Parlaying the Triple Crown: Time for a Change?

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Palace Malice (r), with Mike Smith aboard, wins the Belmont Stakes over Oxbow and Gary Stevens Palace Malice (r), with Mike Smith aboard, wins the Belmont Stakes over Oxbow and Gary Stevens

As usual the week after the Belmont Stakes, I’m suffering from Triple Crown Letdown.

I always enjoy the time of year when our sport is most in the mainstream spotlight. Friends and family tune in, ask questions on social media, maybe get a little racing fever. Some might even be on the verge of becoming regular fans.

But then in a flash, it’s over, and most of them wipe the sport off their radar for another 11 months.

Sure, I can tell people they’ve got to catch Saratoga and Del Mar, the great racing in the fall, and the Breeders’ Cup, but there’s something simple and compelling about the Triple Crown races that’s so entrenched in American sporting tradition, it requires no explanation or extra encouragement to get people to watch.

So why can’t we make this moment last longer?

In other sports, the comparable feats to the Triple Crown are spread out over several months. Golf’s elusive Grand Slam and its four major tournaments take place in April, June, July, and August. The demanding tennis Grand Slam stretches from January to August or September.

The same goes for other nations with horse racing Triple Crowns. The English Triple Crown races are run in late April/early May, early June, with the final leg in September. The popular Japanese Triple Crown stretches from April to October. Canada’s Triple Crown spans at least a couple of months.

Purists will argue that what makes the the American Triple Crown unique and special is the relatively short time off between races. But would it really be any less of an accomplishment if, for example, the Derby was in May, the Preakness in June and the Belmont in July, and there were three 14-horse fields? Based on the Triple Crown frequency in other countries, it’s hard to argue that format would be any less demanding.

While the American Triple Crown has seen 11 winners since 1919, only 15 horses have won the English Triple Crown since 1853, and no horse has completed it since 1970. In Japan, a mere seven horses have taken all three races since 1941. Stretching out the American series would not be about making it easier to win the Triple Crown. It would be about expanding the sport’s time in the limelight, making it easier to market and grow.

It would be taking a cue from major sports in the U.S. that have adapted to changing times and made their big moments more marketable. Baseball and football have added playoff spots, divisions, and post-season games. The NBA and NHL have altered playoff formats, lengths, and seedings. They’ve done this in the name of including the fans of more teams, stretching out their time on TV, increasing popularity, and yes, making more money. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Horse racing is a business too, driven by the almighty dollar, and while tradition is important, growth is perhaps more so. Survival surely is.

Even the American Triple Crown hasn’t always been exactly the same. In 1917 and 1922, before it was dubbed the Triple Crown, the Preakness and Derby were run on the same day (talk about an impossible feat!). Eleven times, the Belmont took place before the Preakness, and the same number of times, the Preakness preceded the Derby.

For myriad reasons, our sport has already changed. Horses don’t run as often. They’re bred for commercial profit. Connections point for specific legs of the Triple Crown, skipping this one and that one. We can pine endlessly for the days when horses were bred to race, not retired so early, and could withstand the heat of battle more often, but that’s not the reality. NFL rules have changed dramatically to protect players from concussions and other debilitating injuries, in an effort to ensure the sport’s long-term survival. There was a time when hockey goalies didn’t wear masks. Our sport features animals that require an even greater level of protection because they can’t make decisions about their participation.

So in addition to the marketing aspects of a different Triple Crown format, there are other compelling reasons to make changes, not the least of which is the safety of the horses and the breed. It doesn’t diminish the history of the game to change with the times and reflect our growing base of knowledge. It doesn’t mean the sport is going soft. People can argue such things, but the NFL isn’t going to return to its gladiator days. NHL goalies aren’t going to drop their masks. And airlines aren’t suddenly going to allow smoking again. Because we know better.

A May, June, July Triple Crown is just one idea. There could be others. Maybe the Belmont could be run in September, when it would serve as a terrific bridge to the Breeders’ Cup races. The Breeders’ Cup can run all the TV promos it wants during the current Triple Crown season, but the event is still five months away.

