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Smarty's swing for the fences goes afoul

June 06, 2004|By MARK KELLER

You've heard of the so-called baseball gods, right? It stands to reason, then, that there are horse racing gods also.I grew up on baseball, so I use that sport as a point of reference when I think about milestones.

Many people know the magic numbers in baseball. The 56-game hitting streak. The .400 batting average. Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played. Hank Aaron's 755 home runs.

At times, it's looked like each one of those milestones would be broken. At others, each has looked downright impossible to approach.

Horse racing's Triple Crown is quickly becoming like one of those magic numbers. You have to wonder if any horse is going to complete the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont trifecta ever again.

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Smarty Jones, the horse that catapulted Charles Town, W.Va., native John Servis into national consciousness, was thought by many to be the one who would end a 26-year Triple Crown drought.

Smarty was about as close to a lock - a 3-10 favorite - as a horse could be. Then something happened.

They ran the race. And Smarty finished second.

Another thoroughbred gets thrown out trying to stretch a double into a Triple.

And just as quickly as the Triple Crown became a possibility, it became unreachable again.

It was an 0-for-4 to end a 55-game hitting streak.

It was a 1-for-5 on the final day of the season to dip the batting average to .398.

Still, it's the other two baseball numbers mentioned above that should give hope that there will someday be another Triple Crown winner.

Before Ripken, who would have thought that Lou Gehrig's string of 2,130 consecutive games played would ever be broken?

Once upon a time, Babe Ruth's mark of 714 homers seemed untouchable. Now, Barry Bonds is stalking that plateau on his way to Aaron's record.

One day a baseball player will hit .400 again, just as another horse will win the Triple Crown.

Until then, we - and the Smarty Jones team - will have to settle for a double off the wall instead of a Triple.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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