Triple Crown Near-Misses: Chateaugay vs. Candy Spots

The 1963 Triple Crown wasn’t filled with the drama of Affirmed/Alydar or Sunday Silence/Easy Goer, but Chateaugay and Candy Spots developed quite a rivalry. The two horses finished 1, 2 or 3 in each of the Triple Crown races. 

Chateaugay, the son of 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps, wasn’t expected to do much during his 3-year-old campaign; he had won only two of five races as a 2-year-old, none of them stakes. Candy Spots, on the other hand, was unbeaten in six races, including wins in the Santa Anita and Florida derbies.

Also undefeated was No Robbery, who had won all five of his starts. Never Bend was the 2-year-old champion, having won 7 of 10 races in 1962. Chateaugay had captured the Blue Grass Stakes, but it was his only stakes win so far. He was the fifth choice among bettors behind Candy Spots, No Robbery, Never Bend and Bonjour when the field of nine went to the post for the 1963 Kentucky Derby. 

Never Bend and No Robbery went to the front to set the pace, and Candy Spots stalked them in third. Chateaugay was in sixth place and was still 10 lengths off the leader when they entered the far turn. Candy Spots ran into trouble several times, as his jockey, Bill Shoemaker, had to check him after clipping heels with No Robbery. He got pinned in the rail as well, and Shoemaker had to check his mount again to avoid running into Never Bend. He fell 3 1/2 lengths behind. Finally, No Robbery, on Candy Spots’ outside, moved into Candy Spots, forcing Shoemaker to slow down a third time.

Meanwhile, Chateaugay took advantage of the scorching pace set by Never Bend but had to go to the outside around the turn to get by the other horses. He began passing horses as the field entered the homestretch, quickly making up ground,, and overtook Never Bend with about 300 yards to the finish. He went under the wire with a 1 1/4-length victory. Candy Spots, fighting valiantly despite his jockey’s mistakes, managed to grab third, one neck behind Never Bend.

Chateaugay Short in Preakness

Five days before the Preakness, trainer James P. Conway had Chateaugay run a mile. The colt got away from the exercise rider and equaled Pimlico’s track record for a mile. “A work like this could take the edge off a horse,” Conway complained.

Despite the record-tying workout, Candy Spots was still the favorite in the Preakness, and at first, it played out similarly. Never Bend took the early lead, with Candy Spots three lengths behind in third place. Chateaugay was 8 1/2 lengths back.

Entering the homestretch, Candy Spots overtook Never Bend while Chateaugay made his patented late run at the leaders. but since Candy Spots had not run into trouble during this race, he was in command. He finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Chateaugay. Never Bend finished third.

Backstretchers wondered if Chateaugay’s dazzling workout five days before the Preakness had tired the horse. He didn’t seem to have the same kick that he did at the end of a race, and the Preakness was shorter than the Derby.

Revenge in the Belmont

The Belmont was the rubber match between the two colts, and bettors still chose Candy Spots. Since Never Mind’s handlers decided to bypass the Belmont, the pacesetting was left up to Bonjour, who set slow fractions. Recognizing the slow pace, Shoemaker took the lead on the backstretch and continued to loaf.

Things were not looking good for Chateaugay, who needed a fast pace to come from behind. Luckily, jockey Braulio Baeza had the horse only five lengths off the lead and made his move around the turn. By the eighth pole, Chateaugay had taken the lead and finished with an easy 2 1/2-length win over Candy Spots.

Chateaugay never recaptured the form of the spring of 1963. He won only two of his last nine starts – both of them allowance races. He finished with an 11-4-2 record in 24 starts. Candy Spots, meanwhile, won the Jersey Derby, Arlington Classic and American Derby. He retired with a 12-5-1 record in 22 starts.

Triple Crown Near-Misses: Carry Back – Another Belmont Casualty

Carry Back
(NYRA)

Carry Back didn’t look like a Triple Crown winner when he first debuted on the track, winning only two of his first sixteen races as a 2-year-old. But his trainer, Jack Price, thought running the young colt even more would do the trick, and finally, something clicked.

Running from off the pace – a style that would become his signature move – he won the Cowdin Stakes, Garden State Futurity and Remsen Stakes later in the year, challenging Hail to Reason as Champion 2-Year-Old.

Described by reporters as “scrawny,” the colt was only 15 hands high and weighed less than 1,000 pounds. Entering his 3-year-old campaign, he was hit-and-miss early. He won the Everglades Stakes and the Florida Derby, but finished second and third in the Wood Memorial and Fountain of Youth Stakes, respectively. Despite his losses, Carry Back was the favorite going into the Kentucky Derby, partly because the crowd loved his come-from-behind style, reminiscent of Silky Sullivan a few years earlier.