Not only would a Triple Crown spread out over a longer time period keep people coming back to the sport throughout the year, it might also prove a fairer and purer test of the 3-year-old. As it stands now, we are gauging each crop through a five-week window. Why is that the best test? Could it possibly be better to see them grow and mature and develop rivalries with each other? A Belmont Stakes later in the year, pitting more seasoned sophomores at the same demanding distance could be a superior race to the one we see now, after which there’s always a lot of complaining about the (insert year) “weak” crop, many of whom physically are just barely 3-year-olds. We’ve also seen a lot of horses never race again.

An even more radical concept: Perhaps the Travers could be added to the mix and make it a four-race series. Maybe you’ve thought of other ideas.

I realize this has been tossed around before and that the chance of any change occurring is about as good as Frankel or Zenyatta returning to the racetrack, but constantly living in the past doesn’t appear to be working all that well for the sport. Blindly clinging to tradition while competing sports and entertainment entities grow and change and adapt doesn’t seem to be giving racing a better “look.” After recent Triple Crowns, mostly I just hear a lot of griping.

This wouldn’t be a cure-all solution.  Issues involving medication, safety, and the breed still need to be addressed in a larger way, but racing should at least consider something new and bold for the Triple Crown. As a series of races, it has stood the test of time, but these days, its benefits to a year-round game sure don’t seem to last very long, and the end result doesn’t appear to be a healthier, happier sport.

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  • LongTimeEconomist

    None is this is going to have much effect upon getting the occasional viewer more interested in our sport. Frankly, the 97% that has little interest in horse racing seems only to get interested in the Derby and pays little attention to the Preakness and the Belmont.

    I live in Lexington, we have a big well-attended Derby party at our clubhouse every year and if you now asked the people who attended who won the Preakness or the Belmont, they would have no clue. Most wouldn’t even remember the Derby winner’s name, but they’d remember who won the hat contest at the Derby party.

    • salthebarber

      The Derby has 15 million viewers, the Preakness had 10 million and the Belmont had 7 million. These are pretty significant numbers in the non primetime slots.

  • Don Reed

    “Social media” is not “social,” anymore than the “S” in “IRS” stands for “service.”

  • Darlene Allison Anders Sanner

    UK Triple Crown with its spacing,no race day meds,breeding for stamina,whip use limits has gone without a Triple Crown winner even longer than US And almost no one in UK calling for changes for “good of the sport” I think they realize that it is an extremely difficult thing to do That it takes a special horse with the right trainer and LOTS of racing luck for it to happen
    The only thing that maybe needs a change is US wanting quick results from their horses and instant gratification of their wants and desires

    • Kris

      Good points, Darlene. In addition, as the St. Leger is quite close to the Arc, the connections of the top three-year-olds more often than not skip the Leger for the more prestigious Arc. Seeing Camelot race in the St. Leger last year was the exception and not the norm.

      • Half Baked

        Races are different distance. Most Arc horses are strongest a Arc and lesser distances. St. Leger horses often beat at lesser distances by Arc contenders. Strategy is primary factor, as all horses a usually capable of either distance, but stronger at one than the other,

    • mike g rutherford

      Horses in the old days ran earlier than today==a fact. Why? they cost less then to breed & raise. Most horse owners today in US are not billionaires. In Europe racing is the “Sport of kings” & in US racing is the “King of Sports”! Horses in Europe are trained at private grounds & shipped to the tracks to race (better environment) by Billionaires & Royalty & racing a lot less than US horses. You are comparing Apples to Oranges when you compare US racing to Europe racing. By the way most of Europe’s best stallions come from Northern Dancer & the biggest buyer’s today at Keeneland and Saratoga (a foreign owned sales co.) come from outside the US==why? We have tougher horses. Yes, Horses are trained different today because of high taxes, high training cost, etc. No taxes on horses in Ireland. Kings & Royalty do not pay taxes! As for medication today our sport is the most regulated sport in the World. Have you noticed all the steroid headlines coming out of England? Do you really know what medication is used at those private yards. Our glass in the US is not half empty it is half Full! Mike G. Rutherford

