LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - 36 horses have won the Kentucky Derby since 1978, but none have gone on to win the Triple Crown since Steven Cauthen did it aboard Affirmed 36 years ago.
"It's a tough combination of races, in a short span of time on three different tracks," Cauthen said on Tuesday. "It takes a very special horse to do it."
California Chrome, the 3-5 favorite in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Cauthen, speaking at an event sponsored by the Kentucky Speedway, thinks California Chrome is that special horse and could be the next to follow in Affirmed's foot steps.
"He reminds me a lot of Affirmed. He's got good temperament. He settles," the Hall of Fame jockey said. "He's got good natural speed, but he can settle, so it gives you a lot of options as far as how to ride him."
"I compare him to Michael Jordan. There's been a lot of superstar basketball players in the last 15 years since he retired, but maybe LeBron James is the one guy who could stand in his shoes and say 'I'm as good as Michael Jordan.'"
"It's just super champions don't come along very often in basketball or horse racing," Cauthen added.
Cauthen says he will be cheering for the California-bred on Saturday.
"It's a great story for these guys. They buy a mare for $8,000, breed her to an unknown stallion at the time, and come up with this horse. But I mean, the thing is, it would be really cool if the horse just blew them away and it be a Secretariat-like performance."
Cauthen also knows what kind of publicity a Triple Crown winner would bring to his sport.
"You know you can't outweigh the good. It would be good for the game, for our sport. 36 years is long enough."