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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Thoughts from a Melt Down

You no doubt have seen or read about California Chrome's part-owner Steve Coburn's tirade regarding how his horse was 'ambushed' by fresh horses and how Tonalist's victory was the 'coward's way' of winning after sitting out the first two legs of the Triple Crown.  With that explosion, not only did horse racing's hope for a Triple Crown winner fail to materialize, the clock turned midnight on the Sport of Kings as not only did their feel good story about a relatively inexpensive horse owned by everyday people going for glory end ugly, the stories regarding drugs and abuse will return front and center to the general public.

Make no mistake, Coburn committed a cardinal sin in the NBC interview immediately after the race in exploding like that.  Instead of the traditional 'we are proud of our horse' or even a terse 'we are disappointed' speech showing good sportsmanship, he showed bitterness which in time he may come to regret (if not already doing so).

The worst thing about his tirade?  He has some valid points, points better delivered in a post-race press conference where they may have been better received and considered.  Instead, his observations may be dismissed by those who could make changes to the Triple Crown.

Coburn is  right.  He will probably never see another Triple Crown for where many horses competed in all three legs of the racing series in the past, some drop out quickly after the Derby and join others who aim just for the Belmont lying in wait, freshened to take on the horse who has raced through the Derby and Preakness.  This has been happening for years but with the thoroughbred now a different animal than it was back in the 1970s for more than one reason, including the ills which all of racing deal with, the chances of competing in all three legs of the crown and having a horse left are greatly reduced.

Changes in the Triple Crown may be needed to see another Triple Crown winner,  Maybe you need to start in the Derby to race in the Belmont.  Better yet, once you drop out of the Triple Crown series, you shouldn't be allowed back into any of the remaining races in the series.  Maybe changing the schedule to race the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont with a month between races is needed.  I'll leave this to those more versed in the thoroughbred game to ponder.

So by now, you are wondering what does this have to do with harness racing?  The thing I found most amazing in the Twitterverse and social media is how many harness racing participants were talking about the sanctity of the Triple Crown; how the rules are the rules and the Triple Crown shouldn't be changed at all.  Yet these are the same people who want to change the pacing and triple Crowns to include different races, want to eliminate heat racing because the breed has changed and so forth.  These standardbred people have such reverence for the thoroughbred Triple Crown yet so little for their own Crowns.

Which is it?  You can't have it both ways and that includes me.  Whereas, I have felt the harness Crowns should remain unchanged, the Belmont Stakes has made me realize if we want to see a trotting or pacing Triple Crown again, changes need to be made; be it different races or the conditions.  We don't need to jettison all of what made harness racing great but we must acknowledge this is not your father's trotter or pacer anymore.  The times are a changin....

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