KINGSTON, Jamaica - Three-year-olds have one chance only to win the Triple Crown series of races and when that feat is achieved it is written in the history books forever, even if these horses fail to go further in their careers.
With Supreme Soul standing on the cusp of joining that select list 11 who have won the Triple Crown on Saturday next (July 27), it is timely to push the rewind button and remember those horses and their connections, who came so close to winning the Triple Crown.
The three chosen are Distinctly Native in 1990, Awesome Power in 2001 and Distinctly Irish in 2004.
Let’s remember also that the Triple Crown races are the 1000/2000 Guineas (one mile), the Jamaica Derby (12 furlongs) and the Jamaica St Leger (now 10 furlongs was 14 furlongs).
On May 26, 1990, Distinctly Native by (The Peacemaker – Forceful Native) owned by Kenneth Godden, trained by Allan “Billy” Williams and ridden by Alvin Bissasor won the 1000 Guineas which is a race confined to fillies only.
The Derby was next for Distinctly Native and the filly duly obliged with a change of riders as Winston “Fanna” Griffiths replaced Bissasor. Interestingly, Distinctly Native won the Derby on a Wednesday and not a Saturday, which is a tradition in local racing. This change resulted from the postponement of the last eight races, including the Derby, on Saturday, July 28 due to torrential rain.
Finishing second behind Distinctly Native was the grey Khadullah who was then able to gain revenge by beating Distinctly Native in the then 14-furlong St Leger on August 25.
In 2001, bay filly Awesome Power (The Medic – Angel of Love), trained by Patrick Chang, owned by Mercedes Gold and ridden by Ramon Parish won the 1000 Guineas on April 7.
Awesome Power had the distinction of winning the 10-furlong Jamaica Oaks (fillies only) on April 28, 2001, this time with Charles “Bogle Man” Hussey in the saddle.
In the Derby (June 16, 2001), Hussey chose to ride Millimetre instead while Shane Ellis took over on Awesome Power. The two (Millimetre and Awesome Power) raced heads apart for almost the last two furlongs in a pulsating duel that shook the rafters at Caymanas Park. In the end, the gritty filly Awesome Power gained a narrow ascendency to win by a nose.
Awesome Power had now won the 1000 Guineas and the Derby and all that was left was the Jamaica St Leger on July 7, 2001. That was when Millimetre and Hussey turned the tables and denied Awesome Power, the glory of winning the Triple Crown. Millimetre won the St Leger by a neck over Awesome Power.
While Millimetre’s victory in the St Leger denied Awesome Power, unprecedented Triple Crown glory by a filly, the flip side of the coin showed that Millimetre was himself denied the Triple Crown by a nose, the margin of defeat in the Derby. Millimetre had earlier in 2001, won the 2000 Guineas.
In 2004, Distinctly Irish (Irish Quest – Distinctly Native), ridden by Winston Griffiths, trained by Philip Feanny, owned by Hamark Farms and bred like Distinctly Native by Kenneth Gooden, was far superior to his rival peers and duly obliged with aplomb by winning the 2000 Guineas on Saturday, April 2 by the wide margin of 9 ½ lengths.
Entering the Derby on Saturday, June 12 ,2004, Distinctly Irish was expected to win easily again and that he did getting home by a massive 14 ½ lengths.
The Derby victory by Distinctly Irish was the 1,500th win for Griffiths, who became the first jockey in the English-speaking Caribbean to achieve this historic feat. It was also the second Derby win in succession for owners, Hamark Farms after A King Is Born took the Blue Riband event in 2003.
Then it was time for Distinctly Irish to seal his career by earning the Triple Crown in the St Leger on July 3, 2004, but the racing Gods chose differently.
Going off at odds of 8-1, the Dennis Lee trained and owned, Trevor “Slicer” Simpson ridden Run Papa Run (Footloose – Run Marisa Run) upset the proverbial apple cart.
Run Papa Run set off in front from the starter opened the gates and despite being pressured and pressured by Distinctly Irish repelled all challenges aimed at him to prevail by a neck.
Distinctly Native (as a runner in 1990 and a broodmare in 2004) and Gooden as a breeder had therefore missed out twice on winning the much-vaunted Triple Crown.
Let’s see how things unfold on Saturday.