The Comeback Kid

Carry Back didn’t disappoint. Trailing pacesetter Globemaster by 18 lengths along the backstretch, the colt slowly began to eat up real estate, passing horse after horse as Crozier took the lead from Globemaster. He went wide on the turn but was still 13 lengths behind. Jockey Johnny Sellers let loose his reins, applied the whip, and Carry Back reacted as if he was shot out of a cannon. He was making up ground but was still 4 1/2 lengths behind with one furlong to go. Did he have enough room to catch Crozier?

In one last desperate run, Carry Back passed Crozier in the final strides and won by 3/4 of a length, completing one of the most dramatic come-from-behind victories in Derby history.

2 for 3

The Preakness Stakes was almost a carbon copy of the Derby. Once again, Globemaster shot out to an early lead, and Carry Back languished 15 lengths behind. He began to make his move earlier this time, and he and Crozier were neck and neck as they battled for second place heading into the homestretch. At the furlong pole, Carry Back was again four lengths off the lead.

In an instant, the horse left Crozier behind and went after Globemaster, making up the largest deficit with one furlong to go in Preakness history. He won again by 3/4 of a length.

Injury in the Belmont

By now the horse racing nation was crazy about Carry Back. Bettors called him “The People’s Choice” and made him the 2-5 favorite to take the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown – the first in 13 years.

And at first, it shaped up like the other two races: Globemaster in front, Carry Back far behind – this time, only 9 lengths back – but he was pinned to the rail by two other horses. But even when given a clear ride, Carry Back didn’t fire. He was 13 lengths behind at the final furlong pole, and Sherluck, a 65-1 long shot, overtook Globemaster to win the Belmont in a shocker. Carry Back finished seventh in the nine-horse field.

Later, when Carry Back made the trip back to Monmouth Park, he was noticeably lame. Reviews of closed-circuit television replays showed the colt favoring his left foreleg. X-rays came back negative, but it was more than a month before the horse came back to win an allowance race. 

He won the Jerome and Trenton handicaps later that year en route to 3-Year-Old Male Horse of the Year honors. He continued racing at 4 and 5, eventually becoming only the fourth horse to surpass $1 million in earnings. His final record: 61: 21-11-11.

Two Very Bad Days

Coastal passes Spectacular Bid in the Belmont Stakes

Coastal, right, passes Spectacular Bid on the inside to take the lead in the 1979 Belmont Stakes. Golden Act is approaching on the outside. (AP photo)

June 9 marks two bad days in Spectacular Bid’s life.

Death of Spectacular Bid

On June 9, 2003, Spectacular Bid, one of the greatest racehorses in modern history, died of a heart attack at the age of 27. His coat, once a battleship gray, had turned snowy-white. His world-record syndication at stud for $22 million had turned into a paltry $3,500 price for stud services, now at Milfer Farm in Unadilla, NY. He was buried at Milfer Farm.

Spectacular Bid’s death came 24 years to the day after his worst racing day ever: a loss in the Belmont Stakes that cost him horse racing’s Triple Crown. And it all started that morning with a safety pin.

Spectacular Bid and the Belmont Stakes

Spectacular Bid was known as a “pin-picker,” a horse who constantly nibbled at the safety pins attaching the bandages to his legs. Usually groom Mo Hall sprinkled hot pepper on the bandages so Bid wouldn’t bother them, but the night before the Belmont, he forgot.

Bid picked at the safety pin, and one fell out, its point miraculously pointing up in the straw. Bid stepped on it, and it went about an inch into his hoof.

When trainer Bud Delp came in the next morning, Hall exclaimed, “Boss, this horse is lame.” Delp discovered the pin and pulled it out with all his might. It sealed off quickly, and for the rest of the day Delp tested the foot to see if there was any heat or lameness. There was none.

So Bid went to the post. But from the outside, jockey Ron Franklin knew there was trouble: Bid was not changing leads, preferring to stay off his left foot, the one that had the safety pin in it.

Then, inexplicably Franklin went to the front in the backstretch, chasing a long shot, Gallant Best, who was setting record fractions.

By the time the horses entered the homestretch, Bid, still on his left lead, started tiring and drifted out. Ruben Hernandez on Coastal recognized this and sneaked in along the rail, overtaking Bid in the stretch.

To add insult to injury (so to speak), Golden Act passed Bid at the wire. He finished third. A third Triple Crown in a row was not to be, and there would not be another one for 37 years.

Bid’s injury turned almost lethal; an infection developed in the hoof, and he was sidelined for several months trying to learn how to run again.