I’ll Have Another has a chance to make history


I'll Have Another with jockey Mario Gutierrez in the irons, on the left, and Bodemeister with jockey Mike Smith in the irons drive for the finish during the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on May 19. (GARY CAMERON/REUTERS)

Even if you are not a horse racing fan, you’ll want to be in front of a television on Saturday evening. You may see something that hasn’t happened in 34 years: A horse may win the Triple Crown.

A horse earns the Triple Crown by winning the three most important races of the year: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

A horse named I’ll Have Another has already won the first two big races of 2012. The 3-year-old colt (that means the horse is a boy) surprised a field of better-known contenders at the Derby and then came from behind to catch another favorite, Bodemeister, at the finish in a heart-pounding Preakness last month.

I’ll Have Another is a terrific story. He was not expected to be a great horse, but he gets better with every race. That’s a good lesson for kids and their coaches. Sometimes athletes (and racehorses) develop at different paces. It’s not always easy to pick out the best ones at an early age.

The horse’s jockey, Mario Gutierrez, is a surprise, too. He was an unknown rider who bounced around smaller tracks in Canada before he hopped aboard I’ll Have Another. Gutierrez has ridden his horse like a master in both big races.

So it would be great if I’ll Have Another wins Saturday. But it will be tough. The Belmont Stakes is the longest race in the Triple Crown — 11 / 2 miles. Seven horses in the past 15 years have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to lose their chance for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. Here’s the list of those near misses.

●Silver Charm 1997

●Real Quiet 1998

●Charismatic 1999

●War Emblem 2002

●Funny Cide 2003

●Smarty Jones 2004

●Big Brown 2008

I love racehorse names. The story is that I’ll Have Another got his name because his owner loved cookies and was always saying, “I’ll have another.”

So will I’ll Have Another be the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown? He’s got a good chance. Bodemeister, the second-place finisher in both the Derby and Preakness, will not race in the Belmont.

But 34 years is a long time. How long? Jimmy Carter was president then. Your parents, and maybe your grandparents, were dancing to the disco beat of the Bee Gees and “Saturday Night Fever.” And can you guess what basketball team had just won the NBA championship? The Washington Bullets, now called the Washington Wizards.

Ask any Wizards fan: 34 years is a long time to wait for something special.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for the KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including books about baseball, basketball, football and soccer.

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