  • http://www.billyturnerracing.com Pat Turner

    Scott, please call Billy Turner, the only living Triple Crown winning trainer. He has some things to say about this. Pat

    • Mike g Rutherford

      great horses make great trainers! Just like people sports. AS a old great trainer stated
      ‘A LOADED GUN CAN GO OFF IN ANYBODY’S HANDS”

  • FourCats

    Completely disagree with the author that the Triple Crown should be changed in any way (although I dislike the new Derby point qualification point system). The ONLY thing working in horse racing is the Triple Crown. It’s compelling BECAUSE of its history and tradition. In my opinion, stretching out the races or changing the distances would not extend its magic but would eliminate that magic instead. What captures the public’s imagination and fancy? Not the races themselves, but the fact that the great racehorses of the past such as Citation and Secretariat proved themselves with the series.
    As for the safety of the horses, where is the evidence that a Triple Crown spread out over 5 weeks is more hazardous than a Triple Crown spread out over months? An alternate view is that it is actually the stretched out, lighter schedule that horses have now that make them seem more fragile because they go into the races undertrained and underworked. As any athlete will tell you, entering any tough physical competition without sufficient prep is asking for an injury to happen.
    I’m not opposed to changes in racing. But you don’t change what is working; you change what isn’t. There are many, many things in racing that are not working; the Triple Crown is not one of them.

    • Fearless Fosdick

      Capturing the public’s imagination involves capturing their interest and attention: Secretariat? “Didn’t he win a big horse race or something?”.
      Citation? “Honest, I wasn’t speeding.”

      Only the TV networks, track hosts, and die hard racing traditionalists promote the idea that the Triple Crown is meaningful to the general public. I bet 1 in 10 cannot even name two, much less three of the races. A new standard and test is in order if we really want to capture anything other than the nostalgia bug.

  • salthebarber

    I agree with Ray on this one. By doing this, it doesn’t change it that much, but it does fit better with how horses are trained these days.

    • RayPaulick

      Love to take credit for the brilliant article, but it was editor-in-chief Scott Jagow who wrote it.

      • Nucky Thompson

        If Ray had wrote it he would have found a way to mention Jane Cibelli in the story :)

      • salthebarber

        Ok, I agree with Scott then.:)

    • G. Rarick

      You’ve put your finger on the problem: “how horses are trained these days.” The problem is, they aren’t. The vets are doing the “training.”

  • Richard C

    The Canadian Triple Crown has the most unique format – three different surfaces – but it’s only water cooler chatter to propose changes to the USA’s Triple Crown chase…..the logistics would cause complete chaos to the national racing calendar.

  • David

    Weather it is the system that has failed or participants failing the system, racing is not served by a Pollyanna cry that “ . . . the TC isn’t broken when the right horse comes all will be well and the wait will have been worth it or, it’s (the TC) reserved for the best”. Fact is the reality that Derby winners no longer conjure up notion of iconic runners embedded in lore has accelerated an already steep decline.

  • ziggypop

    Shouldn’t change a thing. There was quite a drought before Secretariat claimed the prize. Why should it be any different now?

  • COHorseGirl

    If the format was changed for the Triple Crown, any horse winning it in the future would have an asterisk beside their name. It would not be a comparable feat.

    • Scott Jagow

      As I stated in the piece, I do not believe this would affect the difficulty of the series one iota, as witnessed by the paucity of Triple Crown winners in countries with different formats. In fact, you could argue spreading them out would make it MORE difficult to win because you’d have competitors peaking at different times. So, by your logic, should the TC winners that didn’t take on 19 horses in the Derby and faced walkover/ paltry fields in the Preakness and/or the Belmont deserve an asterisk? Wild Card teams that win the Super Bowl or World Series? And many other examples throughout sports.

