Horse racing, for most of us, consists only of the Triple Crown races. The three races in five weeks format. It starts with the Kentucky Derby and ends with the Belmont Stakes with the Preakness in between the two.
Three races in five weeks is a grueling schedule in the horse racing business. That is why we are seeing fewer and fewer Triple Crown winners as time passes. In fact, it is getting rare to see horses run all three races, let alone win all three.
This year illustrates why there is a need to change things up.
Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby in early May. The horse captured everyone’s attention as it was the longest shot in the field and had an amazing late race comeback. Excitement built immediately for a possible Triple Crown bid. Everyone had to be excited to see Rich Strike run again.
The excitement was short-lived as Rich Strike’s owner announced a few days later that the horse would not seek the Triple Crown by running in the Preakness. He stated that the races are too close together. It is expected that Rich Strike will run in the Belmont Stakes.
And just like that, excitement in the sport dissipated.
Several racing organizations are calling for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to be spread out over three months. This, along with a groundswell of support from owners and trainers, could lead to schedule changing.
Traditionalists in the sport have fended off scheduling changes over the years. They point out that the Triple Crown is a special group of races that the horse has to be up for. Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, who completed the sweep with a historical 31-length romp in the Belmont in 1973, is one who does not want change.
I, for one, respect tradition. But I also feel tradition should not impede the betterment or growth of a sport.
The proposal I feel would work would be to keep the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May but move the mile-and-three-sixteenths Preakness to the first Saturday in June and the Belmont Stakes to the first Saturday in July.
This proposal would give trainers plenty of time to get horses ready for the turnaround. Few trainers recommend running a horse three times in five weeks and most will not do it. The list of horses who get injured during the five week stint has been growing at an alarming rate.
Rich Strike not running last week at the Preakness was disappointing. Hopefully, he will run at the Belmont. And hopefully, there will be changes in the sport.