Belmont 2012: Horse Racing Needs a Triple Crown After Long Drought

Wes ODonnellFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 19:  Jockey Mike Smith aboard Bodemeister (R) leads the field and jockey Mario Gutierrez on I'll Have Another (L) out of the fourth turn during the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 19, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Tyler Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Thirty-three years have passed since Affirmed won horse racing's last Triple Crown. In those 33 years the "Sport of Kings" has become little more than an afterthought to most.

Unless a Triple Crown is a legitimate possibility, which has happened only 11 times since Affirmed's historic run, the interest level drops with each race.

The Kentucky Derby, also known as the "Run for the Roses", is in a class all its own. The pageantry, the mystique, the tradition—it's simply a more popular race than the Preakness and Belmont.

This year I'll Have Another, a surprise Derby winner and thrilling Preakness winner, has restored our excitement in the Belmont Stakes.

Also known as the "Test of Champions", the grueling one-and-a-half-mile run separates average animals from extraordinary animals like no other.

What we've seen from the 3-year-old chestnut colt this year has been nothing short of inspiring. He came out of nowhere to take the Derby from more popular horses only to follow it up with a second come-from-behind victory that was actually more exciting than his Derby run.

If there ever were to be a fitting year for the return of a Triple Crown champion it would be this year. I'll Have Another has earned that with each passing ride.

Should he complete the tremendous feat, it would boost horse racing back to relevance, at least in a sense that people will have something to talk about going into next year—and that is more than the sport has been able to say for some time.

Like boxing, it is highly unlikely that horse racing will ever return to the sport it once was, but it will have a ton more going for it should I'll Have Another win this race.

After 33 years, horse racing deserves another Triple Crown champion.