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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Thursday, May 7, 2020 — A report from NBC network affiliate WBAL in Baltimore, Md., on Wednesday afternoon said the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes would be held on Oct. 3, but the television station later updated its story to say a “potential” October date was being looked at to book the race on NBC.

The update came after a statement from The Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club was posted on Twitter following the WBAL report:

“The Stronach Group/Maryland Jockey Club is aware that a potential date for Preakness 145 has been announced,” the statement read. “At this point, there is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options. Once a date for Preakness 145 has been finalized, an official announcement will be made.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 — This morning we saw a press release from the New York Racing Association promising an announcement regarding the opening of the delayed Belmont Spring/Summer meet and its mile and one-half cornerstone event, the Belmont Stakes.

Presuming a “new normal” return to business, the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in September, the Preakness is the first Saturday of October and with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, et al, set for the first Saturday in November, where the hell does the Belmont Stakes fit in?

Were there talks between the NYRA and Maryland Jockey Club regarding their Triple Crown races? Don’t know and didn’t bother to ask. Bill O’Reilly isn’t the only media operative who tries to avoid spin whenever possible.

Eventually the truth will out; always does. If and when racing resumes in New York, there will be a Belmont. But a “Test of the Champion” depends on other factors.

If it were to come post-Breeders’ Cup, that would mean, at the latest/earliest Thanksgiving weekend–at Aqueduct. There’s precedent for that: Five Belmonts were run at the Big A in the early 1960s.

It’s highly unlikely, although it certainly could be, run a week or two before the Classic but not by horsemen is search of a Classic enchilada; a run vs. older horses for possible Horse of the Year honors. And at what distance?

The Belmont has been run at 12 furlongs since 1926. But the race has also been run at a mile and five furlongs, a mile and three furlongs, a mile and a quarter, and even a mile and an eighth–twice.

Bob Baffert said post-Arkansas Derby that he would consider running one of his established sophomore stars in a pre-Derby Belmont–if the distance were nine furlongs. So there’s that.

We know that if there is a Santa Anita Derby, it will be June 6. If there’s a Haskell, it would be July 18. My guess is that should Authentic win the Santa Anita Derby, the timing of the Haskell Stakes is perfect. Think Baffert’s good in Arkansas? He’s won eight Haskells.

Do you want fries with that Max’s hot dog?

Where this all leaves the Belmont, and the Travers for that matter, is scheduling limbo; not only when, but how far, and exactly where does that land in relation to other major three-year-old events, before or after Derby? That’s what trainers and owners will need to figure out.

A hard lesson seems to be clear: He who hesitates not only can get lost but lose his way entirely. And if you think this 2020 event-scheduling issue is a one-off, maybe horsemen should consult their local scientist before calling the nearest racing office.

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24 Responses

  1. The Triple Crown as we know it is another victim of the coronavirus–not just this year, for good.

    Run the Belmont Stakes once at less than a mile and a half and it will never be run at 12 furlongs again. That it was run at other distances in the distant past is irrelevant.

    Absent its place in the Triple Crown, they might as well call it what it will be, the Peter Pan. But who cares if there are no people in the stands. I doubt NBC will even be interested if it is removed from the other Triple Crown races by three or four months.

    Run the Preakness four weeks after the Derby once and it will never be two weeks again.

    I know there are people who will applaud this. Maybe a new Triple Crown will work. Golf’s grandslam is spread over several months. So is tennis’.

    But this is not the racing world I grew up loving.

    P.S.–I see where they just arranged a stud deal for Charlatan. So we’ll be saying goodbye to him by the end of the year.

  2. I don’t believe whatever happens in 2020 permanently impacts the Triple Crown as we know it. Nothing, including that, is written in stone.

    Remember, I have lobbied for first Saturday in May, Memorial Day and Fourth of July. No one need agree or disagree. THen the only certainty is change, right? So who knows? But it won’t make me crazy however it shakes out.

    But I don’t believe the Belmont of the future won’t revert to a mile and a half. Remember when Wayne Lukas wanted the TC to be, if memory serves, 9, 9-1/2. and 10 furlongs. Now that I would hate.

    NBC will take the Belmont because it’s a classic, has history, and those “classy/entertainment demos. Truth is, TJ, highly likely nothing will be the same ever again. No comparisons at all intended. But this event is 911 on super-designer steroids. It redefines tragedy.

    Right now, feel blessed to have this “distraction.”

