Everyone — even the Taliban — wants a Triple Crown winner. It last happened 34 years ago, and it once happened with regularity: In the 1970s, there was a Triple Crown winner three times in a six-year span.
But this Saturday in New York, I’ll Have Another will turn into I’ll Have Another Disappointment. I can’t tell you the exact place I’ll Have Another will finish, I just know it won’t be first.
(As the bearer of bad news, I respectfully ask my readers not to kill the messenger.)
There are three things that are next-to-impossible to do in this modern life:
1. Beat the banks at their own game.
2. Get a cable or satellite provider to show up in the designated time window they’ve given you.
3. Win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes over a five-week period.
Since Affirmed achieved the feat in 1978, 11 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown but failed to win the Belmont. Now, I don’t have an advanced degree in math or statistics, nor in anything for that matter, but I do recognize — as an amateur meteorologist — that if a set of conditions produce a similar result 11 times out of 11, there is a 100 percent chance the 12th time will yield the same outcome.
In other words — in layman’s terms — I have a better chance of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on roller skates than I’ll Have Another does of winning the Belmont.
For the record, here are the 11 horses that have been two-thirds to glory since Affirmed:
Spectacular Bid, 1979; Pleasant Colony, 1981; Alysheba, 1987; Sunday Silence, 1989; Silver Charm, 1997; Real Quiet, 1998; Charismatic, 1999; War Emblem, 2002; Funny Cide, 2003; Smarty Jones, 2004; and Big Brown, 2008.
(Older racing aficionados might remember the ill-fated Triple Crown bid in 1963 of Mister Ed, the iconic crossbred gelding owned, trained and ridden by Wilbur Post. Mister Ed won the Derby and the Preakness and then — in an infamous foul-up forever etched in Triple Crown lore — was late to the gate at the Belmont because of a phone call he took in his stable.)
Most people don’t understand how daunting the physical task is for these horses.
They must race on three tracks in three states, in a compressed time period. And the final challenge — the Belmont — is the farthest they’ll ever run.
Do you know how tough it is to go a mile-and-a-half when you’ve never done it before? That’s like asking Couch Slouch to go a year-and-a-half into a marriage.
(Incidentally, how grueling is horse racing? HBO’s “Luck” was canceled because three thoroughbreds perished during production. And that was a TV shoot, with makeup trailers, craft services and personal assistants for every equine’s needs; away from Hollywood, you’ve got to figure horses have it even tougher.)
While I’ll Have Another might be the best 3-year-old, there are so many variables you cannot predict in horse racing:
He might wake up Belmont morning with a toothache we don’t know about.
He might have an intense dislike of New York, or New Yorkers.
He might go to the track Saturday and think to himself, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Central Park, pulling a carriage.”
Or I’ll Have Another might look around and wonder, “Where the heck is Bodemeister?”
(Where is Bodemeister? This highlights another problem with the sport: Like Affirmed and Alydar in ’78, I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister waged two compelling duels at the Derby and Preakness, finishing 1-2. So how is it that Bodemeister skips the Belmont? What, he had a previous engagement?)
As it is, Bodemeister will be sitting with the rest of us, hoping I’ll Have Another makes history shortly after 6:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC.
(By the way, I’m just grateful NBC doesn’t cover the Triple Crown the way it covers the Olympics; otherwise, we’d have to wait until almost midnight to see these races.)
But don’t get your hopes up. If this horse could talk, he’d tell you he’s going to lose.
Q. Why don’t you announce the National Spelling Bee? I suspect you can spell better than you can play poker. (Jay Goldberg; Chicago)
A. I am not a poker dumbbell — my card skillz should be better recieved.
Q. When watching golf on television, do you have to be quiet when the golfer is putting? (Ron Julkowski; McMurray, Pa.)
A. Actually, I’m usually asleep by that point.
Q. What does Toni — a.k.a. She Is The One — think about you authorizing Shirley to pay over $300 a year to louts who comment on your ex-wives? (Michael Sarro; Shaker Heights, Ohio)
A. Although I like to think she runs to the bank every week with the remainder of my column paycheck, I suspect she takes it to Whole Foods.
Q. LeBron James has lost the NBA championship in four and six games. If he subsequently loses the Finals again in five and seven games, will that be the NBA equivalent of “hitting for the cycle”? (D. Scott Cunningham; Cleveland)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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