Another Triple Crown winner so soon? It’s possible.By Bernard Kroviak, CDC Gaming ReportsMay 26, 2018 at 10:00 amI began to follow the thoroughbred racing game in my youth, as a baby boomer in the 60’s. As was the case for many others, the Kentucky Derby and, by extension, the Triple Crown were of special interest to me. I watched as Northern Dancer and Forward Pass won the Derby, and I began to follow trainers like D. Wayne Lucas, Bobby Frankel, and Charlie Wittingham. I made my first-ever Derby bet in 1969 on a horse named Majestic Prince and cashed as he won that year’s edition of the Run for the Roses. As I studied more, I began to realize that there had not been a Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948. People began to wonder if there ever would be another one.Then along came Secretariat.Even though he finished third in the 1973 Wood Memorial, his prep race for the Derby, many were nonetheless convinced he would win the Derby. Some were sure of it even before the Wood: legendary handicapper Clem Florio, after watching Secretariat finish fourth in his first start, a 1972 race at Aqueduct, threw his binoculars down and yelled, “That’s my Derby horse for next year!” and then went on to say that Secretariat would win the Triple Crown in 1973. Secretariat did, indeed, become the next hope for the Triple Crown, avenging his Wood defeat by winning both the Derby and the Preakness.The excitement grew for me as that Saturday in June1973 approached, both because Secretariat was going for the Triple Crown and because my youngest brother was graduating from college the same day. My wife and I planned to attend the commencement and the small party afterward, and then quickly drive home in time to catch the race on TV, the only way to see it, since there was no internet at the time and our only telephone was hanging on the wall at our house (and was a rotary dial phone, to boot.) Well, traffic that day was horrible, and it became apparent we could not make it home in time, so we did what any racing fan would do: pulled off the road and tried to find a bar, hoping that their television would be tuned to the correct station. There were no such things as sports bars in those days, so we just looked for a regular bar that might have the answer to our dilemma.To our surprise and relief, this plan worked. It was a good thing, too. Who could ever forget Secretariat’s titanic, record-breaking 31-length victory in the Belmont, which secured the 1973 Triple Crown and confirmed his status as a horse for the ages? He was a celebrity, appearing on the covers of dozens of magazines, among them Time and Newsweek, as the horse that finally put an end to the Triple Crown drought. To those of us who followed the sport, he was a true hero, the horse that defined our generation.In 1977, Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, and Affirmed did the same the following year. Both were, obviously, tremendous horses in their own right – winning the Triple Crown is a wonderful, difficult feat – but for all of their skill and capability, they weren’t Big Red. So the Triple Crown, unfortunately, seemed to lose a bit of luster in the public eye after their victories. Having back to back winners – and three in five years – served to solidify a general feeling that winning the Triple Crown might not be as difficult a task as it had been in the past.Fast forward 37 years – an entire generation, or more, depending on how you measure them – with trainers like Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, and Chad Brown now in the spotlight, and, in spite of some great horses and trainers, no Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. So much for it not being difficult. A new generation of fans watched, hoped, wagered and moaned as twelve different horses that had won the first two legs of the Crown were beaten in the third and most demanding leg, the 1½-mile Belmont Stakes, denying them their hero. Once again, the feeling that there might not ever again be a Triple Crown winner surfaced to affect an entire new era of racing fans. Every spring, it seemed, some pundit or other would appear on television, crowing about how the game had gotten too difficult, too specialized, to ever again allow a single horse to win all three Crown races. Then along came American Pharoah. Was this beautiful, powerful bay another of those horses to get to the final leg, only to disappoint all those long-suffering fans, or could he, possibly, be the Secretariat of his generation? After 37 years, was it time for a new hero to everyone who loves racing and were not around to experience Big Red’s 1973 romp? This group included my son, who was born in 1972 and certainly did not see Secretariat.Well, we know now that American Pharoah did what people longed for, and, by winning the 2015 Triple Crown (and, in going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, becoming the first and only horse yet to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing) established himself as one of racing’s greats. And a new generation had its hero.Which brings us to Justify, who on June 9th will attempt to become racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. Will he be like those other 12, the ones who failed in the Belmont in the 50s and 60s (and 80s, and 90s, and 00s), or will he become the second Triple Crown winner in the last four years? The generational heroes, Secretariat and American Pharoah, hold a special place in the annals of racing, not only because of the quality of their performances but due to the long waits that racing fans endured before getting their champion.So good luck to Justify, and his chance for immortality. Legions of fans are pulling for him. Maybe, with a historic victory, he might even be thought of as comparable to Secretariat. But in my humble baby boomer opinion, I really don’t feel that, even if he wins, he will truly capture the hearts of racing fans like American Pharoah and Secretariat did. Icons are icons for a reason: they don’t come around very often.