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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scrap the Triple Crown

Get rid of the Triple Crown?  Well in Europe, they have just got rid of the Grand Circuit for older trotters.  The UET  dropped the Grand Circuit in place for the UET Trotting Masters.  Modeled after tennis, the UET Trotting Masters has four Grand Slam races (Prix d' Amerique, Gran Premio delle Lotteria,  Oslo Grand Prix, Elitlopp) and a hundred and one Grade 1 and Grade 2 races which will be used to give the older horses a ranking of which they will publish every Monday with the rankings based on a rolling calendar year.  Each fall at the end of the season, there will be a $500,000 race at Vincennes for the highest ranked trotters.

For those who are curious, here is the current list of the top ten Trotting Masters:

  1. Rapide Lebel-France–2,700 points
  2. Joke Face–Sweden–2,400 points
  3. Ready Cash-France–2,350 points
  4. Brioni-Germany–2,050 points
  5. Roxane Griff-France–2,000 points
  6. Libeccio Grif-Italy–1,600 points
       Lisa America-Italy–1,600 points
  8. Quaker Jet-France–1,.575 points
  9. Mack Grace SM-Italy–1,550 points
10. Commander Crowe-Sweden–1,450 points
      Roi de Lupin-France-1,450 points 

Well, I don't advocate getting rid of the Grand Circuit, but this may be the answer we need for keeping horses racing past their three year old campaign.  Our Grand Circuit is geared towards two and three year olds, but if we offered our own Trotting and Pacing Masters for our older horses similar to the European model being introduced, we can get a series of races for older horses to make up our tour which can be marketed in their local market and there would be rankings based on performance and not subjective voting which can be released weekly.  As a result, there will be horses people can follow and like NASCAR, they can adopt their favorite horse.  Perhaps most importantly, we can scrap the irrelevant Triple Crown which seems to get no attention within and outside of the industry and put the focus on the older horses like we should.

With the cooperation of tracks and horsemen, we would take some money away from two and three year olds and/or allocate more purse funds to older stakes races to make such a tour practical.  The grading of stakes, something the standardbred industry has avoided for a long time would help create stakes with large purses.  After all, wouldn't most tracks like to have their signature races to be Grade 1 events?  Make the Breeders Crown events for aged trotters and pacers the finale for the  year's races; instead of the winner being the horse that was hot at the right time, the champion would be a horse that had been racing well all year.

As much as I loved the Triple Crown races in the 1970s and 1980s, the Triple Crown has lost all relevancy.  Horses avoid the half mile oval to avoid risking a defeat which may hurt their value down the road, horsemen care little about the Triple Crown as it all boils down to money; likely slot money.  Look at the Meadowlands Pace, a race many have said should be in the Triple Crown.  Nominations have been down this year to the point the $800,000 estimated purse (down from $1 million) is in jeopardy.  The point being if we changed the Triple Crown to reflect certain races, I guarantee within two years, at least one of those races will become irrelevant with regard to purses.  Even more importantly, the Triple Crown is not even marketable due to the time between races; people don't have the attention span for it.

So instead of focusing on the glamour of the freshman and sophomore races, the industry should redirect its focus to the older horses.  A Trotting Masters and Pacing Masters will focus attention on our older horses where it really should be focused on in the first place, when horses are matured and performing at their best (granted, assuming they are sound).  Let's develop our own Master series and get our stars racing longer and if they want, they can breed before the start their annual campaign.

Just something to think about.

Are you a breeder who is looking for something different for your trotting mare?  I received an advertisement today for stud owners willing to send their frozen semen over the pond.  Horses like Amour d'Occagnes (nl), Jag de Bellouet, Niky, Opus Viervil, Prince Gédé, Qualmio de Vandel, Saxo de Vandel, Uaukir, and Uniclove.  I am no expert of French racing, but Jag de Bellouet, Niky and Prince Gédé had some pretty good careers.  But all kidding aside, it shows you how small this world really is.

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