On Saturday, California Chrome became the 13th horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to fall short at Belmont and miss out on capturing the elusive Triple Crown. It has been 36 years since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978.
In the moments after California Chrome’s failed bid, Steve Coburn, the horse’s co-owner, expressed his displeasure with the system that saw a fresh horse – one who hadn’t raced in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness – win the Belmont.
History wasn’t made at the track, but the advance buzz surrounding California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid paid dividends for NBC, according to TV by the Numbers:
California Chrome’s run for history … averaged 20.6 million viewers – the second-highest Belmont Stakes viewership on record, trailing only the 21.9 million viewers for NBC’s telecast of Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown attempt in 2004 … The 2014 Belmont Stakes is the most-watched weekend sporting event since NBC’s primetime telecast of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday, February 16
The network broadcasting the Belmont has historically been rewarded with high viewership numbers when a horse enters the race with a Triple Crown on the line.
Prior to Saturday, the last five times a horse raced for the Triple Crown (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008), an average of 14 million people watched, hoping to witness history. During that span, an average of only 5.6 million viewers tuned in to the event when there wasn’t a Triple Crown at stake. California Chrome possessed a unique backstory and an ownership group of relative outsiders to the sport, elevating the support for this horse to the level of Smarty Jones in 2004.
Here are the television ratings for the Belmont Stakes the last six times a Triple Crown bid was on the line:
[newscred id=”c004b79edfc2179c90f5353ab90e86c7″ title=”Television Ratings For Triple Crown Attempts”]
[TV Ratings from TVbythenumbers.zap2it.com]