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Triple Crown Odds – Will We Have to Wait Another 37 Years?

Eric Thompson

by Eric Thompson in News

Updated Jan 17, 2018 · 9:39 AM PST

The 2015 Belmont Stakes saw a masterful performance by jockey Victor Espinoza, who sat rather still and shouted encouraging words while straddling a 1,000 pound beast that ran a mile and a half in 2:26.65. What made it even more impressive was this effort followed wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, making Espinoza the first jockey to win the elusive Triple Crown since 1978.

What an achievement for a terrific athlete; congratulations! Oh and I guess congratulations to the dumb ol’ horse, too, American Sniper or whatever his name was …

Sadly, though, the end of the Belmont means the horse racing season – the one that the general public pretends to care about at least – is over.

Now we’ll have to wait until 2016 to once again watch short men bounce around uncontrollably (unless your tiny co-worker sneaks into the inflatable castle at the family picnic again). But it’s not too early to look ahead at the next year of horse racing: no, we don’t know the horses, riders, or payouts, but we do have basic statistical analysis. Hooray!

The Triple Crown just wrapped up a 37-year drought – the longest since before folks even had a name for the three-race series. The biggest question now is: was this drought an anomaly or is it the new normal?

From 1919 to 1978, there were 11 Triple Crown winners, which averages out to just over one every five years. That’s about the time it takes for a horse to go from birth to its racing prime. So if American Samoa (is that it?) “uncorks his champagne bottle” into a filly this off-season, we could see his genetic masterpiece running for his own Triple Crown in half-a-decade. That is, assuming he doesn’t end up being a massive disappointment and not following in his father’s footsteps. (We’re looking at you, Cooper Manning! Wide receiver to energy trader, really? I suppose that whole spinal stenosis thing gets you off the hook.)

But Triple Crown winners don’t have to come from greatness: there were 13 horses that won the first two legs since 1978 and most of their fathers were blue-collar workers, working paycheck to paycheck in the hay mines.

What has truly made it so difficult to capture jockeying’s greatest trophy is the all the shady behavior surrounding the horse racing world. Cheating has taken over the sport: everything from horse steroids, to putting a stuffed horse head and a saddle on a motorcycle and entering it in the Preakness, to that time when Tonya Horsing put out a hit on the Derby favorite Neigh-ncy Kerrigan.

Controversial as it may be, there still is no reason horse racing will have to wait another 37 years for a talent like Espinoza and his gassy sidekick, American… what is it? Pharoah? No, that wasn’t it.

Anyways, central thesis: it will be a shorter wait for another Triple Crown winner to emerge. Like, 36 years … tops. Start your watch.

(Photo Credit: Maryland GovPics (2015 Preakness Stakes) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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