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Triple down

Well, of course.

Of course California Chrome failed at the Belmont, because every prospective Triple Crown winner since 1978 has failed at the Belmont, so why should the Little Horse That Could be any different?

Finished fifth, Chrome did, so it wasn't even a close call. He just got beat, soundly. And then, adding insult to injury, he was disgraced by his owner, who bellyached that the other horses "ganged up" on Chrome, and that horses who skip the first two legs of the Triple Crown -- as Belmont winner Tonalist did -- are "cheaters" who take "the coward's way out."

Goodness sakes, buddy. Like some cheese with that whine?

Look, he might have a point about horses skipping the Derby and Preakness, and maybe whoever decides these things should decree that in order to run the Belmont you must have run at least one other leg of the Triple Crown.

But if Chrome had been a true champion, that wouldn't have mattered. To win the Triple Crown, you must be good enough to beat all comers. And he wasn't remotely close to being good enough.

The last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, had to beat Alydar, a horse good enough to win the Crown himself any other year, three times to pull it off. Secretariat had to do the same against Sham -- who, in finishing second to Big Red at the Derby, actually ran the second-fastest Derby in history.

California Chrome, on the other hand, beat two weak fields in the Derby and Preakness, leaving the impression he was a stronger mount than he actually was. The Belmont field, no matter why, was stronger. And so he lost.

He wasn't cheated. He wasn't the victim of some dark subterfuge. He just got beat.

A little grace from his camp in acknowledging as much would have been nice.

Ben Smith's blog.

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