Billy Reed showed us one of his favorite Triple Crown stories for the Courier Journal as kid jock Steve Cauthen grabbed the Triple Crown in 1978 on Affirmed.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Some of the best stories come from thoroughbred racing and this year is no different with the Triple Crown journey of California Chrome and his connections. A man who knows a lot about the quest for the Triple Crown is sportswriter Billy Reed.
Reed has seen Triple Crown winners, and a lot of losers over the years, but he thinks California Chrome could be the horse to break the drought. He's not worried about the mile and half distance like some critics are and thinks it is the winning story the sport needs right now.
With a thicker head of hair at age 35, Reed, a former Sports Illustrated Magazine writer and Courier Journal Sports editor chuckled about how he looked 36 years ago in a photo.
"I was never styling much," he said with a smile. "It is kind of embarrassing when you stop and look at it." Reed showed us one of his favorite Triple Crown stories for the Courier Journal as kid jock Steve Cauthen grabbed the Triple Crown in 1978 on Affirmed.
Back then, Reed was surrounded by stars, the human kind. Like The Odd Couple star Jack Klugman who was pictured with Reed as he tried his hand at the ponies and finished third in the Kentucky Derby with Jaklin. In another photo Reed celebrated with Seattle Slew trainer Billy Turner the morning after the Belmont. But most of the time Reed was with racing's real superstars like the great Secretariat and Affirmed's sparring partner Alydar.
The 1970's saw three Triple Crown winners: Secretariat in '73, Seattle Slew in '77 and Affirmed in '78, so when Spectacular Bid seemed poised to take the crown a year later, Reed wrote a tongue in cheek column before the Belmont asking readers "Has the Triple Crown become too easy?" Who knew decades would pass without another horse that could get it done.
"There have been so many disappointments," Reed said. "Don't you have that feeling that we've been down this road before?"
In 36 years there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner. Former contenders include Smarty Jones, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Warm Emblem and Spectacular Bid to name a few.
"Now there's this talk, well it's become impossible which I personally don't believe at all," Reed said of winning the big three in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. He continued, "But now people have a real wait and see attitude I think."
Reed pointed out that 25 years passed between Citation's Triple Crown win in 1948 and Secretariat's in 1973.
But what about California Chrome now?
"What I like about California Chrome is that nobody beats him," Reed simply stated. Convincing in victories, he said Chrome doesn't seem tired and no horse has challenged him as in Alydar's classic duels with Affirmed. Reed said of those battles, "It was just like the Ali-Frazier fights where you needed that other person or that other horse to bring out the best in you."
Another good sign? A great underdog story to go with the Crown as longtime trainer Art Sherman gets his first great horse in California Chrome. Reed said the horse reminds him of Seattle Slew in that he also sold for a modest price had his confirmation knocked. And just like Chrome he said, "When he got on the race track, nobody could beat him."
"I think it's time," Reed said of getting the Triple Crown, "I really think it's time."
As for the west coast/east coast argument, Reed said he believes a good horse is a good horse no matter where he comes from. Reed reminded of the home court advantage though, as New York horses have upset Triple Crown threats at the Belmont. He said an east coast fellow who has that chance this time around is Wicked Strong.