Triple Crown Near Misses: Great Horses That Have Come So Close

PHOTO: Jockey Ronnie Franklin sits atop of Spectacular Bid during the Preakness Stakes, May 18, 1979, at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.
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On Saturday, California Chrome will run the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown of American Thoroughbred racing. His fans are hoping to see him become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Followers of the racing world have had plenty of reasons to hope for an end to the Triple Crown drought over the past 36 years. Here are a few of the horses that ran to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but couldn't quite seal the deal at the Belmont.

I'll Have Another - 2012

PHOTO: Ill Have Another crosses the finish line in the running of 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, May 19, 2012.
John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images
PHOTO: "I'll Have Another" crosses the finish line in the running of 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, May 19, 2012.

The most recent horse to make it to the third round of the Triple Crown was I'll Have Another, who won the Derby and the Preakness in 2012. Bettors were already picking the horse to win the Belmont when Another's owners and trainer decided to scratch him due to a tendon injury and he lost his shot at running the race.

Big Brown - 2008

PHOTO: Big Brown, with jockey Kent Desormeaux, pulls up as he finishes last in the 2008 Belmont Stakes, June 7, 2008, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Big Brown, with jockey Kent Desormeaux, pulls up as he finishes last in the 2008 Belmont Stakes, June 7, 2008, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

Big Brown was a big hopeful for the Triple Crown in 2008 but spectators knew almost immediately that he was not a contender when the Belmont began that year. Brown's jockey pulled back on the horse after realizing he was injured; the horse had a quarter crack in his hoof.

Smarty Jones - 2004

PHOTO: Smarty Jones, with jockey Stewart Elliott, crosses the finish line, May 15, 2004, at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
PHOTO: Smarty Jones, with jockey Stewart Elliott, crosses the finish line, May 15, 2004, at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.

Smarty Jones was the crowd favorite at the 2004 Belmont Stakes after winning the Derby and Preakness. He was a fast horse but lost in the end to the longshot Birdstone in a wild upset. A superfecta bet with Birdstone in first payed out over $11,000.

Funny Cide - 2003

PHOTO: Funny Cide runs down the front stretch on his way toward finishing third during the 135th Belmont Stakes, June 7, 2003, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
PHOTO: Funny Cide runs down the front stretch on his way toward finishing third during the 135th Belmont Stakes, June 7, 2003, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

Funny Cide was sidelined by a rainy, sloppy track at the 2003 Belmont Stakes, leaving fans to wonder whether the horse would've been able to win the Triple Crown in sunnier conditions.

War Emblem - 2002

PHOTO: Jockey Victor Espinoza rides War Emblem to the finish line, winning the 128th Kentucky Derby, May 4, 2002, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Jockey Victor Espinoza rides War Emblem to the finish line, winning the 128th Kentucky Derby, May 4, 2002, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.

It was a heartbreaker for War Emblem fans watching in 2002 as the Triple Crown hopeful tripped at the starting gate, leading to a long stretch that War Emblem could not overcome.

Charismatic - 1999

PHOTO: Jockey Chris Antley checks the leg of Charismatic after falling off the horse just past the finish line during the 131st running of the Belmont Stakes, June 5, 1999, Elmont, New York.
Tom Mihalek/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Jockey Chris Antley checks the leg of Charismatic after falling off the horse just past the finish line during the 131st running of the Belmont Stakes, June 5, 1999, Elmont, New York.

Charismatic was the Triple Crown hopeful in 1999, but a slow run revealed that the horse was actually injured. He had a broken leg and was not a contender in the race.

Spectacular Bid - 1979

PHOTO: Jockey Ronnie Franklin sits atop of Spectacular Bid during the Preakness Stakes, May 18, 1979, at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images
PHOTO: Jockey Ronnie Franklin sits atop of Spectacular Bid during the Preakness Stakes, May 18, 1979, at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.

After back-to-back years of Triple Crown winners in the 1970s, Spectacular Bid fell short in 1979. The horse ran out of steam toward the end of the Belmont Stakes, beginning a drought in Triple Crown winners that has lasted until today. Perhaps California Chrome will be the horse to break that streak.

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