The 1960's saw five horses win the first two legs of horse's Triple Crown, which is more than any other decade in the Triple Crown series.
Second to the 1960's are the 2000’s. Four horses headed to Belmont Park with a shot to win the Crown. War Emblem was first in 2002, followed by Funny Cide the next year.
With all due respect to those horses and their fans, I chose the last two winners for this poll, starting with the popular Smarty Jones in 2004.
Born at Fairthorne Farm in Chester County, Pa., Smarty had an auspicious start to his racing career.
With perhaps the most unique, weird, and unusual story surrounding the start of his career, it is a wonder Smarty went on to great things. However, his pedigree would indicate nothing but greatness lay ahead.
Included in Smarty Jones' pedigree are Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Count Fleet, and such other Triple Crown race winners as Northern Dancer and Foolish Pleasure.
Smarty was also related to the mighty Man o' War, who ranked No.1 on the list of Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.
Pat Chapman and her husband, Roy "Chappy" Chapman, had originally hired Bobby Camac to be Smarty Jones' trainer, but in December 2001, Camac’s stepson murdered Camac and his wife.
Following the tragic turn of events, Chappy turned to an unknown who trained horses that raced primarily out of Philadelphia Park. His name was John Servis.
Servis did not start well with Jones.
Early in Smarty's career, Servis was teaching the young colt how to enter the starting gate. Smarty became spooked, then reared up, and smashed his head against the metal on the top of the starting gate.
The result of the accident was a fractured skull. The bones around his left eye were so badly damaged, veterinarians thought they might have to remove the eye.
Amazingly, with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard, Smarty recovered and went on to win the first eight races of his career.
What made this feat even more amazing was, Elliott and Smarty did it at five different tracks over eight different distances.
After winning the Arkansas Derby Smarty headed to Louisville and even though he was impressively undefeated, he was barely a post time favorite.
Elliott rode a perfect race in Louisville. He went to the whip on the backstretch, and Smarty responded by passing Lion Heart, and winning the Derby win by 2 3/4 lengths.
Two weeks later in Baltimore, the raucous infield crowd would witness Preakness history. After again catching and passing Lion Heart, Smarty Jones would pull away for an 11 and a half-length victory.
The margin of victory was the largest in Preakness history surpassing the 10-length mark set by Survivor in the inaugural running of the triple crowns middle jewel in 1873.
A record crowd of 120,139 converged on Belmont Park hoping to see the undefeated Smarty Jones become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
For his blue-collar roots and the rough start to his career, Smarty Jones' became a very popular horse. Attendance increased drastically at racetracks and he caused the highest television ratings in 14 years.
People even made comparisons to Rocky because of his Philadelphia roots. However, there would be no knockout in the third installment of the Triple Crown show for Smarty Jones.
Unfortunately and like every other horse in this poll, his quest for the crown also fell short. He was defeated by 36-1 long shot, Birdstone, who was ridden by Edgar Prado.
The mile and a half seemed to be to much for Smarty that day, especially since he never seemed to pace, he simply ran and he paid for it, as Birdstone passed him down the stretch.
Prado and Birdstone made their move four-wide on the final turn, came on strong, and battled with Elliott and Smarty the rest of the way.
With 50 yards to go, Smarty gave up the lead in the stretch for the first time in his career, as Birdstone finally caught him to win by a length.
Like most horses do in the Belmont, Smarty seemed to run out of gas when it was needed the most.
The loss was devastating to his many fans and while he was simply beaten, many came up with a conspiracy theory.
Fans and some experts believed that two other jockeys in the race, Alex Solis and Jerry Bailey, conspired to keep Smarty from winning.
Many said the pair “rode not to win,” but to deny Smarty Jones the Triple Crown title.
Smarty Jones career was very similar to that of Majestic Prince in that, the Belmont, would be the last race of his career and like "the Prince," would suffer his only loss in New York.
The end of his racing career was announced Aug. 2, 2004 due to chronic bruising of his anklebones. He finished his career with eight wins and one place in nine starts, earning $7,613,155.
The money includes a $5 million bonus he received from Oaklawn Park for winning three stakes races at three specified tracks.
During the 2011 breeding season, Smarty Jones was relocated to Tarry Bratton’s Ghost Ridge Farms near Felton, Pa. He will ship to Uruguay for the Southern Hemisphere season.