Belmont Stakes 2011: Is Belmont Still Relevant Without Triple Crown Contender?
Winners of the Preakness and Kentucky Derby Face Off In Belmont Stakes 2011
Horse racing fans have been waiting for a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed won the Holy Trinity of races in 1978.
Triple Crown hype begins with the first sip of a Mint Julep. Lately, it has only lasted until the fans have slurped the last of their Black-Eyed Susans. Belmont is such an afterthought, people might not even know if it has an official drink (it does, the Belmont Breeze).
Does the race still matter if there is no potential for a Triple Crown winner?
For horse racing fans, absolutely. While superhorses can be fun to watch, nothing beats the thrill of a tightly contested race between two great horses.
While no horse has stood out from the field this year, Shackleford and Animal Kingdom made the Preakness an exciting race. Although Animal Kingdom started the race in last place, he made a strong move at the end losing by a nose.
Casual sports fans will tune out the Belmont. People like to see history. For the same reason that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run race drove baseball ratings in the summer of 1998, a race for the Triple Crown would drive horse racing ratings.
Horse racing is a nostalgic sport, and only a chance at history can bring it back. Back when boxing and baseball were king, horse racing was the next best thing. The most notable writers of the day, (Hunter Thompson anyone?) wrote decadently at races alongside scores of the country's depraved.
Belmont won't be big this year. It wasn't last year and it might not be next year. But when Belmont does get big—and it will—horse racing has a chance to restore some of that nostalgia, even if only for a bit.
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