Victor Espinoza rode California Chrome to victory in the Preakness.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's been 36 years since horse racing had a Triple Crown winner to celebrate. This Saturday, California Chrome will try to make history. It's an elite club to get in. Steve Cauthen is one of just 10 men who have won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year and he said there's a good shot one more jock is about to do the same.
"There hasn't been a horse good enough to do it," Cauthen said Tuesday, "It takes a really special horse and some good fortune along the way."
Trying to get the seemingly elusive Triple Crown, is a conversation and an interview topic Cauthen knows well as the last jockey to win the Triple Crown. He did it at age 18 aboard Affirmed in 1978. That's why when Cauthen did his only Kentucky interview before the Belmont helping promote Kentucky Speedway's NASCAR Sprint Cup Victory Tour, he was swarmed by reporters wanting to know what he thinks about California Chrome.
"Basically, the horse has proven that he's better than anything he's run against," Cauthen said.
Through the years, many great horses have tried, but failed to get the big three - from Big Brown to War Emblem, Funny Cide to Smarty Jones just to name a famous few.
Cauthen's biggest Chrome compliment? He says the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner reminds him of Affirmed in his mannerisms and tactically he says Chrome seems unstoppable by being able to go to the front or stay back. Cauthen likes that the horse has great acceleration and he has won comfortably, "You know, the horse seems to be thriving and he might be improving still."
Cauthen loves the way Art Sherman trains the horse and the way Victor Espinoza has been riding California Chrome.
Although it's been 36 years, what's still fresh in Cauthen's mind is what the rider goes through. He said, the three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont may have been the longest three weeks of his life. Cauthen says Espinoza has already been through those three weeks after nearly getting the Triple Crown on War Emblem.
"Victor's been around the block and he's been in this situation before," Cauthen said, "so he probably can't wait to get another chance to win the Triple Crown and I think he's got a great chance."
This week Cauthen is full of memories and excitement, "We just get to go Saturday and watch and then hopefully see it happen."
The difficulty in winning the Triple Crown makes Cauthen appreciate the talent of Affirmed even more as the years go by. Cauthen says there's no question California Chrome is a star. The question is, will he be the Michael Jordan superstar horse racing needs on Saturday?