POPSUGAR Celebrity

Almost Royal: 12 Horses Who Nearly Won the Triple Crown

Jun 8 2012 - 10:30am

With the breaking news this morning that Kentucky Derby [1] and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another has been pulled from tomorrow's Belmont Stakes due to an injury, horse lovers and horse-racing fans will wait at least one more year for a Triple Crown champion. If he had run tomorrow and won, the chestnut colt would have become only the 12th horse — and the first since Affirmed in 1978 — to win the coveted Triple Crown in the 137-year history of the three races. Of course, there have been plenty near-misses along the way: 50 horses have won two of the three races but were thwarted by a worthy adversary. We've rounded up 12 magnificent horses who fell short of the crowning glory by just one race.

Sunday Silence (1989)

In a bitter showdown of East meets West, low-born Californian Sunday Silence prevailed twice over his high-bred rival Easy Goer before losing to him in the Belmont Stakes.

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Tabasco Cat (1994)

Though he finished a disappointing sixth in the Derby, Tabasco Cat went on to edge out Derby winner Go For Gin in both the Preakness and the Belmont.

Thunder Gulch (1995)

Winning the Kentucky Derby despite the 25-1 odds laid against him, Thunder Gulch lost the Preakness to his stablemate Timber Country. He came back in the Belmont to win by two lengths over Star Standard.

Silver Charm (1997)

One of very few gray horses to win the Kentucky Derby (the last was filly Winning Colors in 1988), Silver Charm in the end lost the crown to gleaming gold when Touch Gold stole the Belmont Stakes in 1997.

Real Quiet (1998)

Sold as a crooked-kneed yearling for a small sum, Real Quiet took the Derby and Preakness but lost to Victory Gallop in the Belmont — though he came closer to the Triple Crown than any other horse since Affirmed, losing by just a nose!

Charismatic (1999)

The rivalry between Charismatic and Menifee was compared to the celebrated pairing of Affirmed and Alydar in 1978. In the end, Charismatic took the first two Triple Crown races but faded to third in the Belmont. As it turned out, jockey Chris Antley felt the colt's leg break in the final furlong and eased up the horse to prevent any further damage.

Point Given (2001)

Despite running fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Point Given came back to claim the last two gems of the Triple Crown and the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year in 2001.

War Emblem (2002)

Jockey Victor Espinoza had never seen War Emblem until the morning of the Kentucky Derby, but that didn't stop this pair from rolling to a win that day, nor at the Preakness a few weeks later. Stumbling out of the gate at the Belmont, the dark-brown colt spent his energy to overcome the pack and then faded, losing to Sarava.

Funny Cide (2003)

The first New York-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Funny Cide decisively won the first two Triple Crown gems but faltered on the muddy Belmont track to finish third. He was also the first gelding to win the Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.

Smarty Jones (2004)

The first unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, Smarty Jones won the Preakness by 11 1/2 lengths but fell to Birdstone in the Belmont — his only loss since he was retired due to bruised ankle bones later that year.

Afleet Alex (2005)

After coming in third in the Derby, Afleet Alex overcame a serious stumble in the Preakness to win by 4 3/4 lengths. A few weeks later, he took the Belmont. Afleet Alex's owners donated a portion of his winnings to Alex's Lemonade Stand, a charity founded by young cancer patient Alexandra Scott to benefit pediatric cancer research.

Big Brown (2008)

Named in honor of the other Big Brown, UPS, the bay colt won every career race except the Belmont and became the only Triple Crown hopeful to finish last after winning both of the previous races. He was soon retired due to a hind hoof injury and now lives at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, KY.

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