Triple Crown report card

Updated: July 22, 2005, 7:09 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

With another Triple Crown in the books, a look at who made the grade and who didn't. Presenting a Triple Crown report card:

Afleet Alex (A-): You can't give him an A only because he ran a rather ordinary race in the Derby. Otherwise, he was spectacular, getting off his feet to win a dramatic Preakness before drilling his rivals in the Belmont. Still can't understand how he managed to lose to two ordinary horses on a first Saturday in May when he had no excuses. This is a very nice horse and it's going to be a pleasure to watch him run the rest of this year and next year as a 4-year-old.

Jeremy Rose (A): He's trying to take the blame for losing the Kentucky Derby, but he didn't do anything wrong that day. His rides in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes were nothing less than perfect. To think they fired this guy at one point.

Tim Ritchey (A): He wasn't afraid to do things differently, working the living you know what out of Afleet Alex every morning. The end result was that he had a horse who was mentally and physically fit enough to hold up like a champion throughout the Triple Crown campaign. He outsmarted the trainers who insist on handling their horses with kid gloves and are left with colts not nearly fit or tough enough to handle the Triple Crown grind.

Cash Is King Stables (A+): Not only did these guys push all the right buttons with Afleet Alex, not only did they enjoy every minute of the Triple Crown campaign, but they championed a wonderful charity in Alex's Lemonade Stand, which donates money to childhood cancer research. Good guys. Great cause.

Churchill Downs Management (A): Unveiled the new look Churchill, which was the result of a $121 million renovation project. The revamped facility is stylish, modern and has all the necessary perks, yet Churchill managed to keep the character and feel of an old, historic building.

Mike Smith (A-): An all-around good guy, he rode a brilliant race in the Kentucky Derby aboard Giacomo, weaving his way through traffic while managing to keep the horse out of trouble every step of the way. Just didn't have the horse in the Preakness and Belmont.

Pimlico Management (B+): Management there did the right thing this year, loudly and publicly threatening to move the Preakness if Maryland politicians don't give them slot machines. Good for them. They are fighting back against politicians who don't care or don't understand that Maryland racing cannot survive without slots. The track fails to get an A because it remains a dump that has never looked worse.

NYRA Management (D): They finally couldn't resist temptation and joined the other two Triple Crown tracks in fleecing their customers on Belmont Stakes Day. The same grandstand admission cost that was $2 last year was $10 this year. Even the lousy seats cost $60. Not surprisingly, only 62,274 showed up this year, the smallest attendance since 1996. The Belmont used to be the greatest bargain in sports. No more.

Ramon Dominguez (D+): Probably got more criticism than he deserved for his ride aboard Scrappy T in the Preakness, but did he really have to whack him so hard with the right hand at precisely that time? Again, thank goodness, no one went down.

Giacomo (B-): Even if we was very lucky, you have to give him some credit for winning the Kentucky Derby. Otherwise, he was ordinary in the Preakness and lousy in the Belmont. Will no doubt go down in history as one of the least accomplished Derby winners ever.

Bellamy Road (C+):Was billed as a potential superstar after his brilliant performance in the Wood Memorial. Instead, he came up short in the Kentucky Derby after chasing that brutal pace and then bowed out of the Preakness and Belmont after suffering a minor injury.

Nick Zito (D-): Finally hit the board in a Triple Crown race when Andromeda's Hero finished second in the Belmont. But that wasn't nearly enough to save what was a dreadful five weeks for him. It's hard to understand how a stable that couldn't lose all spring suddenly couldn't find a way to get a 3-year-old to run a step.

George Steinbrenner (D-): Refused to talk to the media throughout the Triple Crown campaign. Had he made himself visible, he could have done a world of good for a sport he professes to love and desperately needs media exposure. Will fire Javier Castellano before Bellamy Road runs next. Castellano did nothing wrong, but there always has to be a fall guy whenever George's team doesn't win.

Wayne Lukas (F): Granted, he's won some of these things with longshots, but he had no reason to run Going Wild in the Preakness and no reason to run recent maiden winner A.P. Arrow in the Belmont. His three starters in the three Triple Crown races were beaten a combined 90 lengths.

Belmont Bettors (F): This was one of the most strangely bet races in the history of the game and it proved that there are a lot of dumb people out there all too willing to throw away their money. They made a maiden in Nolan's Cat 20-1. They had A.P. Arrow at 16-1 and Watchmon at 20-1. Any one of those three would have been an underlay at 200-1.

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com