      • Lost In The Fog

        To validate Scott’s point above, according to my math the Triple Crown winners have faced an average KD field size of 13.45 starters, and the last four Triple Crown winners faced an average field size of only 11.25 in the KD. Contrast that with an average field size of 19.5 starters over the last decade and you’ll see one reason why another Triple Crown winner remains elusive.

        • betterthannothing

          Exactly, don’t lower the TC bar! Raise the bar for Derby starters, 14 max with a point minimum (including fillies) of 40 or 50 to get in so the best is more likely to win the Derby and go on from there.

    • COHorseGirl

      It doesn’t matter how we present this. The fact is that it will never be looked at as “The Triple Crown” by the general public and that is who we are trying to interest in our sport. I think a challenging series that will get horses to engage in rivalries over a longer time span is beneficial, I just don’t see that as the Triple Crown. Britain hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner since 1970. They aren’t messing with their format.

      • Half Baked

        The “general public” cannot name the KY Derby winner from last year or tell you the name of the other two TC events or where they are held. Tradition is only important to trophy manufacturers and those who benefit directly.

    • Half Baked

      Yeh. Like the World Series, NFL championship ( Super Bowl didn’t exist until the 60s), the number games played in major sports, rules changes, Yankee Stadium. Many records are subject to an asterisk. How about scoring records in basketball before and after 7′ players? Lets just start over and have some fun?

  • Sandra Warren

    If it was easier to win, it wouldn’t mean as much. I remember all of these comments in the early 1970s. I believe that the steroid era equalized the top horses in each crop, and it made them more fragile. Now that that’s over, I think we will once again have more dominant horses in a crop, and there will soon be a Triple Crown winner once again. And we will all bow down to that horse’s greatness. Let’s not tinker with the high bar.

  • Bman

    We wouldn’t be having this unnecessary debate if Kenny D had a little more patience (Real Quiet), Other examples but why bring them up. Oh sure, let’s make the fields 10 or less. Make the races 6 weeks apart so people who will cheer for the Triple Crown winners that will happen every 3-4 years then turn off the TV at 7pm. Then it will become too easy and no one will care then and the those Saratoga/Del Mar fans won’t even watch the TC.
    It will happen soon, horses will have to overcome the human element, traffic, weather, etc. There’s a thought, only run TC races on sunny days. Etc., etc.

    • http://www.paulickreport.com/ Scott Jagow

      My goodness, who said anyhing about making it easier? Please at least read the piece before commenting. This has nothing to do with making it easier. In fact, I’m willing to bet there would be FEWER close calls like real quiet and other horses who just happened to be peaking at the appropriate time. I’m willing to bet a spaced out triple crown would be even more difficult. This is about taking more advantage of the one thing people tune into. It’s about thinking of the game in modern times. Those three triple crowns in the 70s were wonderful memories. Before that the last triple crown was 1948 in an era totally unrecognizable from this one. That’s what this resistance to change is all about? I’d wager the triple crown was immeasurably easier to win in that 1919 to 1948 time period even factoring in the breed’s backslide in recent years endurance wise. Smaller fields, cruder technology, any number of things. Look at the times. Palace malice was right there with some of those tc winners in the Belmont.

      • Bman

        Nothing personal towards your opinion, just a generalization that many want to see a TC more often and also suggest tweaking the format. We were spoiled by all the near misses and excitement that brought. TC is very difficult and should remain so without changing the format. Somehow bring this same almost yearly debate to the Derby party one-timers and maybe they’d start to look closer at the game and appreciate it more. The end game is more fans, right? Why did the Marshfield(MA) Fair, a dumpy, dusty, dirty half-mile bull ring with absolute bottom-barrel racing, pack them in and bet over $900K on track – of course – during the 80′s? Because everyone was there and people love a party and a crowd. Likely 50% of those in attendance at Preakness could care less about the horses – what a shame. A winner of any TC format will not bring in new fans just because there was a TC winner. Not saying you suggested that.

