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Friday, March 19, 2010

Do We Even Need a Triple Crown?

In this month's edition of Trot magazine, Melissa Keith writes an article regarding the relevancy of the Triple Crown. The main point of the article is how many horses avoid the Crown races on a half mile track; either attempting to avoid the tight turns or drawing an outside post on the half mile oval. In the case of the Yonkers Trot, Yonkers Raceway is further penalized by typically being scheduled before the Hambletonian. With horsemen focusing on the Hambo, many owners and trainers seem to be unwilling to chance racing on a track other than the Meadowlands. Only because of the uniqueness of the Jug does the Little Brown Jug seem to be able to draw the big horses in most years.

Many people argue the Triple Crowns need to be revamped by replacing races like the Cane & Messenger Paces as well as the Yonkers Trot with races such as the North American Cup, Meadowlands Pace, and the Canadian Trotting Derby. I don't believe this is the way to go. First of all, if you are trying to use the Triple Crown to attract interest in the sport, do you think Americans and the media are going to be particularly interested in a race in Canada? Secondly, I don't think cheapening the Crowns by eliminating 'tougher' races (with regards to navigating a particularly configured oval) is the way to go; you are rewarding trainers and owners avoiding the challenge of the half mile oval as well as cheapening the accomplishments of our prior Triple Crown winners. This is not to say there can't be any modification to the Triple Crowns. Being the Cane Pace is at Freehold Raceway and things are precarious there, moving the Cane Pace to a five-eighths or a mile track is a valid modification to the Pacing Triple Crown. On the trotting side, any race before the Hambletonian is bound to be bypassed; moving the Yonkers Trot after the Hambletonian makes complete sense.

But maybe we should just consider eliminating the Triple Crowns altogether. Just because our running cousins have a Triple Crown does not mean we need to have one. Personally, I think awarding points for winning Grand Circuit events and awarding a 'Pacing Crown' or 'Trotting Crown' to the horse(s) who earn the most points competing on the Grand Circuit in three year old events would be more impressive. Rather than coaxing our top tier horses to show up at three different tracks, our best horses would have to show up at more ovals. Don't want to race on a half mile track? You do it at your peril as boycotting the smaller ovals may cost you the Pacing/Trotting Crown. Conversely, by not focusing on a troika of races, owners and trainers may be willing to send their best horses to the smaller ovals as any one race would not be a make or break situation. Being our best horses tend to show up at most of the same races, what is more impressive, a horse that wins three races over the same competition or the horse which outperforms his peers over a series of ten plus races? Maybe eliminating the crown altogether is the right thing to do. It is worth considering.

1 comment:

Scott Jeffreys said...

Exactly how would the average harness sports fan know where the triple crown events are?

Or that there is a pacing and trotting triple crown?

Or what the names of the events are?

Or when they are held?

The Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May, an anchor for the whole thoroughbred sequence. There is one triple crown for thoroughbreds; three events, over five weeks. Attention is focused and sustained for that period.

Take a look at the USTA web site on any given day - do you see the coverage of any triple crown events?

Now, take a look at the DRF.COM web site - not a day passes where the triple crown is not the story from January until June.

So, does harness racing need a triple crown? Taking the average fan's point of view, does harness racing have one now?