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Post Time: Triple Crown Near-Misses by the Numbers

By Gene Kershner 

Thoroughbred racing has had 11 near-misses since Affirmed defeated Alydar in 1978 to become the 11th Triple Crown champion in history and the third in six years in the 1970's. Let's take a look behind some of the numbers in those 11 attempts in the last 35 years and the oddities as we sit two weeks away from the 12th attempt by California Chrome.

- The average odds of the Derby-Preakness winner when leaving the gate in the Belmont was just above 4-5, basically odds-on. Of the near-misses, three horses were more than even money, with Charismatic in 1999 the highest price favorite at 1.60-1.

- The average attendance on a potential Triple Crown date is over 82,000, with the more recent attempts nearing and exceeding six figures. I'm projecting somewhere in excess of 100,000 on June 7 just based on California Chrome's popularity. When I'll Have Another scratched the day before the Belmont in 2012, the attendance was still north of 85,000 fans.

- Out of the 11 near-misses, the Triple Crown hopeful finished second or third four times each. Only three horses missed the board completely, with Alysheba rounding out the superfecta in 1987.

- The average odds of the winner was approximately 19-1 over the near-misses since 1978, however that is skewed sharply by the last five tries that averaged over 35-1 due to big bombs such as Lemon Drop Kid (1999), Sarava (2002), Birdstone (2004) and Da'Tara (2008).

- In the six tries between 1979 and 1998, the odds of the horse that served up a Triple Crown spoiler was less than 5-1.

Here's a look behind the numbers at the 11 Triple Crown misses since 1979:

Triple Crown Near-Misses Since 1977    
Year Horse  Odds  Finish Odds  Attendance 
1979 Spectacular Bid 0.30 3rd 4.40           59,987
1981 Pleasant Colony 0.80 3rd 7.90           61,200
1987 Alysheba 0.80 4th 8.00           64,772
1989 Sunday Silence 0.90 2nd 1.60           64,959
1997 Silver Charm 1.05 2nd 2.65           70,682
1998 Real Quiet 0.80 2nd 4.50           80,162
1999 Charismatic 1.60 3rd 29.75           85,818
2002 War Emblem 1.25 8th 70.25          103,222
2003 Funny Cide 1.00 3rd 2.00          101,864
2004 Smarty Jones 0.35 2nd 36.00          120,139
2008 Big Brown 0.30 DNF 38.50            94,476
  Average     0.83   18.69           82,480


Next Friday we'll take a look at the Belmont probable entries and grade out their chances for a Triple Crown upset on June 7 in Elmont.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.


Horse Racing
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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.