Optimism for the second half

So another Triple Crown, or rather the lack of one, is in the books. Given the results of this year's series, racing fans can go one of two ways: either the glass is half full or it is half empty.

For the optimists of the world, the summer or fall will hopefully provide a stage for Derby winner Super Saver, Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, and Belmont winner Drosselmeyer to meet.

The glass half-full types will be able to debate about who is the best 3-year-old as time goes on. Races like the Haskell, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, and the Breeders' Cup Classic will help clear up the somewhat muddied picture.

The fact that three different horses each took a leg of the Triple Crown could be a positive thing. We will all be able to watch the competitors grow and develop as hopefully one of them steps forth as the best of the class.

Or perhaps another star is on the horizon. The last time an Eclipse Award for 3-year-old male was given to a horse that did not win a Triple Crown race was in 2000. That year also featured three different winners for each leg: Fusaichi Pegasus, Red Bullet, and Commendable.

That year's champion, however, did not even compete in the series. Instead, Tiznow made his mark by defeating European champion Giant's Causeway in a thrilling edition of the Breeders' Cup Classic and was also named Horse of the Year. Tiznow, of course, is best known for being the only horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic twice, as he also won the race in 2001.

For the pessimists of the world, this year's Triple Crown series will go down as proof that this particular generation of runners just isn't that good. It isn't a case of the horses being equally talented, but rather a case of them being equally mediocre. Plus since Super Saver and Drosselmeyer are both owned by WinStar, it seems likely they will be kept apart until the end of the year.

The Triple Crown is designed to showcase the dominant 3-year-old, and this year no one dominated. This might lead some to believe that the upcoming races against older horses will prove that point, as they will likely inhale their younger competitors.

And while it is unlikely anyone questions Tiznow's talent, it is also unlikely that people readily remember him as a 3-year-old champion simply because the vast majority of them won a Triple Crown race.

Personally, I am an eternal optimist, so I am hoping for an amazing summer and fall. There is a chance Super Saver simply bounced in the Preakness and will be back better than ever. Lookin At Lucky has been the most consistent of his generation, and hopefully his troubled trips are all behind him. And maybe Drosselmeyer's Belmont was a one-off, or maybe it just took that long for the light bulb to go on.

I, for one, can't wait to find out. June is simply too early to give up on this group of horses. Recent champions like Summer Bird and Bernardini help prove that point.
In addition to the 3-year-olds, the older horses are a vastly interesting group. Will Zenyatta join Tiznow in the record books with a repeat in the Classic? Can Quality Road dominate at longer distances? Will Rachel Alexandra and Gio Ponti find the winner's circle this year? No matter who you prefer, everyone should be grateful they were all left in training this year. Even if the 3-year-olds turn out to be less than memorable in the long run, they will be saved by their elders.

Although Tiznow's 2000 Classic was amazing, that racing season as a whole was a bit of a letdown after the excitement of horses like Cigar, Skip Away, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and Charismatic in the five previous years. Luckily for Super Saver, Lookin At Lucky, and Drosselmeyer -- and the racing world as a whole -- even if they don't end up dominating this fall, it is likely someone else will.

Amanda Duckworth is a freelance journalist who lives in Lexington, Ky. Write to her at amanda.duckworth@ymail.com.