Triple Crown: Afleet Alex, Pleasant Colony

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on May 8, 2012

33 Years of Heartbreak: The 12 Most Excruciating Near-Misses in the U.S. Thoroughbred Triple Crown Since 1978 – Part Two of Six

11. Afleet Alex (2005)

The only horse on this list that lost the Kentucky Derby and went on to win the Preakness and Belmont, Afleet Alex’s chance to win the Triple Crown ended early on in the racing season, but his powerful efforts in the Preakness and Belmont ushered in countless thoughts of “what if” after the season ended. In the 2005 Kentucky Derby, Afleet Alex came in third by less than a length behind longshot winner Giacomo, who shocked the horse racing world by winning the Derby at odds of 50-1. At the Preakness, oddsmakers showed more respect to Giacomo by upping his chances to 6-1, but still felt that Afleet Alex was the better horse. At 7-2 odds, Alex avenged his loss at the Derby by torching the field by 4 ½ lengths. In a dramatic moment at the top of the stretch, Afleet Alex caught up to leader Scrappy T only for the front runner to wildly swing in front of him. Alex stumbled badly but both horse and jockey Jeremy Rose gathered themselves and went on to win the race handily. Giacomo could only manage a distant third.

When it was determined that Afleet Alex had escaped injury during the bizarre accident at the Preakness, trainer Tim Richey gave the horse the go-ahead for the Belmont. For the so-called “rubber match” between Derby winner Giacomo and Preakness winner Afleet Alex, Giacomo was the bettor’s second choice at 5-1, behind Alex as the 6-5 favorite. It was no contest. Giacomo briefly took the lead during the final turn, but at the top of the homestretch, Afleet Alex blitzed past Giacomo, in the words of Belmont announcer Tom Durkin “like he was standing still”. Giacomo faded to finish seventh, while Alex crushed the field by seven lengths, running the fastest last half-mile at Belmont in nearly 40 years. After the race, an almost-dejected Jeremy Rose took the blame for Alex’s earlier loss in the Kentucky Derby, opining that he had started Alex’s stretch run in the Derby too late, that Alex had clearly been the best horse of the year, and that he should have won the Triple Crown.

10. Pleasant Colony (1981)

Pleasant Colony was a betting favorite at 7-2 leading up to the 1981 Kentucky Derby. Taking control at the top of the stretch, the huge horse withstood a tremendous rally by Woodchipper in the final strides to win by ¾ of a length. Because of the powerful finish, many enthusiasts waited for a Pleasant Colony/Woodchipper showdown in the Preakness. However, the Derby had taken too much out of the second place finisher, as Woodchipper finished a bleak 11th place in the Preakness. Pleasant Colony had plenty left in the tank, though, and won the Preakness by a length over Bold Ego.

At the Belmont Stakes, Pleasant Colony was an overwhelming 4-5 favorite, but could not get the job done. Striding powerfully down the stretch, the Derby and Preakness winner did not fade at the end as is often the case at Belmont, but could not overcome Summing, who had taken the lead in the backstretch and never relinquished it. Pleasant Colony finished third by 1 ½ lengths.

Article Contributed by Gabriel Ruzin.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of HorseRacing.com.

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