  • south florida tom

    Scott’s article was not about making the Triple Crown easier. It was about spreading out the 3 races to keep people’s interest a bit longer. Is it a radical idea? Maybe, maybe not. All new ideas tend to be radical, don’t they? I agree with Scott Jagow. College football will have a playoff system in place next season. Talk about a big change, that’s it!!! If college football can make that big a change, horse racing can make some change/adjustment.

  • Charles Hogan

    Leave the triple crown alone.

    • Hoops and Horses

      Or as I would do, move the Preakness and Belmont back one week each, which there are precedents for doing.

  • Hoops and Horses

    The one and only change I would make to the Triple Crown is to have the Preakness and Belmont Stakes one week later than at present. There are precedents for doing that:

    Prior to 1969, there was only a two-week gap between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

    There also were many years before the early ’60s where the Belmont was six weeks after the Derby, which would be the same position it would be if The Belmont were moved back one week in this instance.

    That to me would keep the integrity of the Triple Crown in tact.

  • Ernie

    Completely agree with the article. A race in the spring, another one or two in the summer, one in the fall. The comparisons to the golf and tennis grand slams are appropriate.

  • rachel

    No thanks, I’ve been spoiled by the real thing…Leave the bar high…champions always find a way to win and win well.

    I watched Secretariat set a stil standing record after being challenged by one of only 2 others to run the KD under 2:00, then set the Preakness record while challenged by the samehorse…then watched him tromp the field in the Belmont including future greats of the racing world.

    I watched SS stumble out of the gate in the derby, as he then bulled his way to the lead, the speed duel with Cormorant in the Preakness and almost a handride to the finish as he drew away…and then watched him romp home in the Belmont mud over thr hard trying Run Dusty Run…

    Who can forget the incredible duel virtually every step of the 3 races between Affirmed/Alydar and that incredible stretch run in the Belmont?

    Now you want me to settle for a feel-good dumb-downed trio of races so we can have a super star?

    3 bronx cheers for you….pbbbblt.

  • jttf

    of course the triple crown should be changed to at least 4 weeks off in between races. this way all horses will have close to a full recovery from lasix use. this means better performance and less stress on the horses’ health. as you can see on here. the public isnt well informed on the bad side effects of lasix. many people dont care about bad side effects. example, smokers these days have to smoke outside when they are at work. they dont care about the bad side effects that cigarettes give off. they dont care about the other workers’ health either. there were all sorts of studies saying that smoking is very harmful to your health and other’s health. but the smokers want to go with history and tradition and stay inside and smoke at free will. remember non smokers, smokers work only 7 to 7.5 hours a day. because they are outside the rest of the time. so you non smokers ask your boss for an extra 2 weeks of vacation time to match their time off.

  • Gollykeeper

    The main reason the Triple Crown holds people’s attention, imo, *is* the spacing. If you spread the races out, do you really think the average non racing fan is going to care anymore by the time a September Belmont arrives? The sustained excitement and the build up over a short period of time is what engages people. As far as the English Triple Crown, almost no horses who win the first two legs even run in the St. Leger, and with Camelot’s defeat last year that will probably only reinforce the reluctance. So it’s comparing apples and oranges.

    I was there to see Secretariat and Affirmed win the Triple Crown. I am vehemently opposed to doing anything to water down that achievement.

  • Evelyn Waugh

    All these ideas are worthy of consideration.

    However, questions of changing the format or frequency of the Triple Crown races, IMHO, are secondary, even trivial, when juxtaposed with the foundational question of…

    …when will the United States ban the administration of…furosemide (Lasix) & other performance-enhancing but debilitating diuretics.

    As a seasoned horseman recently noted: Orb was literally…”gutted” after his Kentucky Derby run. To tun him back two weeks later & administer…again…furosemide…quite likely diminished Orb’s physical capacity…rendering him a mere shadow of his pre-Triple-Crown self.

    Hence the oft-repeated “explanation” given by Pletcher & the others: Horses only can run every 5-6 weeks.

