Monday, May 10, 2010 Updated: May 12, 2:06 PM ET
Triple Crown fever
By Jay Cronley Special to ESPN.com
Leon Spinks punched out Ali.
The best NBA team was named the Bullets.
The Bee Gees could do no wrong.
Larry Flynt was shot.
JR owned Dallas.
"The Deer Hunter" won Best Picture, Jon Voight Best Actor for "Coming Home."
Betty Ford checked into rehab.
Another time, almost sounds like another planet. That year, 1978, Affirmed won the Triple Crown and was the last horse to do such a thing.
According to an NBC promo, jockey Calvin Borel thinks 32 years is long enough for a nation to be without a horse hero, and says he and Super Saver are going all the way, through the winner's circle at the Preakness, around the horn at Belmont Park, which is about like going around Cape Horn, and into the history books and onto the movie-of-the-week developmental boards. Speaking of the Belmont Stakes, in case you hadn't heard, that race is pretty much over, nearly finished, almost official, with Ice Box rallying from, oh, 20 or 30 lengths to zoom past Super, Drosselmeyer, Lucky, and anybody else silly enough to challenge the second coming (from last to first) of Giacomo.
As a brief aside, does anybody remember where dramatic closer Giacomo finished in the 2005 Belmont?
Still and all, don't let me talk you out of Ice Box in New York. We saw with our own eyes how much ground he closed in the Kentucky bog. And anybody who made a C-plus in logic, and a D-plus in physics, has to surmise that if you closed X-number of lengths at a distance of Y, then ran Z furlongs more, you win hands down, meet you at the payoff windows. So, if to you more ground equals more closing, bet Ice Box with both hands, all four pockets, and your safety deposit box. Why would I say such a thing, so far out from the Belmont? Because I'll probably wager on somebody else, thanks for wondering.
Getting back to this week, there's always Triple Crown Fever after the Derby, usually lasting three or four days, or until you have replayed the Churchill race and have seen that the winner won because 16 of the other contenders got in trouble. With Borel at the reins, Triple Crown Fever has carried into Preakness week; who can throw out a jockey capable of slipping a horse between a rail and a hard place.
The two-week turnaround sounds extremely stressful.
The human equivalent of defeating 19 horses in a bumper car Derby, then collecting yourself and coming right back after what amounts to a long weekend off, would be something like boxing with a hangover.
It has long been thought that the nation could use a hero -- that a Triple Crown winner would be good for horse racing, across the board.
The hero angle, sure, look at one promo for the upcoming movie about Secretariat and who doesn't get fuzzy. Why do animals make such great heroes? They don't talk back.
As for the good-for-the-sport perspective, a Triple Crown winner probably wouldn't make a newcomer feel the urge to play the third at Finger Lakes, or the fourth at Fonner. But the way TV shows mostly bright and well-dressed people at the Triple Crown events, it makes regular horse players look fine.
Write to Jay at email@example.com.