Smarty Jones, Big Brown Among Closest Triple Crown Threats Since Affirmed Won in 1978 (Video)

Smarty Jones, Big Brown Among Closest Triple Crown Threats Since Affirmed Won in 1978 (Video)With the stunning announcement that I'll Have Another will be held out of the Belmont Stakes because of an issue with his left front leg and some tendinitis, horse racing fans will have to wait another year to witness the ultimate achievement in the Sport of Kings — the Triple Crown.

It will now be 34 years since Affirmed last took the three crown jewels of U.S. thoroughbred racing — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes — in 1978. That capped a six-year span where the feat was accomplished three times, most notably by the record-breaking Secretariat in 1973. Fans are unsurprisingly starved to see it again.

It's almost happened several times since then.

From the, well, spectacular bid of Spectacular Bid in 1979 to the more recent heartbreak of Big Brown being eased up around the far turn in 2008, there have been 18 horses who have won two out of the three Triple Crown races only to come up short.

Who can forget Smarty Jones, who became a superstar and looked poised to finally end the drought — only to be run down within sight of the finish line in 2004?

And then there was Real Quiet in 1998, who came even closer than Smarty Jones. It took a photo finish to deny him his shot at racing immortality.

Click here to see the Top 10 Triple Crown near-misses of the last 35 years>>

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