    • south florida tom

      I agree 100%. But, sadly, adjusting the TC schedule is easier and more convenient than banning these drugs.

    • Half Baked

      Todd is my hero. If he says it, it must be so.

  • anita carter

    There are two reasons that there hasn’t been a triple crown winner since the 70′s. First–drugs. Drugs weren’t around–legal– in the 70′s. We need to get rid of drugs. Secondly, stallions are bred to twice as many mares now that they were bred to in the 70′s. Hence, many many more foals entering races. And some breeders breed for the commerical market–speed and early speed. Some new owners want a quick return on their investment.
    Go back to 60′s and 70′s and see what happens.

    • Half Baked

      Do folks on blogs just make things up? The foal population has decreased steadily for the past twenty years. try again. You got both points wrong.

    • Emmy Domaine

      See response to Mike Rutherford.

  • mike g rutherford

    After reading Mr. Jagow’s ideas’s on the triple crown I think he is Right! I too have a let down after the Triple Crown races and as he stated it’s a long time out of the limelight between the last Triple Crown race and the start of Saratoga and Del Mar. The Kentucky Derby I would continue to have on the first Saturday in May; however, I would not run the Preakness for four(4) weeks giving the young horses time to get over the grueling experience of racing a mile and a quarter for the first time. The KY Derby has ruined many good horses for an example Barbaro who had never run on dirt and in no way had the bottom on him to make the three races. In the old days we did not have 20 horse fields. Large fields of course makes for better betting which adds more money for TV, Churchill and horse purses.The Preakness would get bigger fields and keep the Belmont 3 weeks after the Preakness. The competition is much tougher today than the 1970′s as the foal crops are five(5) times the size as when Secretariat won. I do not mean to take away from Secretariat’s great achievement but we had 5,000 foals in 1970 as compared to 40,000 foals in 2010! In Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont there were 5 horses competing, a broke down Sham and three claiming horses. When Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby the triple crown was over for all practical purposes, Again I am not taking away from Secretariat’s great race times. We would have less horses hurt, each race would be a bigger event, extent the time of excitement and keep racing in the limelight. As Mr. Jagow stated pro sports have evolved over time and Horse racing need’s to join the modern World. Mike G. Rutherford

    • Emmy Domaine

      Mike:

      The change is more likely attributable to C allele dominance. Nearctic/ Northern Dancer line presence is responsible. The “speed gene” has become more and more prevalent, resulting in fewer classic or stamina runners which possess the “T” allele. Stamina and classic genetics has been increasingly bred out of the American TB over the last 60 years. The makeup of the breed, not the number of runners is the key factor in the lack of a dominant classic runner. Most of the TC horses today are, in effect, stretched out sprinters. It is probably a safe bet that Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat exhibited more “T” than “C.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Seems to me we hear this same song and dance ever year after the Belmont…Don’t hold your breath on any change to the TC…ty…

  • elpen

    The author is not writing with blinkers on. Note the NBA finishing ever closer to the Fourth of July, hockey still going on until the end of June….and these are winter sports. Racing is in trouble, especially in New York where the newspapers ignore it. Elpen

  • MazDerby

    I used to get the blues after the Triple Crown was over but not so much anymore. Why, well today is Stephen Foster day with a good supporting card. Next week is Royal Ascot. Then it’ll be more big races from around the country, including Colonial Downs and even Prairie Meadows. Thus plenty of opportunity to see top horses run and to handicap on.

    Would the sport be better off spacing the Triple Crown out so the names stay familiar and avoid this long lag to the Jim Dandy / Haskell before America turns its attention to Football the week after the Travers? Of course, but the sport shows no signs of working together and for one I’ve basically given up on hoping that NYRA, Churchill Downs and Magna will ever work together to market the sport and create a larger fan base. If anything they may discuss where to tear down stands and put more slot machines.

