Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
Search for Triple Crown winner goes on
SO THE Classics season has come and gone once again and now we are 35 years without a Triple Crown winner.
And so it is that cries fill the printed page and the airwaves calling for a change in the series that has produced just 11 such winner since the phrase 'Triple Crown' was coined by the late Daily Racing Form scribe Charles Hatton.
It's too difficult a task to sweep the three races - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes - say those who want changes in either the distances of the three races, a change in the intervals between them or both.
Horses are just not as tough as they used to be, they claim. But training methods now call for far fewer races for horses at two and and much longer intervals between races than was the standard not all that far back. None of that has produced a single Triple Crown winner.
They want those changes primarily because they believe a Triple Crown winner can save the sport. Bolster it, yes. Save it? Only temporarily. I do not support such changes - any of them.
Winning the Triple Crown is supposed to be a difficult if not near-impossible feat to accomplish. Again, that is why only 11 such horses have come along. We waited 25 years between Citation in 1948 and Secretariat in 1973, then got Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed the following season. Truth be told, we probably should have had a third consecutive Triple Crown winner in Spectacular Bid in 1979.
And I can think of at least two horses in more recent seasons that should have won the Triple Crown, but were denied that distinction by jockey error. That would be Real Quiet in 1998 and Smarty Jones in 2004.
Now the task is to define the quality of the current Classic crop.
The fact that we had three separate winners of this year's Triple Crown races will be seen by some an an indication of mediocrity.
Perhaps that will prove true over time, but it might be smart to withhold judgement until after the running of the Travers Stakes and Haskell Invitational, the last two times three-year-olds will face one another in major events before taking on their elders.
Then we should probably wait even a bit longer until they have indeed taken on said older runners. There are, after all, some very nice older horses out there this season and here is no need to be in a hurry.
Best yet, all those critics with their tails in a knot over missing out once again on a Triple Crown winner won't have to wait all that long before rekindling their hopes when the new crop of juveniles get going.
Got to say, those that decide where the annual Breeders' Cup championship races will be run have lost their collective mind by going back to Santa Anita for a third consecutive year in 2014.
Nothing against Santa Anita, but what makes most sense is a rotation of Southern California (Del Mar included), Belmont Park and Churchill Downs.
That would follow more closely the desire of Cup innovator John Gaines, who realiSed that moving the event around a bit was best for its health.
He also knew that making the Cup races a single-day event filled with only the most meaningful of races was best.
By going to Santa Anita again rather than to Churchill Downs where attendance and wagering numbers are always at the top, Breeders' Cup Limited lost a million-dollar tax break in Kentucky and no doubt further disappointed Kentucky-based breeders without whose overwhelming support the event could not survive.