  3. In My opinion having the Triple Crown later this year is not that big a deal. Everything is off now. Will we ever go back to the “normal ” Triple Crown ? Probably.All sports have changed over the years. Racing’s biggest fault has been not adapting to the changes in the Information Age.Racing used to have seasons, now it has a few big days. Triple Crown races and the Breeders Cup. Initially, I thought the Breeders Cup was great for the sport. Now I think it hurts the sport more than it helps. When it started most tracks ran a few races and then all of racing was focused on the Breeders Cup. That no longer is the case and a lot of the new races are just money grabs.

  4. Thoroughbred racing will be lucky if the worst setback it suffers in 2020 is an inconsistent or even incomplete Triple Crown series.

    IMO we should be discussing how to make what’s left of the 3YO Division G1 schedule the most meaningful it can be in light of the pandemic and the pandemonium produced by Churchill Downs’ profiteering posture.

    IMO the Belmont Stakes should remain at 12 furlongs regardless of its sequence; whenever and wherever it is run. If Baffert wants another TC, his horse should have to earn it. If it can’t be run in New York, then one of the other G1s should be extended to that distance. Same with the Preakness.

    Still available are 1) Santa Anita Derby, 2) Haskell, 3) Travers, and 4) Pennsylvania Derby.

    I’d like to see the Haskell extended to 1-3/16 m even if the Preakness can be scheduled in advance of the Travers as well.

    I’d prefer that either the Preakness or the Belmont determine who the potential de facto Triple Crown winner could be, but I’d accept any horse who won 3 of the 7 races in succession that included all 3 classic distances as a Triple Crown winner. I’d love to see Santa Anita take advantage of running its Derby in the Fall at 1-1/2 m.

  5. Aaron,

    Pretty much see eye to eye; only constant is change, right? And how about this? Later Triple Crown just might be better for the health and development of the horses. Let’s not any of us forget the horses in this; not suggesting you are, just saying…

    1. Completely agree,a later Triple Crown would be better for the horses. In modern racing,with no handicap division the “late” Triple Crown would probably produce better results going forward. Just go back and look at how many horses never recover from the Triple Crown races.In the old days some major trainers didn’t go to the Derby unless they thought they had a real shot.

      1. True Aaron,

        The one element I didn’t consider when positing on a “Fall Triple Crown,” or at least a later TC, is how breeders and syndicators like the idea. My guess? Not so much.

  6. I,
    I’m with you on Belmont except for the fact that horsemen might not be looking to go 12 furlongs in June lacking the usual timing of the preparation. Also agree that there are other races for BB juggernaut to prep in.

    Don’t think lengthening the Haskell a great idea although it probably would make for a truer running. But don’t think Monmouth would agree; could turn off horsemen who ultimately decide where to run.

    And, off the top, if these three races are run and one horse wins all these races, especially given this deep class, maybe it’s a *Triple Crown. Then so be it; asterisk and all not the worst issue in the game.

    1. JP,
      I have complete confidence in the trainers of stock purchased with the TC in mind to provide adequate preparation for all the owners coveting that trophy.

      The blame for a horse’s failing the “Test of Champions” more often rests at the doorstep of its breeder rather than its trainer.

  7. TTT

    Tom Jicha, it’s my turn to be obsequious, your thoughts are often my thoughts, and I’m not trying to say that what I right below is what you believe, so please don’t get defensive on me; JP does that all the time. Leave the stinkin’ Triple Crown the way it was, and don’t let the leftists destroy a great piece of Americana. Sure, they want to get rid of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, and the Triple Crown. What the hell!

    The Kentucky Derby should have been run on the 1st Saturday in May, but Churchill Downs’ cash cow had to be milked, and so we have to wait until September (maybe). The Preakness should be run on the 16th, and the Belmont on the 6th of June, and Trump should make an Executive Order allowing it to happen. Stop the madness and the hoax. Should this not happen, racing fans around the world should travel, sans masks or other protective gear, to Elmont, New York, and storm the gates of the Big Sandy, for the greatest revolutionary party since Woodstock. I’ll bring Bob Dylan to perform, and give out all my winners. It will be great. Hope to see you there. Leftists are welcome. Leave your pussy hats at home you deranged brain-dead losers.

