Tuesday, October 01, 2013
It’s Never Too Early to Think Triple Crown
Los Angeles, September 29, 2013—It’s said that everybody loves a lover … or a winner!
The latter case seemed to apply when Florida thoroughbred breeders recently embraced Gulfstream Park, and helped to tighten its choke hold on Calder Race Course with yet another race-napping of FL-bred events; this time absconding with the entire card scheduled for November 9th.
This clash of racing conglomerates in the Sunshine State keeps delivering opportunities for parody and sarcasm.
The Stronach Group (TSG) may not yet have completed its conquest of Calder but previous competition from Hollywood Park was eliminated when the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) formally extended Santa Anita’s 2014 winter meet through the end of June. Thus Santa Anita now can host huge crowds on its three days of live racing bouyed by Triple Crown event simulcasts.
Who thinks the undeniable bad blood between Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) and TSG will go away with the end of CDI racing operations at Calder? We’ve already seen CDI’s tendency to hold a grudge when it effectively took Hawthorne off the Derby Trail.
Might Churchill Downs withhold its simulcast signal [read Kentucky Derby here] from Santa Anita racetrack? Would TSG answer that salvo by offering a very rich race for three-year-olds on the first Saturday in May? Anything is possible when corporations collide.
CDI is likely less concerned with developing a Triple Crown than maximizing revenue on Derby day and in Derby preps at CDI-owned racetracks. It enjoys the attention their classic gets but privately it likely to care less if Derby non-winners soldier on to Pimlico and, of course, the air rushes out of Belmont’s balloon if the first two legs of the series are split.
In the first year of the new Derby eligibility rules, a different horse won all three TC legs. By forcing most starters to perform well in races run 3-5 weeks prior to the Derby the likelihood of a formful Derby winner may have increased but it made the challenge to come back two weeks later tougher than it already is now.
The only motivation for CDI to be more interested in the success of the entire series is if it becomes the successful bidder when the NYRA franchise is made available and, by extension, the Belmont Stakes, in 2015. But would TSG dare get in a bidding war for the NYRA?
In my opinion, TSG is the stronger candidate because with both the Preakness and Belmont under its control, it would be in a position to experiment with spacing between TC events.
I had always opposed this notion on principle until I noticed that the gritty Moreno kept his form over six races in the course of 20 weeks, including a blanket finish in the Travers against the likes of fully matured Will Take Charge, Belmont winner Palace Malice and Derby hero Orb.
I researched the amount of rest this year's classics winners had between starts and now believe the minimum time afforded any Triple Crown aspirant should be four weeks. At least, serious consideration should be given to moving both the Preakness and the Belmont back one week. The study also took into consideration major races in the summer through "Super Saturday" weekend.
It all comes down to whether one prefers to see all Triple Crown contestants prepared to deliver their best effort in each leg, or wait decades more for a modern-day freak of nature to emerge that's capable of maximum exertion in four races--including the final preps-- from nine to 12 furlongs over a two-and-a-half month period.
And there is another matter to consider, the one about "doing what's best for the horse" that we keep hearing so much about.