So now it's Big Brown's turn.

Six times in the last 11 years a horse has come into the Belmont with a chance at winning the Triple Crown.

None have made it, and now 30 years have passed since Affirmed became a legend in 1978. That's the longest gap ever between Triple Crown winners, the longest previously being 25 years from Citation in 1948 to Secretariat in 1973.

Three of the near-misses were trained by Bob Baffert, the only trainer to lose the Belmont three times with horses that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Baffert told the Associated Press he thinks Big Brown can succeed where so many others have failed.

"He's a superior race horse," Baffert said. "He's handy, he has speed, he's tactical, he can stay out of trouble, he breaks well. I think the horse is the real deal."

Baffert brought Silver Charm to Belmont in 1997 with a chance to win the Triple Crown and came back with Real Quiet the following spring. Neither won, although Real Quiet missed by a nose to Victory Gallop. War Emblem, Baffert's Triple Crown candidate in 2002, got left at the gate and never was a factor in the race.

Philadelphia favorite Smarty Jones was the last colt to make a Triple Crown try in 2004, but a controversial ride by jockey Stewart Elliot doomed the immensely popular little colt to a 11/2-length defeat.

The obstacle, obviously, is the unusual mile-and-a-half length of the Belmont Stakes.

Three-year-old colts never run even a mile and a quarter until the Kentucky Derby in May.

Then just five weeks later they have to go a distance they've never before attempted and will never run again.

"They don't have any way to prep for it and they don't have any use for it afterward," said John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones. "It's an odd race in this time of their careers."

Barclay Tagg, the Abington native and Penn State grad who trained Funny Cide for his run at the Triple Crown in 2003, thinks differently.

Tagg doesn't believe there's anything peculiar about the Belmont, saying it's the tight schedule of winter prep races followed by the Triple Crown series that does in potential Triple Crown winners.

"The horses are either overstressed or overworked by then," Tagg told the AP. "I'm not saying they should change it. If they change it, it'll be a blemish for all the other horses that went through it and did win it.

"It's not put up there so people can win it, it's put there because it's tough."

The final out. A lot of baseball fans don't know that Babe Ruth played his final major-league game in Philadelphia.

On May 31 1935, the Babe played one inning for the Boston Braves against the Phillies in Baker Bowl.

Jim Bivin retired the "Sultan of Swat" on a grounder in the Babe's final major-league at-bat.

History lesson. The first Indianapolis 500 was held on May 31, 1911. Ray Harroun won the "race" in a 6 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds in an event in which the main object was to keep a car running for 500 miles.

Joe Dawson won the 500 the next year, also on May 31, but the main entertainment was a driver named Ralph Mulford. Dawson won in 6:21 and Mulford, running 10th, was far from finishing the race.

Told he had to complete the distance to get the 10th-place money, Mulford kept driving.

It took him 8 hours and 53 minutes to complete the race, because he made several stops for fried chicken. The finishing rule was changed the next year.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.
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