On June 13, 1953, Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr. watched his homebred Native Dancer win the Belmont Stakes, eking out a nose victory to complete the third leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. He’d won three weeks earlier, too, at Pimlico, but had lost the Kentucky Derby.
One might have forgiven Vanderbilt for a bittersweet sadness at his colt’s Belmont victory, for wondering what might have been, for wondering whether Native Dancer’s rough trip in the Kentucky Derby five weeks earlier had cost him a chance to be the ninth winner of the Triple Crown. It was the only defeat of the Grey Ghost’s 22-race career.
Thirteen years later, a son of Native Dancer went to the Belmont, to try to do what his father didn’t have the chance to, and in the stands was the son of Alfred Vanderbilt Jr.
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Photo of Kauai King courtesy of Maryland Horse Breeders Association