Since Affirmed last achieved a Triple Crown sweep in 1978, 11 horses have tried and failed to replicate the feat. Here's a closer look at the Kentucky Derby/Preakness winners who fell short in the Belmont Stakes.
Spectacular Bid (1979): Among the most celebrated Thoroughbreds of modern times, Spectacular Bid lost only four times in a 30-race career. One of those rare defeats occurred in the 1979 Belmont, where he sought to become the third consecutive Triple Crown winner. Unbeknownst to the general public, Spectacular Bid was lame the morning of the race after stepping on a safety pin from his protective bandages. After walking off the injury to the satisfaction of trainer Buddy Delp, Spectacular Bid proceeded to race headstrong throughout, seized control with nearly seven furlongs remaining, but ran out of gas at the eighth pole and finished third to Coastal.
Pleasant Colony (1981): A one-run closer who had benefited from fast paces in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Pleasant Colony still trailed the Belmont field of 11 after a dawdling three-quarters of a mile in 1:14 1/5. After making a five-wide move into contention around the far turn, the colt came under a drive from jockey Jorge Velasquez but had little to offer in the final quarter-mile as the rail-skimming Summing went on to post a 7-1 upset. Pleasant Colony wound up third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.
Alysheba (1987): After beating Bet Twice, whom he would ultimately face 10 times, in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Alysheba would prove no match against his arch-rival in the Belmont. While some have attributed Alysheba's fourth-place in part to the absence of Lasix, a medication then banned in New York, trainer Jack Van Berg placed more blame on the ride given the colt by jockey Chris McCarron. Preventing his mount from racing as close to the leaders as he wanted around the first turn, Alysheba eventually lost interest and had no weapon in his arsenal to catch Bet Twice, who made an explosive move to the lead around the far turn and drew off to win by 14 lengths.
Silver Charm (1997): The gray Hall of Fame bulldog Silver Charm made a career out of winning tight finishes, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but had no real excuses when falling short by three-quarters of a length in the Belmont. Jockey Chris McCarron enjoyed some redemption from his ride on Alysheba 10 years earlier with his well-crafted handling of Touch Gold, the eventual winner whom he gave a breather to midway down the backstretch and kept wide and out of Silver Charm's line of sight in the crucial final furlongs.
Real Quiet (1998): Arguably the most agonizing loss in Triple Crown history belonged to Real Quiet, whose chance at destiny was literally denied in the final jump when Victory Gallop, who had finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, got in front at the last possible moment. Second guessed for moving the colt too soon and opening up a four-length lead in the stretch, jockey Kent Desormeaux could not keep a staggering Real Quiet from bearing out into Victory Gallop in the final yards. In what would have been a hugely unpopular decision, a potential disqualification of a Triple Crown winner was averted when the photo finish revealed Real Quiet's loss by a nose.
Charismatic (1999): The colt who had twice competed in claiming company had rallied from off the pace to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but found himself dueling for the lead with the filly Silverbulletday around the first turn in the Belmont. Racing on or near a solid pace to the quarter pole, Charismatic had nothing left for the final two furlongs. Moments after crossing the wire in third behind Lemon Drop Kid, Charismatic broke down, but was ultimately saved for stud duty due to the heady handling of his jockey, the late Chris Antley.
War Emblem (2002): A relatively lukewarm 6-5 to complete the Triple Crown sweep, War Emblem saw his chances effectively end at the start when he stumbled leaving the gate. Bottled up behind rivals until the backstretch, the front-running colt made an early bid for the lead along the rail five furlongs out but soon began to toil around the far turn. His eighth-place finish, 18 1/4 lengths behind the 70-1 longshot Sarava, at the time was the worst performance by a horse seeking the Triple Crown since Carry Back lost the 1961 Belmont by 15 lengths.
Funny Cide (2003): A New York-bred gelding with a significant blue collar following, Funny Cide had rallied from slightly off the pace to claim the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but found himself on the lead over a sloppy Belmont Park strip. Overtaken by the regally-bred and long-winded Empire Maker three furlongs from home, Funny Cide struggled home third, beaten five lengths, to a rival whom he had bested by 1 3/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby.
Big Brown (2008): Appearing head-and-shoulders above the rest of his age group after resounding victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the undefeated Big Brown turned the Belmont into a virtual farce as he failed to respond to the urgings of Kent Desormeaux around the far turn and was eased a quarter-mile from home. After Nick Zito's unheralded longshot Da' Tara cantered home by 5 1/4 lengths, attention turned to Big Brown's lingering quarter crack issues as a possible reason for his unforeseeable crash to earth.