Mike Hartnett picks the virtual Triple Crown Showdown

Mike Hartnett picks the virtual Triple Crown Showdown
Mike Hartnett picks the winner of Saturday's virtual Kentucky Derby, a race between the sport's 13 Triple Crown winners. (Source: John P. Wise/WAVE3.com)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On Saturday afternoon during NBC Sports’ special look back at American Pharoah’s 2015 Kentucky Derby victory, the network will present a virtual, computer-generated race featuring the sport’s 13 Triple Crown winners.

Secretariat has been established as the early 7-2 favorite on the morning line created by longtime odds maker Mike Battaglia.

Before I offer a bold prediction on the race, let’s check some tidbits on the competitors for this glorious matchup, starting with post position one:

  1. Affirmed - Was voted Horse of the Year for both 1978 and 1979.
  2. Assault - After his Triple Crown run, he would lose six straight races.
  3. Secretariat - Made the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated during his magical 1973.
  4. Sir Barton - His Derby triumph marked the first win of his career.
  5. Seattle Slew - Defeated Affirmed twice.
  6. American Pharoah - Broke the 37-year Triple Crown drought.
  7. Gallant Fox - Jockey Earle Sande came out of retirement to ride him.
  8. Citation - Four days before winning the Derby, he took Churchill’s Derby Trial.
  9. War Admiral - won 21 of 26 starts but lost a match race to Seabiscuit.
  10. Whirlaway - Was one of two Triple Crowns for jockey Eddie Arcaro (Citation was his other).
  11. Count Fleet - Captured the Belmont Stakes by a whopping 25 lengths.
  12. Justify - Beat more Triple Crown challengers than any other Triple Crown winner.
  13. Omaha - Was sired by Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox.

So now, it’s post time. Let’s see how the race might unfold:

From the one post, Affirmed has got to zoom out of the gate so jockey Steve Cauthen can get him in a front-running position. There’s so much speed in this race! Nearly all the runners want to be close to or on the lead. Justify from his outside post 12 needs to fire early on. Ron Turcotte, aboard Secretariat, finds a spot alongside Affirmed and they are one-two under the wire for the first time. And the speedy Seattle Slew flanks Secretariat in third place. Victor Espinoza urges American Pharoah to keep up with the trio.

Meantime, Citation is settling in mid-pack as the field races round the clubhouse turn. Justify is wide on that first turn and Mike Smith elects to go after the leaders.

Eddie Arcaro, piloting Whirlaway, wants to drop back, and they are 10th as the field hits the backstretch.

Seattle Slew rockets to the lead, but Affirmed and Secretariat are putting on the heat. Justify is running fourth.

Flying wide down the backstretch is Count Fleet as Johnny Longden decides it’s time to join the pacesetters. They are now fifth. American Pharoah is sixth, followed by Citation, then War Admiral, Gallant Fox and Sir Barton. Whirlaway continues to bide his time in 11th place, followed by Assault and Omaha.

Seattle Slew leads the Triple Crown Showdown with 5/8ths to go. Secretariat is second, Affirmed clings to third trying to hold off Count Fleet. Eddie Arcaro and Citation kick into gear and are now fifth. Record-breaking early fractions are taking their toll on the front runners. From the back of the pack, Whirlaway is picking up momentum and making his move. Bob Baffert’s American Pharoah and Justify are still right there but struggling to keep up.

Midway on the far turn, Big Red and Turcotte explode past Slew and get to the front. Citation and Count Fleet have found their best strides and take over second and third, respectively. Meantime, the cagey Arcaro aboard Whirlaway guides his colt through the traffic and they become a huge threat.

Into the stretch, Secretariat is still in control just a half-length in front of Citation. Count Fleet is right there and War Admiral is still in contention.

American Pharoah is battling from fifth place, with Justify sixth.

Final eighth of a mile to go and Whirlaway is using his powerful late kick to close in on the leaders. He’s cobbling up ground.

A sixteenth left and the Calumet pair, Citation and Whirlaway, soar alongside Secretariat. These three will fight it out to the wire. And at the finish line, a three-horse photo!

Wow! Whirlaway wins by a nose over Secretariat with Citation a nose back into third. The time on the board 2:00 flat for the mile and a quarter.

Hey everyone have some fun on this First Saturday in May! Let’s hope for a photo-finish in this September’s Derby!

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