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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are Triple Crowns Meaningless?

In standardbred racing, there have been endless discussions regarding the meaningless of the Pacing (Cane, Little Brown Jug, Messenger) and Trotting (Yonkers Trot, Hambletonian, and Kentucky Futurity) Crowns.  Many people argue it is due to some of these races having lost their luster when compared to other races, others argue it is the trainer's hesitancy to race over a half mile track or go multi-heats.

Here is another opinion, Triple Crowns are meaningless, plain and simple, and it doesn't matter what races you were to include in the series.  First of all, with racinos, there are a lot of big money events to contest so you don't need to dance every dance, you can pick and choose.  As for Breeders, it is nice to say you won the Little Brown Jug or Kentucky Futurity, but you go look at sales catalogues and look at the sales, it is the winner of the Hambletonian and Meadowlands Pace which matter in the United States and the North American Cup in Canada.  These are the races any legitimate stallion prospect must aim for and aim for them they do.  Plain and simple, the whole Triple Crown concept, while quaint, is outdated.

And it is not just standardbred racing that suffers from this.  Take a look at the thoroughbreds.  Sure the press and fans are fascinated with the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes), because it keeps fan interest, but the action of horsemen speaks differently.  Of course, the winner of the Kentucky Derby typically moves on through the rest of the series, at least until they lose a race, but it seems to me in the old days more horses raced all the dances in the Triple Crown series.  Now, lose the Derby and there is a good chance you are out of the Preakness to either wait for the rest of the horses in the Belmont or to dance in other dances.  You have plenty of horses who skip the Derby all together and wait for the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes and like with the harness racing, the key to syndication success is the Kentucky Derby, winners of the other legs are also rans in the syndication sweepstakes.

 For sure the use of medication in race horses, has weakened the thoroughbred (and they thought it was only in standardbred racing) resiliency making it harder to compete in three races over six weeks, but the plain and simple truth is with racino money and opportunities elsewhere, the thoroughbred Triple Crown seems to have suffered a similar fate as our Pacing and Trotting Triple Crowns.

The sad truth is any Triple Crown is a relic of a time when racing horses was more of a sporting thing to do and not big business.  As I look into my crystal ball, my guess is we are about five years from seeing the thoroughbred industry going through the same soul searching the standardbred industry is going through now.  It's never easy to see tradition die. 

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