As the 2008 hits the halfway point, it's time to pinpoint the biggest disappointment in sports so far this year. There are many worthy candidates, including New England's loss in Super Bowl XLII to end its perfect season; or the lackluster start by a World Series favorite, the Detroit Tigers; but the one letdown that stands out is Big Brown's failure to win the Triple Crown.
Horse racing is a terrific sport. It requires excellent strength and conditioning by both horse and jockey. However, the love affair between America and horse racing has been on hiatus for years due to the failure of a horse and jockey to win a Triple Crown.
Despite the lost love for horse racing, many still trek to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville every first Saturday in May, placing their bets and hoping that that day's winner has what it takes to win the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, thus winning the Triple Crown.
This year, Big Brown’s dominant victories at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes captured America’s attention, despite the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals and an exciting start to the Major League Baseball season. Big Brown needed a victory at Belmont on June 7, to win not only horseracing’s first Triple Crown in 30 years, but also the admiration of American sports fans.
Victory for Big Brown was a guarantee, literally. Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow, Jr., told the media that Big Brown clinching the Triple Crown at Belmont was, “a foregone conclusion.”
Dutrow’s guarantee lit a fire under the Belmont Stakes and had many Americans glued to their televisions to watch the event. There was absolutely no reason that Big Brown could not win at Belmont after his main rival, Casino Drive, withdrew from the race due to a bruise on its left hind hoof.
On June 7, the starting gun sounded and the horses were off. As the horses crossed the finish line, the winner was…Da’Tara, the longest shot on the board. Where did Big Brown finish? Dead last. Never has one race or event delivered such a crushing blow to the popularity of a sport than Big Brown’s loss at the Belmont Stakes.
Although Big Brown’s failure to win at Belmont was a major disappointment, it also presents an opportunity for horse racing. Big Brown’s failure to clinch the Triple Crown showed America that horse racing is not a cakewalk and that the true art and athleticism of the sport are qualities that America admires in other sports and athletes.
Big Brown’s failure to win the Triple Crown was a major disappointment, but don’t let that keep you from watching the Kentucky Derby next May. You may see horse racing’s next Triple Crown winner.