Triple Crown Near-Misses: Belmont Breaks Tim Tam
In 1958, the horse racing world was all talking about Silky Sullivan, the horse who came back from 28 lengths behind to win the Santa Anita Derby.
Sullivan was so revered by the public that they installed him as the second favorite at 2-1, tied with Calumet Farm’s Tim Tam. The favorites were the dual entry of Jewel’s Reward and Ebony Pearl.
None of the favorites, especially Silky Sullivan, were at the front early in the Derby. That distinction belonged to 46-1 shot Lincoln Road, who led the field through fast fractions and surprisingly held on until the last furlong, when Tim Tam, who had finally started making his move from 10 1/2 lengths back, inched up and battled the long shot for the lead. Silky Sullivan, Jewel’s Reward and Ebony Pearl were nowhere to be found.
When the horses crossed the line, Tim Tam was a half-length in front of Lincoln Road, who fought off a hard-charging Noureddin for second. Silky Sullivan never fired, finishing 12th.
The Preakness was like the Derby: Lincoln Road again shot out to an early two-length lead in fast fractions again, with Tim Tam still lingering back 10 lengths behind. Lincoln Road stretched his lead to three, but Tim Tam started making his trademark move along the last part of the backstretch, moving to within 5 lengths.
Tim Tam caught Lincoln Road in the homestretch and eased his way to a 1 1/2 length victory over his rival. Silky Sullivan finished eighth.
Enter a newcomer to the Belmont: Cavan, who had won the Peter Pan Stakes, was the second choice in the race at 5-1, with Tim Tam at 3-20. This time it was long shots Page Seven and Chance It Tony taking the lead, with Tim Tam still off the pace, just behind Cavan. The two made their move together, and entering the homestretch, they dueled it out.
Jockey Milo Valenzuela hit Tim Tam, who swerved to the rail. Another tap by Valenzuela sent the colt careening toward the outside; Cavan cruised home by six lengths over a laboring Tim Tam. An analysis of his right foreleg revealed a fractured sesamoid bone. It would not be the last time a horse went into the Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line, only to get injured in the Test of Champions.
Doctors managed to save Tim Tam’s life with surgery, but he never raced again, amassing 10 wins, 1 second and 2 thirds in 14 starts. He was named 1958’s 3-Year-Old Colt of the Year and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1985.