Always Dreaming has one leg down and two more to go.
In order to join the exclusive club of horses to win the Triple Crown, Always Dreaming will have to follow up his Kentucky Derby win with victories at the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown and only one has done so since 1978 (American Pharoah, 2015). Many horses have won the first two races but come up short at Belmont, either due to injuries or poor performances. Winning the Belmont Stakes is the difference between going down in horseracing lore and being just another horse who fell short of history.
Here are the horses who nearly missed winning the Triple Crown after winning the first two legs:
1932 – Burgoo King
Named after a local’s grocer’s burgoo stew, Burgoo King was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in the same year but not the Belmont Stakes. He did not race in the final leg and there are competing theories why he didn’t enter the Belmont Stakes.
1936 – Bold Venture
Bold Venture suffered a bowed tendon after the Preakness Stakes that prevented it from competing in the Belmont Stakes.
1944 – Pensive
Pensive was the first horse to start in the Belmont Stakes but fail to win the Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Pensive’s son (Ponder) and grandson (Needles) also won the Kentucky Derby.
1958 – Tim Tam
Sired by two horses ranked as in the top 100 U.S. race horses of the 20th Century, according to The Blood-Horse magazine, Tim Tam was injured running down the home stretch of the Belmont Stakes and finished second.
1961 – Carry Back
Carry Back was the odds-on favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown but he finished in seventh place and 15 lengths behind the winner.
1964 – Northern Dancer
The first Canadian-owned horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Northern Dancer never finished worse than third in a race but unfortunately for him, one of those third-place finishes was in the Belmont Stakes with the Triple Crown on the line.
1966 – Kauai King
A fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes foiled Kauai King’s bid for the Triple Crown.
1968 – Forward Pass*
The only horse to win the Kentucky Derby as a result of a disqualification, Forward Pass’s controversial pursuit of the Triple Crown came up just short as he finished in second at the Belmont Stakes by just more than one length.
1969 – Majestic Prince
Majestic Prince was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes while undefeated. However, he came in second in the Belmont Stakes in 1969, ending his streak.
1971 – Canonero II
The English translation of the horse’s name means “Gunner II,” a name that was nearly cemented in Triple Crown lore. A fourth-place finish at Belmont ended his pursuit of horse racing history.
1979 – Spectacular Bid
Spectacular Bid compiled an impressive career resume of 26 wins in 30 starts but he failed to capture the elusive Triple Crown.
1981 – Pleasant Colony
When Pleasant Colony won the Kentucky Derby, there were 21 horses in the field and no Derby since then has had more than 20 starters. Despite one of the fastest closing runs in Preakness history, he fell short in the Belmont Stakes.
1987 – Alysheba
Bet Twice, a horse who collided with Alysheba during the latter’s Kentucky Derby victory, won the Belmont Stakes by 14 lengths to prevent Alysheba from taking the Triple Crown.
1989 – Sunday Silence
Sunday Silence was voted American Horse of the Year in 1989 despite losing to rival Easy Goer at Belmont.
1997 – Silver Charm
Silver Charm lost by less than a length at the Belmont Stakes as he narrowly missed the Triple Crown.
1998 – Real Quiet
Real Quiet’s owners and trainers might still have nightmares of the 1998 Belmont Stakes. Real Quiet finished second at Belmont by four inches, the smallest margin of victory in the race’s history.
1999 – Charismatic
Charismatic died unexpectedly in February, according to Daily Racing Form, an unfortunate end for the horse that suffered an injury while leading in the closing stretch of the Belmont Stakes, forcing him to slow down and finish third.
2002 – War Emblem
War Emblem won the 2002 Kentucky Derby despite his jockey never meeting the horse until the morning of the race. With a Triple Crown on the line for the horse, Belmont Stakes hosted a record crowd. War Emblem struggled to get off to a strong start out of the gate and couldn’t pull out a win in the third leg of the Triple Crown.
2003 – Funny Cide
Funny Cide finished third at Belmont behind two fresher horses that didn’t compete in the Preakness.
2004 – Smarty Jones
Like Majestic Prince, Smarty Jones entered the Belmont Stakes undefeated, finished in second place and then never raced again in their careers.
2008 – Big Brown
Despite a crack in one of Big Brown’s hooves, the horse entered Belmont as the favorite but he failed to finish the race.
2012 – I’ll Have Another
The horse’s trainer ruled him out of the Belmont Stakes due to a tendon injury, becoming the third Triple Crown hopeful to win the first two legs but be scratched from Belmont.
2014 – California Chrome
The North American horse with the highest career earnings, California Chrome had one of his heels stepped on as he exited the gate in the Belmont Stakes and he finished fourth.
*Won Kentucky Derby on a disqualification