Belmont Stakes: It's all about 'O's

6/3/2013 5:00 AM
By By Richard Rosenblatt AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - No doubt, Triple Crowns are cool. In any sport.

Even before slugger Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years in 2012 - he led the American League in batting average, home runs and RBIs - Thoroughbred racing had a chance to end a then-34-year drought of its own last June.

As it turned out, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another never got a chance for glory when he was scratched from the Belmont with a tendon injury the day before the race.

And two weeks ago, Derby winner Orb went into the Preakness as the solid favorite, but never challenged and finished fourth behind Oxbow, ending yet another chance at a Triple try.

Eleven horses have swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, none since Affirmed in 1978, although 12 won the first two races.

Even without a Triple on the line next Saturday, there's still plenty of reasons to pay attention to the Belmont Stakes. We'll go with a Pick 6 of them featuring the letter O, in honor of the Derby and Preakness champions:

* ORB: The Derby winner, if he runs, will try to become the first to complete a Derby-Belmont double since Thunder Gulch in 1995. Eleven horses have completed the double, including the only other Derby winner with a three-letter name - Zev.

* OXBOW: The Preakness winner, already declared a definite starter, will try to become the first to complete a Preakness-Belmont double since Afleet Alex in 2005. Eighteen horses have completed this double.

* ORB-OXBOW REMATCH: This Belmont will be the 21st rematch between the Derby winner and Preakness winner. The Derby winner has come out on top five times, the Preakness champ nine times. The last Derby winner to beat the Preakness winner in the Belmont was Swale in 1985, with Gate Dancer sixth. The last Preakness winner to beat the Derby winner was Afleet Alex in 2005, with Giacomo third.

* O TRIPLE CROWN: Orb won the Kentucky Derby; Oxbow won the Preakness; and both, along with Overanalyze, are set for the Belmont. What does it all mean? If an O horse wins, it will be the first O-horse sweep of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Omaha did it all by himself in 1935 and became racing's third Triple Crown winner. O horses have rarely won classics until this year. The rundown: Derby (Orb, Omaha, Omar Khayyam, Old Rosebud); Preakness (Oxbow, Omaha, Old England); Belmont (One Count, Omaha).

* O NEEDED TO SPELL TODD & ROSIE: This may be a reach, but history could be in the making with trainer Todd Pletcher set to name Rosie Napravnik as the jockey for Unlimited Budget. What that sets up: Napravnik would be the first female to ride in all three Triple Crown races in the same year; and the 25-year-old would be the first female to try and win one of the classics aboard a filly. Julie Krone won the 1993 Belmont on Colonial Affair.

* O'S WE'D LIKE TO SEE AT THE BELMONT: On the track, Orb, Oxbow and Overanalyze are just about set to go, but what about human O's heading to the track? One we know is Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, breeder and co-owner of Orb. After that, it's anyone's guess, so here's a few suggestions: President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Yoko Ono, Ozzy Osbourne, the Olsen twins, Conan O'Brien, Olivia Newton-John, Shaquille O'Neal, Sadaharu Oh and, of course, The Big O (Oscar Robertson). No Baltimore Orioles will be at the track - they have a game in Tampa, Fla.

Richard Rosenblatt at twitter.com/rosenblattap


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