There has been a great deal of talk — and stuff that passes for talk — on the subject making the the Triple Crown more fair. Much of the commentary is by people who really don’t know much (my opinion). I have heard the following, the Triple Crown should be changed because horses are not bred to go distances anymore. That may or may not be true, but what does that matter — think about it – there still is a particular population of horses and if they are not as good as previous generations at getting 1 1/2 mile, so what — isn’t it STILL just equal for everyone anyway. But let’s look at some crude stats. Prior to 1948, when horse populations were smaller, there were a total of 8 Triple Crown winners and from 1948 until now there has been 4 Triple Crown winners (5 if you include Alydar as I like to do.) That doesn’t seem so tilted.
Let’s investigate further — Real Quiet, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Hansel, Risen Star and Point Given would all have won the Triple Crown if it wasn’t for special circumstances on the track. Think about this — Risen Star, Hansel, Point Given and Afleet Alex all should have won the Triple Crown except they managed to not run sharply in the Kentucky Derby, but then prevailed in both the Preakness and the Belmont — these four were all clearly best of their generation — all competed in all three legs but for whatever reason didn’t fire in the KD. While Real Quiet and Smarty Jones simply got beat by tough trips in pretty narrow margins – in fact Real Quiet was beaten by the smallest margin in history of the Belmont. So there could very easily — with a little luck — been many more Triple Crown Winners since Citation in 1848 then before. So simply add those back and the data is suggesting that it’s really no different from today to yesteryear.
The point is, there is no data, that I see, which suggests that anything needs to be changed for any reason I can see. In fact — if there were regular winners of the Triple Crown, who would care, about the Triple Crown! You wouldn’t get the crowds at Belmont on Belmont Stakes day as we got this weekend. So in that regard – it’s a terrible idea to “Make it easier”. In fact, I wonder if there should ever be another Triple Crown Winner — my answer is simple, next time there is a horse as good as Affirmed, Alydar, Seattle Slew, Secretariat and Citation… And not before! (Ididn’t even mention double winners like Swale and Unbridled who both won the KD and The Belmont but got beat in The Preakness)
To Mr. Coburn, you were fortunate to get such a wonderful horse – but he is is no Affirmed and you can’t turn him into an Affirmed with ridiculous legislation. Love your horse, but pay proper respect to the truly great ones that went before. I say that we have not seen a truly great horse since Affirmed and Alydar battled to near death in the Belmont in 1978,. There have been some near great horses – Spectacular Bid, Risen Star, the ill-fated Swale, Unbridled, Smarty Jones and many others – but they simply couldn’t handle something; the turns at Pimlico, or the surface at Churchill Downs or the final 440 yards at the Belmont. To cheapen the challenge is simply to cheapen the accomplishments of the truly great.
Then to the worst part of the idea, if you only allowed the horses to contest in the Belmont who also contested the KD and The Preakness, the entrants in the KD — who might really want to be in the Belmont because they are true marathoners – would have to be trained up to the KD and prepped accordingly. So they would have to run in races their connections didn’t have any desire to run in. And even force horses to be trained for the main Preps such as The Wood, The Santa Anita Derby, The Arkansas Derby and The Bluegrass well before their connections thought it right to run. Simply put, “they” would be legislating the time of year all horses should be in training, the races they should be training for and the conditioning level each horse would have to attain. If I own a horse, who I feel is best suited to run in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont, but not prepared or suited to run in THE PREP races, then I am being forced to enter and run when I am not feeling it’s best for my horse. That should never be a part of racing at anytime!
How many Belmont horses would get washed out by taking on a training regiment that is ill-suited for their best interests.
In this regard, Mr. Coburn, is not really considering the horse at all. CC is his horse, and he felt he could run on Belmont Day put in a good effort and return safely to his stall that night. But for no reason whatsoever, should he have put his horse on the track on June 7th if he felt that his horse could be the worse for the effort — Triple Crown or no Triple Crown. I assume that Coburn and Sherman were responsible to the horse first and they should want the same thing for all horses — all of the time. I congratulate them on running in the Preps and after coming to hand, moving along to The Santa Anita Derby, The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness. I also think that CC ran very well in the Belmont adn they deserve congrat for that fine effort as well (horse and jockey). Mr. Coburn didn’t take on anyone as he says, his horse did the taking on! And while he feels he might be entitled to a softer field because CC carried more weight a longer distance – which CC definately did – I don’t think Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation and Affirmed/Alydar would agree. And I certainly do not!!!!
My final thought, ” I am perfectly okay if no horse ever wins the Triple Crown again, so long as from time to time, there is a terrific horse trying to win it!”