This year marks the 36th consecutive racing season of the Triple Crown drought. A loss at the Belmont stakes proved heartbreaking for racing fans who have been anxiously awaiting the next thoroughbred that will clinch all three crown jewels of the famed series. Not since Affirmed managed to steal the top prize at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 1978 has a horse been able to boast the coveted title of Triple Crown winner.
Affirmed and the legacy of Lazaro Barrera
At the 1978 Belmont stakes, everyone’s eyes were focused on the thrilling rivalry brewing between Affirmed and Alydar. Both shared a bloodline with Native Dancer and both had gone up against each other in a number of stakes leading up to this monumental matchup. Racing fans still remember that race as one of the greatest in history, as both chestnut colts were head to head from the mile marker to the finish, with Affirmed pulling out in front at the last moment to clinch the race and the Triple Crown.
The success of Affirmed is attributed to his trainer Laz Barrera, who was widely regarded as one of the racing industry’s greatest talents. A year after Affirmed won the Triple Crown, Barrera was entered into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. A colorful figure who delighted race fans with his charisma, Barrera left an undeniable mark on the face of thoroughbred horse racing. As a trainer who was always willing to embrace new methods, Barrera was the very first in California to use Original Premium Poultice.
Flaws in the system?
Fans of this year’s Triple Crown loser have since complained about what they see as a flaw in the system. The Triple Crown is held over a five-week period with races in Kentucky, Maryland and New York. Winning all three races while traveling across the country requires a true champion horse with the stamina and fortitude to withstand it all. This year’s winning horse was rested coming into the Belmont, while the Triple Crown favorite had been travelling and racing for more than a month. While allowing a horse that has spent the previous weeks resting to race against one that has been racing may seem like an uneven playing field, Affirmed, Secretariat and all the past winners were up against the same challenges when they won the coveted honor in the past.