2021 Triple Crown Awards

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Sunday, June 6, 2021

These things feel like they take forever but they go so fast. Yesterday's running of the Belmont Stakes wraps up the 2021 version of the Triple Crown. We'll reminisce and then give out some high school yearbook awards.

This year was different, still feeling the aftereffects of COVID-19. The road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby started before AUTHENTIC impressed us all with his 2020 Derby Crown. SITTING ON GO started it off by winning the IROQUOIS stakes, topping a horse we'd see a lot of MIDNIGHT BOURBON.

A few weeks later, eventual Preakness winner ROMBAUER was the runner up in the American Pharoah stakes at Santa Anita. It wasn't a memorable race. Then we were introduced to ESSENTIAL QUALITY in his BREEDER'S FUTURITY win, but it was JACKIE'S WARRIOR's win in the Champagne stakes that had horseplayers oohing.

Of course, the California horses and all the talk about how stuffed trainer Bob Baffert's barn was with talent. LIFE IS GOOD looked the part and was making easy work of the competition. Unfortunately, he got injured and was off the Derby trail. One by one would be Baffert champions dropped off until MEDINA SPIRIT was at that was left.

Boy, o boy, o betamethasone, how that one turned out for Bob Baffert. King of the horse racing universe after his record setting Kentucky Deby win, only to crash out of orbit like Chinese rocket booster. His reputation disintegrating entering Otomax's atmosphere.

First it was JACKIE'S WARRIOR, then BROOKLYN STRONG, then SPIELBERG, GREATEST HONOUR, MANDALOUN, CONCERT TOUR, KNOWN AGENDA and ROCK YOUR WORLD. All of them, and probably more, were the "it" horse. Through it all, ESSENTIAL QUALITY emerged as the best horse, but it's never sexy to back the favorite.

And then came the Kentucky Derby. It was refreshing, almost rebellious to return to tradition, running on the first Saturday of May in front of some fans. It really brings to light the lesson of you don't know what you've got until it's gone, to quote the 80's hairband Cinderella.

Three of the Derby Favorites saw their chances at the Triple Crown essentially end before and right after the gates opened. KNOWN AGENDA drew the rail, which hasn't won since Cinderella. Meanwhile, ESSENTIAL QUALITY and ROCK YOUR WORLD were part of a demolition derby after the gates opened, smashing into other horses with full force.

After disappointing Derby finishes, a lot of the big names skipped the Preakness and opened to the door for the likes of MEDINA SPIRIT, CONCERT TOUR and MIDNIGHT BOURBON to rehabilitate their racing credentials. MIDNIGHT BOURBON did OK, but CONCERT TOUR might still be looking for Pimlico's finish line and a second, positive spit-test all but sealed MEDINA SPIRIT and Baffert's fate. ROMBAUER won impressively and nearly became an afterthought instantly when jockey Flavien Prat jumped off him to ride HOT ROD CHARLIE in the Belmont Stakes.

The 2021 Triple Crown Tour put on its final act in what's been at times a tragedy with MEDINA SPIRIT, a comedy with the Otomax's explanation and a comeback story with ESSENTIAL QUALITY's Belmont Stakes triumph.

Now that the show is over, it's time to hand out the awards:

Most Outstanding Horse: ESSENTIAL QUALITY

Most Impressive win on the Derby Trail: ROCK YOUR WORLD – Santa Anita Derby

Hardest Worker: HOT ROD CHARLIE

Most likely never to get married: ROMBAUER – will he ever have "his" rider?

Class Clowned Us: CONCERT TOUR – The next AUTHENTIC sucked us all in with his Rebel Stakes win.

Comeback Kid: MEDINA SPIRIT – it's not the horse's fault and he is a good horse.


Advice to live by: LIFE IS GOOD

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