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Can American racing Justify another media frenzy over Triple Crown?

J A McGrath

The answer to the headline is ‘Yes,’ and I would go further in saying that American racing needs a positive story of this nature to underline the best features of a traditional sport many young people find difficult to recognise.

Justify (Scat Daddy) showed another dimension to his already impressive profile in Saturday’s G1 Preakness at Pimlico when he dug deep to fight off Good Magic, a persistent opponent, who went head-to-head with the Kentucky Derby hero for the first mile.

When Justify won at Churchill Downs, it was the wettest Derby in memory, and as if jinxed, Baltimore weather on Saturday was only marginally better than Louisville, with a shroud of fog restricting visibility.

In the last 50 years, there have been four Triple Crown winners — the races are the G1 Kentucky Derby, the G1 Preakness and G1 Belmont — and 16, who landed the first two legs then failed to complete the iconic treble.

Some big names appear on the list of failures, if that is not too harsh a description for dual-Classic winners.

What a collection they are: Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Smarty Jones and California Chrome, to name just four, but perhaps the most famous to go down in the final leg of the Triple Crown was seen way back in 1984, Northern Dancer, who went on to become one of the greatest influences on the modern thoroughbred.

In 2015, the media frenzy that accompanied American Pharoah’s attempt at the Triple Crown was memorable, and completely justified when you take into account the colt’s career achievements.

In racing, the sighs of relief were for the end to a 37-year wait to find a Triple Crown successor to Affirmed. Too much disappointment can sour the sporting public. Now racing needs a follow-up.

Unfortunately, the modern-day perception of horse racing and its relevance in society is very different to the 1970s when Secretariat was a sporting star who drew the adulation of a nation of sports fans.

If Justify can engineer the American Pharoah effect on the world of sport in coming weeks, it will be a major triumph for racing worldwide....and applauded as such.