BALTIMORE — This turned out to be a rather uninspiring Triple Crown series.
Not so much from a people standpoint, mind you. No complaints there.
On May 1 at a wet Churchill Downs, we got the amazing Calvin Borel's third Kentucky Derby winning ride in four years. We got Todd Pletcher's first Derby training triumph, and the crowning moment in WinStar's wondrous rise.
On May 15, as the airplane banners advertising strip clubs circled Pimlico, we got Bob Baffert's fifth Preakness victory and ninth Triple Crown win, and a budding 25-year-old rising jockey star in Martin Garcia.
But when it came to horseflesh, seems we got little to throw a star-studded saddle on.
I know, there is still the Belmont to run in three weeks, but make no mistake, in the view of the general public the Triple Crown slipped from the radar screen the moment Derby winner Super Saver gave way in the stretch Saturday, leaving Lookin At Lucky to run down First Dude for the win.
Super Saver isn't Big Apple-bound. As is his way, Pletcher craves some down time to freshen up his Derby winner. Neither is Lookin At Lucky headed for New York. Baffert is sticking with his pre-Preakness declaration that win-or-lose, the Belmont wasn't in Lucky's future.
If so, that means this will be the second consecutive year in which all three legs of the Triple Crown are won by a different horse, and there's not a Rachel Alexandra to push a summer storyline.
It's also the 32nd straight year we've gone without a Triple Crown winner. Any remaining Affirmed connections can make like the 1972 Miami Dolphins and pop the champagne.
Seriously, the lone shot at quenching the drought flew out the window on April 25, the sad Sunday morning Pletcher confirmed that Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya would miss the Derby thanks to a leg injury.
"It's arguably the most difficult thing in sports," said Pletcher on Saturday of the Triple Crown after Super Saver's loss. "We'll see one. Everything's just got to be right."
This isn't to disparage this year's remaining 3-year-olds. The crop's true worth won't be known until late summer, when the next wave of big-money races comes around. And this has been a competitive group, just not a particularly compelling one.
Saturday proved that Lookin At Lucky is probably the best of the bunch, the son of Smart Strike finally enjoying a clear path to strut his stuff. It was his seventh win in 10 races. Yet in his three losses, Lucky found his skills don't include overcoming trouble. Truly great horses, legendary horses, beat bad luck.
Super Saver couldn't overcome the brief two-week break between the first and second jewels. He may have been a horse for the course at Churchill, benefiting from the sloppy track and Borel's sterling ride. Super Saver has three wins in eight lifetime starts, hardly the stuff of legends, but that one win means immortality.
Ice Box is the one to watch now. The Florida Derby winner found his route to the Derby winner's circle blocked at least a couple of times in the final quarter-mile at Churchill, yet still wound up a hard-charging second.
With trainer Nick Zito opting to skip the Preakness, Ice Box will be operating off a five-week break when the horses are loaded into the gate at Belmont on June 5. And Zito knows a thing or two about that particular race.
Unfortunately, the masses won't much care. To them, the Triple Crown is done for another year, and so too a reason to be interested in the sport. There's not much inspiration to keep its attention. Not this year.