(WHAS11) -- I was watching the big screen at Churchill when Smarty Jones turned for home, with the Triple Crown just an eighth of a mile away. I was surrounded by people wearing "Smarty" buttons who came out to see history.
Then Birdstone broke our hearts. War Emblem lost his Triple Crown when he stumbled at the start. Real Quiet was denied when Victory Gallop pushed his nose in front at the last moment.
We've seen a lot of "what ifs" at Belmont in the last 40 years. Silver Charm was great but not great enough. He was second in the Belmont, California Chrome was a tiring fourth. Big Brown didn't even finish.
To be honest, I didn't even think American Pharoah would win. Most people want to see a Triple Crown winner, but they're prepared for the upset. And while Justify seems like a monster, he'll need a perfect race to win at a mile and a half.
Justify won the Preakness but it didn't look like he wanted to run much farther that day. Bravazo looked like a winner if the race had been at Derby distance. And Tenfold and Good Magic were only a neck behind.
But, the Belmont will be a different race with a different pace scenario. Justify has drawn the inside post position and will have to get away quickly to be on or near the pace.
With the rest of the field targeting Justify as the one to beat, it's likely that they will try to box him in on the rail if he doesn't claim an early lead or a stalking position.
Since his first race on February 18, Justify has seemed invincible. He's won on fast tracks and in the mud. But he's had five races in four months. The Preakness was a little closer than the Derby and you wonder if that was the sign of a tiring horse.
Of the nine horses that Justify will face at Belmont, only Bravazo ran in the Derby and the Preakness. More importantly, Hofburg, who may be the second betting choice, skipped Pimlico and arrives with five weeks rest.
Vino Rosso also skipped the Preakness and Todd Pletcher is dangerous in this race. And Tenfold didn't qualify for the Derby but he was very close in Baltimore.
Which brings us to another interesting entry, Blended Citizen. Doug O'Neill's horse was excluded from the Derby as an also eligible. Then he went straight to Belmont and won the Peter Pan Stakes.
There is some positive history for that approach. Tonalist won the Peter Pan and the Belmont back to back in 2014. So a horse for the course thing is very possible.
But it's the memory of just how difficult it is to win the Triple Crown that has me expecting another upset special on the big sandy racetrack on Long Island. At a mile and a half, there is no other race in America like the Belmont.
With ten races on his record but almost a month off since the Peter Pan, I think Blended Citizen has a chance to ruin everybody's day. And if you're really feeling the upset bug, then blend Bravazo, Hofburg, and Tenfold into your exotics.
Sure, I'd love to see another Triple Crown. But I just remember that day that I thought Smarty Jones had it all locked down. The Belmont is meant to break your heart. There are no sure things.