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April 30, 2001|BILL CHRISTINE

If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "A Century of the Triple Crown," edited and compiled by Sam Siciliano.

Price: $9.45 (includes shipping), FJF Sports Inc., 1551 S. Valley Forge Road #287, Lansdale, Pa. 19446; (888) 890-3382.

For the book-reading race goer, the classic distance would be Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling "Seabiscuit," or another current effort, Joe Drape's "The Race for the Triple Crown." By contrast, "A Century of the Triple Crown," only 70 pages in paperback, is for sprinters, those too engrossed with the Daily Racing Form to have time for the big books.

In a nutshell, Siciliano has chronicled the 11 Triple Crown champions--from Sir Barton in 1919 to Affirmed in 1978. He has also highlighted the near-misses, the horses that won the first two legs (the Kentucky Derby and Preakness) but didn't win the Belmont Stakes. Three of those--Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and Charismatic in 1999--were so recent that the memories of their frustrations are still fresh.

There are plenty of photos, some in color, and included is a study of the incomparable strides of Man o' War and Secretariat.

In a forward, Steven Crist, editor and publisher of the Racing Form, dissects the Triple Crown: "It takes luck and poise to win the Derby. . . . It takes agility and consistency to come back two weeks later and win the Preakness at a shorter distance. . . . Finally, it takes stamina and character to stretch out to a mile and a half three weeks later in the Belmont."

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