Even if it is a classic, who might have the courage to show up in the first leg of 2020’s Asterisk Triple Crown to challenge the mighty triumvirate named above in the nine furlong Belmont Stakes, June 20?
Would Honor A.P. ,whose trainer, John Shirreffs, expressed high interest in running in a mile-and-an-eighth Belmont, dare challenge this group given his colt’s relative lack of experience?
Certainly a one-turn mile-and-an-eighth would suit his long striding beast of a race horse. At this stage, however, the competition might not. Not that the colt won’t have his hoovesful with Authentic at Santa Anita June 6, but that’s not the issue.
The point is that one is a classic, one’s not; one’s a million dollars and the other’s not; one makes you eligible to become the 14th Triple Crown winner in history, even if it is the *Triple Crown of 2020.
The 152nd Belmont has all the earmarks of a Race of the Year, even at this stage. It’s a race all true racing fans would love to see, even if only available on a television monitor near you.
And if you want to bet, this match-up of three horses could offer value if one has a strong opinion, stomach and bankroll to withstand the stress. No one, including the connections, knows which one is superior to the others. That’s why races are run on a track, not on paper.
To this point in the year, all the speculation and imaginings has been fun, a welcome distraction for the world around us. For better or worse, this is the *Triple Crown we’ve got. And I fully intend to embrace all of it.
Imagine, a Kentucky Derby coming 11 weeks after the Belmont Stakes, replete with a “revenge” story-line. The year of the Asterisk Triple Crown begins 31 days from today, featuring three of the top four colts in America.
For a while, it was fun for Thoroughbred fans and stakeholders to create their own perfect worlds. We expect that the next hot topic will be when fans are allowed to see horse racing live again.
If you live in Texas, that question answered by Republican Governor Greg Abbott; it’s the day after tomorrow.
If Lone Star Park is logistically ready to open its doors, it can happen. As of Tuesday morning, no official announcement on simulcasting or live racing has been made. But the law is clear. With no legal stand-alone simulcasting, betting must take place on track.
Even at 25% capacity in permitted counties, opening a racetrack, a bowling alley, bingo hall, rodeo, or any populace event, allowing lots of people to congregate in the latest current Covid epicenter borders on recklessness.
We realize that most politicians would never allow a good crisis to go to waste. But in the name of ideology, it’s not OK to put human beings in harm’s way. At posting, 92,000 lost souls does not qualify as a hoax.
In New York, meanwhile, a spectator free June 20 Belmont was a decision born of horsemen influence and racetrack box office considerations. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s business, and it’s also what’s best for young racehorses in a truncated training and racing season.
Bob Baffert said he would run in a mile-and-an-eighth Belmont, he got his wish and is keeping his word. So much so that he’s bringing two, and unless he’s banking on his pair dead-heating for the win, one no longer will be undefeated.
John Shirreffs said he’d be interested in running if the Belmont were a mile and an eighth. Given a *Triple Crown opportunity, isn’t it better to eschew home court advantage for an American classic at the same distance? Level of competition notwithstanding, this appears a no-brainer.
Since the 2020 Belmont comes two weeks after the Santa Anita Derby, to which Shirreffs has been pointing the very talented Honor A.P., running in both is at once impractical and improbable.
For all four colts, 11 weeks from Belmont to Derby leaves time for whatever would come next. The July 18 Haskell and a yet-to-be rescheduled Travers leap to mind. Those two events, in competition for the best summer three-year-olds every year, would make terrific Grade 1 bridge races to the Derby.
Then, of course, following the second leg of the *Triple Crown, the OCT 3 Preakness, a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Belmont and a sixteenth shorter than the Derby, becomes the 2020 *Test of the Champion.
Barclay Tagg, with the ownership group led by the man who also owned another New York-bred, 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide, have long had a personal Triple Crown in mind; the Derby, Belmont and Travers. That’s still on the table, only not as originally conceived.
With or without Honor A. P., the Big Three are extremely formidable, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a gateful. The distance is attractive, one might get a favorable draw that not only suits the potential race shape but compromises the favorites.
And it wouldn’t be the first time a jockey was instructed to get low for the show dough–and a prized Grade 1-placed Classic black type.
The Derby will always be the Derby and 20 horses in one starting gate will be its usual pari-mutuel feast with, who knows, half the field having a legitimate chance? But that’s three months away. Right now, the Belmont’s superstar trifecta is a race that everyone will want to see.