May 18, 2010

Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Winners Collide

2010 will be a year with three different winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. While we have not had a Triple Crown winner in 32 years, the other two possibilities have been quite common. Since Affirmed swept the elusive series in 1978, there have been 18 three-year-olds who have won two thirds of the Triple Crown, meaning that this will be the 14th time we have had three different winners since we last celebrated a Triple Crown champion. Surprisingly in the first 13 years with a trio of victors, there has been only occurrence where the three met each other on the racetrack after the Triple Crown. That occasion was the 1982 Travers Stakes which brought together the Derby winner, Gato Del Sol, the Preakness winner, Aloma’s Ruler, and the Belmont winner, Conquistador Cielo.

Conquistador Cielo was racing’s newest star, having reeled off a string of breathtaking wins at Belmont Park. He had been recently syndicated for the hefty price tag of $36 million. Racing fans were beginning to use the ‘super horse’ tag for the son of Mr. Prospector trained by Woody Stephens. Conquistador Cielo’s main competition was expected to come from the tough speed horse, Aloma’s Ruler who had run consistently well other than the sloppy Belmont Stakes, and Gato Del Sol, the stretch runner from California who had been the surprise winner in the Run for the Roses. With the big three headlining the Travers, only two others would enter the starting gate. The two decided longshots were New York runner Lejoli and Canada’s top three-year-old, Runaway Groom, but they were mere bit players to the stars of the show who had dominated the Spring’s Triple Crown. Or so it was thought.

Conquistador Cielo, under Eddie Maple took off out of the starting gate and shot to the rail. Just to his outside was Aloma’s Ruler who rushed up quickly to poke his head in front with rider Angel Cordero. Cordero would keep the favorite pinned down on the slow rail all the way around, as the two horses would remain lapped on each other throughout. Strong fractions were carved out of the Saratoga dirt, and surprisingly the Derby winner was in somewhat close pursuit. Gato Del Sol did not want to lose touch with the Preakness and Belmont winner early. The only horse who did lose touch early on, was the Canadian Star, Runaway Groom who was content to trail the field for the first mile. As they entered the stretch, it was apparent that Gato Del Sol would mount no challenge from his closer to the pace than usual position. It thus appeared that Conquistador Cielo and Aloma’s Ruler would take their battle all the way to the wire, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a gray flash began gobbling up ground on the outside. Runaway Groom was gaining with every stride as the now battle weary warriors were weakening from their taxing pace battle. Runaway Groom’s rush was too much for the game Aloma’s Ruler who had edged ahead of Conquistador Cielo in the late stages. Runaway Groom would win the Travers in one of the biggest upsets in the big race’s history.

It was a shocking result, but Runaway Groom was no shrinking violet. He was Canada’s champion sophomore of 1982 and never had been worse than second through his Travers win. The son of Blushing Groom had already won two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, with only a second place finish in the Queens’ Plate keeping him from being a Triple Crown champion. Trained by John DiMario, Runaway Groom became the only horse in racing history to beat three different winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and the Belmont, all in the same race. He would never reach these kind of heights again, possibly due to his intense schedule in the Summer of 1982. Sent to stud after the following season, Runaway Groom became a hit at stud, siring more than sixty stakes winner including Cherokee Run. He survived until 2007, when he passed away at the age of 28 due to the infirmities of old age.


Abitaamber said...

What a brilliant move in the lane.

william said...

remember it well brian....graveyard of favorites prevails!

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget Jeffrey Fell who gave Runaway Groom a heads up ride. I'd say one of the more suprise victory's on Jeff Fell's career.

Brian Zipse said...

Jeff Fell was an underrated jock...I was a big fan, and obviously he gave Runaway Groom the perfect ride in this one.

Anonymous said...

Awesome story Brian and thank you for posting the video. I had watched the Derby, Preakness and Belmont from that year but never seen this one before!