Super Saver comes up empty

BALTIMORE -- The drought continues. For the 32nd straight year -- tacking on yet one more year in the ongoing record of Triple Crown futility -- there will be no sweep of racing's most coveted prize.

The only horse who could have headed to the June 5 Belmont Stakes with a chance at the Triple Crown was Super Saver, the Kentucky Derby winner who was a 19-10 favorite when a field of 12 3-year-olds went postward Saturday in the 135th Preakness at Pimlico. But it became painfully apparent as the field neared the quarter pole that this was not to be his day.

Super Saver broke alertly and appeared comfortable when giving closest chase to front-running First Dude down the stretch the first time and into the far turn of the 1 3/16-mile race. But unlike in the May 1 Derby, when Super Saver used a steady closing kick on his way to victory under Calvin Borel, he was flat, and a swarm of rivals engulfed him once the real running began. He wound up eighth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths by the victorious Lookin At Lucky, allowing Affirmed in 1978 to remain the most recent Triple Crown winner.

"I had a perfect trip," Borel told NBC Sports afterward. "He just came up a little empty. He ran so big in the Derby. ... I'm not disgusted with the horse, believe me. It happens. It's horse racing."

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who ended his own Derby drought when Super Saver triumphed two weeks ago, said the relatively short two-week span between races likely was a factor.

"Coming off a huge effort in the Derby, the two weeks was just too short," he said.

Pletcher, who also sent out Aikenite to a 10th-place finish Saturday, said he knew midway through the far turn that Super Saver was in trouble.

"When they went to the far turn, you could see Calvin kind of squeezed him and was asking him to go get that horse [First Dude]," he said. "He just couldn't do it. He hung in there, he kept fighting. Just back a little quick for him. Now we've got time to regroup and come back for a big summer."

The defeat for Super Saver clearly leaves the Belmont without the drama it holds when a Triple Crown is on the line. Since Affirmed, 11 horses have won the Derby and Preakness before being denied in the Belmont, the latest being Big Brown in 2008.

The 32-year drought is the longest since the Triple Crown became recognized as a series in the 1930s, with the previous longest being the 25-year gap between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973). There have been 11 Triple Crown winners since Sir Barton in 1919.

- additional reporting by David Grening