    To think that the casual fan knows how far the Belmont is or understands how grueling it is to run 3 races in 5 weeks after the Derby prep season is foolish. What other sport continues to market the stars of the 1970s and even stars from way before? In short younger fans don’t give a xxxx! Btw, all those horses were Lasix free. But much of this sport lives by the history books instead of trying to understand what the fan wants today, which is repetition and name familiarity. Until this gap is filled from the current Belmont date to the Haskell much of the talk of the “decline” in the sport will roll on.

    If and when the next Triple Crown winner does come I’ll still be excited for the Stephen Foster and Virginia Derby, even if both owners would rather be out of the sport than in it!

  • Cgriff

    But would it really be any less of an accomplishment if, for example,
    the Derby was in May, the Preakness in June and the Belmont in July, and
    there were three 14-horse fields?

    YES – yes it would diminish the accomplishment. You might as well just create an entirely “new” Triple Crown – because the 11 who came before and accomplished it within the few weeks turnaround would be held at a far loftier regard than any that accomplished a “dumbed down” version over several months.

    Though I do agree with you on the 14 horse fields. Churchill’s desire to maximize their buck on their one marquee day and cram the field with 20 horses has definitely prevented worthy champions (Risen Star and Afleet Alex come to mind) from getting it done.

    It’s the most elusive achievement in sport for a good reason. Let it be – when the right horse comes along – we’ll have another. We’ve come pretty close more than once.

  • Colin

    I believe that if the people in power were to change the Triple
    Crown calendar so that there were 6 weeks from the KD to Pimlico and then
    another 6 weeks to Belmont, the rest would fall into place. The “logistical
    headaches” of such a change could easily be circumvented by adjusting the rest
    of the year’s racing calendar. The
    betting public would not lose interest because the time interval would not be
    something to which they are unaccustomed and a 6 week break is not inordinately
    long. The horses would benefit from the longer recovery period between races. The best 3 y.o. horses would more likely be entered in all three races. Lasix is here
    to stay because owners, trainers, jocks, vets and track officials all believe
    that the thoroughbreds benefit from its use so we need to get used to the idea.
    The changes I suggest would in no way detract from the achievement of past
    champions. Times change and people must change with them. A change does not
    necessarily herald imminent deterioration.

  • Half Baked

    How about a real change? Derby, Belmont, and a BC Classic. Forget the Beerfest in Baltimore.

    $3 million for Derby. Memorial Day Weekend

    $3. million for Belmont. July 4th Weekend

    $5 million for BC. End of Oct, or beginning of Nov depending on track. Top three from Derby and Belmont “Win and You’re In” with full expenses paid. (Not likely all will still be sound.) See PLACING BONUS below.

    Additional $5 to 10 million bonus from networks, tracks, and sponsors to winner of all the New TC. $1 million bonus to horse(s) that PLACES in all three.

    Spreads races out. Tests soundness over 3yo year. 3yo that can win first two legs and then the Classic in open company after making it to November is arguably not only TC winner; but best horse of any age in NA. Long lines at breeding shed.

    Public doesn’t even know or care that current races are for 3yo only. Publicity, money, and name(s) of horses that keep going would be in public eye for six months would help elevate racing overall. Tying races to holidays would start a new tradition that public could easily remember.

    Call it whatever you wish. If implemented the Preakness would become an afterthought and racing’s new Hat Trick would become THE SERIES really worth winning and talking about. MONEY is what draws public attention and would also cause owners and trainers to take a new look at their racing schedules. Maybe the networks would like it too!

    For those strangled by tradition: Keep your old TC as it is. Implement races with purses, dates, and incentives as indicated with the first two limited to 3yos and the old TC will dis-evolve as owners and trainers defect for a more rewarding and meaningful pursuit.

  • Quilla

    IMHO, the problem is not with the races (leave them alone, please) but with the presentation.

    Luckily, I saw the Kentucky Derby live but had to struggle through the other two races with NBC and their ego-driven talking heads.

