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Past Triple Crown winners ready for new champ

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FILE – In this June 12, 1978 file photo, Steve Cauthen raises his whip to speed affirmed, right, toward the finish line as Alydar is driven home by Jorge Velasquez in the final stretch of the Belmont Stakes race at Belmont Race track in Elmont, New York. California Chrome has galloped two miles at Belmont Park, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner preparing for the final leg of the Triple Crown. No horse has swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Affirmed in 1978. (AP Photo/Perez, File)

FILE – In this June 12, 1978 file photo, Steve Cauthen raises his whip to speed affirmed, right, toward the finish line as Alydar is driven home by Jorge Velasquez in the final stretch of the Belmont Stakes race at Belmont Race track in Elmont, New York. California Chrome has galloped two miles at Belmont Park, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner preparing for the final leg of the Triple Crown. No horse has swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Affirmed in 1978. (AP Photo/Perez, File)

FILE – In this June 5, 2008 file photo, Patrice Wolfson, left, and Steve Cauthen speak about the legacy of thoroughbred racehorse Affirmed at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington, Ky. California Chrome has galloped two miles at Belmont Park, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner preparing for the final leg of the Triple Crown. No horse has swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Affirmed in 1978. (AP Photo/James Crisp, File)

FILE – In this June 13, 1977 file photo, jockey Jean Cruguet, aboard Seattle Slew, wins the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in 1977. California Chrome will try to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – In this June 1, 1977 file photo, jockey Jean Cruguet sits on Seattle Slew in the winners circle after winning Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. Standing second from left is Karen Taylor, owner of Seattle Slew. Third from left is her husband, Mickey. California Chrome will try to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – In this June 9, 1973 file photo, jockey Ron Turcotte walks Secretariat towards the winners circle after they captured the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome will try to win the Triple Crown on June 7, 2014 at Belmont Park. (AP Photo/File)

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Patrice Wolfson is ready to give up her title as the co-owner of the last Triple Crown winner.

She will get the chance if California Chrome is successful in his bid to join Affirmed and 10 other horses atop racing’s pinnacle.

No horse since Affirmed in 1978 has swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Since then, 11 have won the first two legs only to fail in the 11/2-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three races that are run over a five-week span. Wolfson and other connections of Triple Crown winners believe this may be the year they get to induct another member into their exclusive club.

“You just like to see a great horse win it and I think he’s got the potential to be a great horse, so we’ll be cheering for him,” Wolfson said Tuesday by phone from New York.

Wolfson, who owned Affirmed with her late husband Louis, will be at Belmont Park on June 7. She’ll be joined by others with ties to Triple Crown winners, including 92-year-old Penny Chenery, who owned 1973 champion Secretariat.

“If this horse can win the Triple Crown, I want to be there,” Chenery said from her home in Boulder, Colo.

The jockeys who rode the last three Triple Crown winners will be at Belmont, too: Steve Cauthen (Affirmed), Jean Cruget (Seattle Slew) and Ron Turcotte (Secretariat).

The 1970s produced three Triple Crown winners, with Secretariat breaking a 25-year drought. Seattle Slew followed in 1977 and Affirmed came along the next year, leading many to believe the Triple Crown was an easy feat.

Now 36 years have passed since Cauthen, who was then 18, teamed with Affirmed to hold off Alydar in three thrilling races, capped by their victory by a head in the Belmont.

“It was one of the greatest races of all time to watch and to be involved in,” he said. “Two great horses continuing a great rivalry, never giving up. It lived up to the hopes and expectations of everybody.”

At 3-5, Affirmed was the last odds-on favorite to win the Belmont. California Chrome figures to be a low price, too, just like in the Preakness, where he was the overwhelming favorite.

Cauthen has watched California Chrome from afar and the chestnut colt reminds him of Affirmed. Cauthen and his horse got along well, and he sees California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza doing the same.

“He’s got a lot of options with him. The horse seems to settle wherever he wants him and can pick up in an instant,” said Cauthen, who runs a breeding operation in Verona, Ky. “This horse has got a great chance of pulling it off.”

Billy Turner carries a title of his own: the last living trainer of a Triple Crown winner. He’s gotten a close-up view of California Chrome, who has been training at Belmont Park where Turner’s stable is based.

“He’s such a nice horse,” he said. “He goes out there, jogs off, gallops around, does whatever they like him to do, sort of notices the crowd and just seems to really enjoy what he’s doing.”

Turner had his hands full with Seattle Slew, describing the colt as “an absolute monster.”

“All he wanted to do was train. He wasn’t lovey-dovey,” Turner said. “Once you trained him, he’d settle right down. My biggest concern with

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