In 2011, the Triple Crown had no chance of being won when three different horses won the three legs of the series.
The hits kept coming when it was announced that Kentucky Derby (Gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom would miss the rest of the year due to an injury received at the Belmont Stakes.
Overall, the year was much like this one, with no clear standout on the dirt to cheer for. While the two other Triple Crown race winners continued to race, their records weren’t good enough to hurry them off to stud or another career (Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice is a gelding).
However, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise when all three horses came back to race in 2012.
Preakness winner Shackleford has run six times this year, winning the Met Mile (Gr. I) and Churchill Downs Stakes (Gr. II). Ruler On Ice didn’t fare so well, racing four times and only finishing on the board once. Animal Kingdom also had rough go, as he was reinjured after his only race in 2012.
But the three Triple Crown race winners have a chance to make history yet again at this year’s Breeders’ Cup in California.
Shackleford is primed to make the last start of his career in the Breeders’ Cup before retiring to Darby Dan for next year’s breeding season. Last year, he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to the, now retired, Caleb’s Posse.
It was also announced today that Animal Kingdom will be making his comeback in the Breeder’s Cup Mile. The race will be only his second start since finishing sixth in last year’s Belmont Stakes (Gr. I). However, he won his comeback from his Belmont injury by two lengths on the turf in February.
The biggest question mark of the historic weekend is Ruler On Ice. The gelding hasn't shown his 3-year-old form and it is possible that he will skip the Breeders’ Cup, although an official announcement has not yet been made about his plans.
However, if the gelding does go to the Breeders’ Cup, last year’s Triple Crown will have the distinction that none other has had in this century. The three winners will be the only horses to run in the Breeders’ Cup during the 4-year-old season during the 2000s era.
Not once in this era has a Triple Crown had all of its’ winners go on to finish their 4-year-old year in the Breeders’ Cup, or finish their 4-year-old year at all. While it is not confirmed until all three horses load in the starting gate, last year’s Triple Crown is on the road to making another historical mark that doesn’t look to be beaten any time soon.