fail all day long or sometimes all series long. But, if you are primed for battle all of those stats can be saved with an outstanding set of plate appearances over the course of the next week.


To Baseball’s credit though think about how many challengers a player has to face. There is just no way horse racing compares. Imagine how difficult a horse's Triple Crown would be if they had to face that many competitors. Or, should we consider the qualification process as part of the season?


I’m glad I asked myself that because I think so. The Triple Crown is won in just 5 weeks but in order to be a contender the leg work to qualify for the Kentucky Derby cannot be overlooked.


Even still, Baseball has a lot more full time hitters and even more pitchers. Their Triple Crown winners face more challengers thus bringing my original conclusion back into play: apples and oranges. 


Something else that has always intrigued me about the comparison relates to the age of the athlete. In the MLB there is the young, Giancarlo Stanton – 24 yrs old (NL RBI and HR Leader), the players in their prime, Troy Tulowitzki – 29 years old (NL BA leader), and the veterans, Nelson Cruz – 34 years young (AL RBI and HR Leader) and Victor Martinez – 35 years young (AL BA Leader).


Now that is quality competition. In horse racing it’s only the 3-yr-old's that race for the most prized accomplishment – a significant difference.


Another element that is very different between them is that baseball players have a distinct advantage. How many horses have ever been able to race for the Triple Crown on separate occasions? Zero, any age before or after 3 disqualifies you. As for Americas’ pastime the opportunities always equal the amount of seasons you play.


Of the 16 winners, 2 players account for four of those crowns. So, if age was not a requirement how many people think Secretariat would have been a two-time Triple Crown winner?


But it doesn’t work that way. So no horse will have the chance to match Hall of Fame names like Ted Williams or Rogers Hornsby. Since ball players are able to grind it out season after season it might also explain why Major League Baseball has more winners. However, in the opinion of some, only 5 players are true Triple Crown winners. The MLB recognizes Triple Crown winners as players that lead their league, AL or NL, but only 5 led all of baseball in each of the 3 major league stats. Consequently, we should separate them as the most dominant seasons in professional baseball history.


  • Mickey Mantle  (1956)
  • Ted Williams  (1942)
  • Lou Gehrig  (1934)
  • Rogers Hornsby  (1925)
  • Ty Cobb  (1909)


How can horse racing compare to these rare achievements? The Breeders’ Cup and the Classic Division were born in 1984, or 6 Kentucky Derby’s after Affirmed won the Triple Crown. So by that timeline maybe the sport can begin to play catch up. Should we ever see a 3-yr-old so good that he (or she) captures all four could we then compare that champion to Baseball’s big 5.


Wow, now that would be one for the ages. However, we should not get ahead of ourselves as the pursuit of the next Triple Crown is what needs to be accomplished first. And if it is this week, California Chrome should be greeted with nothing short of greatness.


The biggest reason is because of the drought which brings us to another similarity.


October 3, 2012 is the date that went down in the history books for the third baseman of the Detroit Tigers. On that night in Kansas City, Missouri Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to lead his league in Batting Average, RBI’s and HR’s. He also proved that he was the best hitter in the game.


And that is because his accomplishment takes us back to its rightful name; The Triple Crown. Synonymous with a King there is no better term. Especially when it is applied to a sporting event that grabs the interest of everyone involved. It is a spectacle that is so rare, appreciated and sometimes cherished to a higher degree than any other achievements within the sport.


So can California Chrome end the drought and become one of the most prized horses of the 21st century by winning the 2014 Belmont Stakes?


We have traveled 35 years since Affirmed scored in 1978 so if he is, it will be welcomed. His story, his connections, his road to the Belmont Stakes speaks for itself. This is the toughest race of the Triple Crown but California Chrome, like many before him, seems poised for the race of his life.


And that’s what the majority of us want to see; Another Triple Crown winner.


The term has been around for decades but it’s still looked at and interpreted with as much admiration. Scoring it is the stuff legends are made of. What fan of baseball does not recognize the names of the players that were good enough to hit one of the most difficult trifectas that any of us could ever dream of. Much the same, what horse racing fan won’t remember a name like California Chrome should he be so good to become the next. 


Similar to baseball, and Miguel Cabrera, how many halfway interested fans will jump on board full time if he wins. Just think about how many people are going to Belmont Park just to say that they were there or how many $2 tickets will be purchased without any intent on ever cashing them. 


The comparison between Baseballs Triple Crown versus Horse Racing is difficult. At the end of the debate the two historic and gigantic achievements however can be looked at from an apples to apples point of view. They are rare but they are extremely desired by members of the team, friends, family and fans alike.


Good Luck team California Chrome, may history be yours to make. And, should it be the time that all of us have been waiting for…………….We are ready.



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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer – Chicago, IL


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park, Henderson, KY. 


In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance and the tradition continues because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, KY on Derby Day. 


Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champions trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. The coverage begins when Juvenile season starts and continues until the field is set, the picks are in and the roses are awarded. 



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