On to the Belmont
It must have been a severe case of deja vu for Bodemeister and jockey Mike Smith to see I'll Have Another and Mario Gutierrez roll up alongside them in the closing strides on Saturday. It was a repeat of the duo's powerful rally to win the first jewel of the Triple Crown two weeks ago at Churchill Downs.
Now I'll Have Another has a shot at the elusive title at New York's Belmont Park, which hasn't hosted a horse with a chance for the Triple Crown since Big Brown won both the Derby and the Preakness in 2008.
For those hoping to see the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 3 1/2 decades (or even for those who are not), consider these parallels between I'll Have Another and Affirmed discovered by researchers at ESPN:
2012 Derby: I'll Have Another beats Bodemeister by 1 1/2 lengths
1978 Derby: Affirmed beats Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths
2012 Preakness: I'll Have Another beats Bodemeister by a neck
1978 Preakness: Affirmed beats Alydar by a neck
The same horse finished first and second in all three Triple Crown races in 1978, with Affirmed edging Alydar by a head in the Belmont.
Alydar beat Affirmed later that summer -- the two raced against each other 10 times, with Affirmed winning seven of the meetings -- on a disqualification in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga when Affirmed cut off Alydar in the stretch en route to the finish line. Alydar nearly fell, but still finished second and was properly placed ahead of Affirmed after a jockey objection and stewards' inquiry.
If nothing else, the quest for a Triple Crown will provide a huge boost to the economy in New York and wherever bets are taken. We'll be watching.