    I bark at the television a lot during these entertainments so I might have missed a few important things during the Belmont. Please raise your hand if you heard anyone with a microphone behind the counter, standing in the paddock, or riding a pony say that Palace Malice is from Curlin’s first crop, that Malibu Moon had sired two runners, or that Cot Campbell was one of the first to organize racing partnerships. No?

    How about a mention that Unlimited Budget was sired by Derby winner Street Sense; Midnight Taboo was sired by Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch; Frac Daddy’s grandsire, Skip Away, was 2nd in the Preakness and Belmont; or the extraordinary A. P. Indy, winner of the Belmont, was the sire of Incognito and grandsire of Revolutionary, Freedom’s Child, and Orb (whose other grandsire, Unbridled, won the Derby and was 2nd in the Preakness). Did you hear that? No?

    Did Bob Costas interview Michael Phelps before the Derby? Oh, sorry that was last year. This year Jay Privman was shown holding the Stanley Cup, Bod Neumeier made an unnecessary comment about a jockey’s personal life, and some guy said that the race featured a filly riding a filly…gad.

    There will always be horse racing (bet on it) but NBC seems to be doing it best to turn off potential new fans.

    /rant :)

  • zchairman

    I have been a major horse owner for about 40 years. During that time I have bought, bred and raced (yes actually raced starting as two and three year olds) over 1200 horses, and here are my observations based on that experience.

    1. The breed has materially changed over the last 40 years and our modern day horse in no way resembles the horse of ‘yesteryear’. They are not physically or genetically the same animal and they are definitely not capable of withstanding 3 grueling races in 5 weeks without doing more damage to themselves and their racing career than most of you can imagine. I have had four horses run in all three Triple Crown races over the years, all of them won major preps in their last start before the Derby such as the Bluegrass, Wood Memorial, Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby. That means they earned their right to be in those races and I wasn’t running to get a good seat. I admit, none won but that is not the story. They were all sound and happy horses going into the Derby, but those three races in 5 weeks knocked my horses out so much they were never the same again.

    I have not done this study, but without looking at their race records I would bet that very few horses who have ran in all three TC races in the last 10 years have had much success after that or ran many winning races afterwards. I would never again do that to one of my horses even if they were running well and doing well (unless my horse could win the TC) because I personally know the enormous physical toll that 3 demanding races in 5 weeks takes on a horse. It took me a while to come to this conclusion (I am a slow learner) because of the aphrodisiac-like temptation for most owners to run in any TC race.

    Yes, there is an enormous amount of tradition involved in the TC as it currently is, but if one is a true lover of the horse, it is almost inhumane to ask a modern day horse to attempt a TC run. And sadly, most owners will not stop running horses they should not be running just because the lure and mystic of the TC are too much of a temptation. And, if marketed properly, as in we are making this change for the good of the horse, for all I know racing would for the first time in a long time do something considered good for the horse.
    I don’t pretend to have the ideal solution for this dilemma because each one comes with its own set of ‘pro’s and con’s’, but I can tell all of you without reservation that as currently designed, the TC is ruining more good horses than all the other things mentioned in the above commentary.
    I applaud the author and the Paulick Report for at least bringing up this ‘thorny issue’. If the people in charge of setting up the TC were doing so with a ‘family member’ in mind and not someone else’s horse, I can assure you they would immediately change their format.
    Zchairman
    PS—If I were the Czar of racing, I would figure out a way to have the races 4 weeks apart starting the first Saturday in May. Anyone who has owned a good modern day horse knows with certainty that after a grueling 1 1/4th mile run, there is no way they can possibly have their batteries recharged for a 1 3/16th mile race in two weeks and then a 1 1/2 mile race three weeks later.

  • http://www.digitalhearingoutlet.com/ Michael J. Arndt

    I challenge any one on this board to cite another race where we consider horses staggering home their last half mile in 54+ seconds a “Championship Race’ American T-breds can no longer run a mile and a half as young three year olds in anything close to “championship time” The Belmont is a race for 1913′s American Thoroughbreds, not 2013′s Thoroughbreds. Drop the Belmont and pick up the Travers.

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