  8. John, I loathe CD for acting on their own instead of in conjunction with NYRA and Pimlico.

    NYRA is in a tough spot. If they run the race in June 6, as usual, no trainer will want to run a mile and a half without the usual progression as we see in a normal TC year. I know that Tonalist won with only 4 previous starts, longest at a mile and an eighth, but I think he’s an anomaly. Many of the best three year olds only have a few starts, so running 1 1/2 now is not a great option. If the Belmont is run June 6, even at 1 1/8, will Authentic choose it over the SA Derby? I don’t understand why SA chose to conflict with the Belmont. John Shirreffs would love to run in the Belmont, but I can’t tell if his below quote is referencing a shortened Classic or delayed race (beginning of July, say) or what.

    “Oh, yeah, for sure,” Shirreffs said. “If it’s a possibility and everything works out, I wouldn’t want to miss it.”

    I don’t think NYRA will or should delay the Belmont to the Fall in the attempt to keep it at a mile and a half. Assuming it would be run post – Preakness, the race would then conflict with its series of big Fall races….and no trainer is going to want to run that long as a prep for the BC Classic. Isn’t that why they shortened the JCGC?

    1. Pretty much yes, yes and yes, Betsy. I have but one focus, that racing begins at Belmont Park May 22 and CD gets off without a hitch, too.

      And the LA Board of Health needs to be reasonable and allow the racing industry to open and has been done successfully in Florida all winter long…

      1. John, yes! I miss racing, and man, racing at Belmont is soo good…

        I couldn’t agree more about LA – and if they aren’t going to, for whatever dumb reason, then make the decision now so trainers can make plans.

  9. I’m also not a fan of changing the TC, especially making it later in the year; that would remove much of the uniqueness of it, rob it of much of what makes it special. For later developing horses, there is the Travers and big Fall races. The TC is a test of talent, precocity, endurance, etc.. and I think it must remain as is.

  10. I do believe you’re with the majority on this, so you have plenty of company.

    So, let’s flash forward, to 2021 and racing is back on historical scheduled. “Big Hoss” wins the Derby. “Beaten Favorite” comes in 4th. They show up for the Preakness, 18 others either wait for the Belmont or jump off the trail entirely.

    Then everybody jumps on the “Preakness sucks” bandwagon and the debate is renewed and round and round we go. I just want, for now, something that resembles a racing season. If we are left only with strong or logistically-advantaged tracks, so be it.

    Like that GOP congressman said about human life, “they probably were on their last legs, anyway.”

    1. Ah yes. There’s those already “new normal” conditions like the “Preakness skip” along with a wet-track Kentucky Derby to look forward to. At least the rail post position issue is being addressed; hopefully without unintended consequences.

  11. With an October date Preakness would have better chance being run on fast track. Can’t believe how many times it has rained at Pimlico in May. Saw Deputed Testimony splash home at long odds in Eighties. Belmont could be run before BC Classic with owners choosing which one they wanted to go in. If Oscar Barrera had a starter he would run in both…and win! Anybody remember Cinzano? Multiple stakes winner in Peru who was same color as a claimer in last race at Belmont. Ringer romped at 9-1. They figured it out a month or so later as I recall. Happened in the 1970’s, the decade JP calls the greatest ever. Could be right w/Slew, Alydar, Affirmed, Forego, etc.

    1. Correction: Cinzano went off at odds of 57-1 in finale at Belmont. He entered gate as his stablemate, Lebon and won going away. From Uruguay, not Peru. Hey, it was more than forty years ago…

    2. By “etc” you mean Secretariat, too, right? A little more respect, please (insert smiley face here)!

  12. c,
    If memory serves, it was only discovered because some previous connection in Uruguay recognized the horse from a newspaper photo. Didn’t the perpetrator pass away recently?

    The story I like best was the one where the jockey, Sylvester Carmouche (SP?), hid his horse in the fog, and then roared back in after the other horses ran an additional lap. Wish I knew more details.

  13. Carmouche story sounds like Rosie Ruiz hopping on the subway in NYC Marathon (1979). She jumped into race in Boston the next year about a mile from the finish line to win. Both races were invalidated when they figured it out. Carmouche won a lot of races at Evangeline Downs.

  14. C, If it wasn’t Evangeline that was the scene of the “jump-in” crime, guess Delta Downs would be the other alternative–definitely wasn’t FG but was La, And, if memory serves, it was night time.

  15. Kendrick Carmouche is his son and also a good rider. In an interview w/Andy Serling he mentions that his father got hurt badly and retired in 2013. Also said that his wife was his agent so a real family affair. Sylvester Carmouche won a lot of races down in the bayou.

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