The Triple Crown is grueling, consisting of three races in five weeks.
First, it’s the Kentucky Derby at a length of 10 furlongs, or 1¼ miles, at the Churchill Downs.
The second jewel in the crown is two weeks later at the Preakness Stakes, a 1 3/16-mile race held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Just three weeks later is the Belmont Stakes in New York, the grand finale contested at 1½ mile or 12 furlongs.
All three races are independent and historical in their own right. Only in 1930, New York Times sportswriter Charles Hatton coined the term “Triple Crown” for the series restricted to only three-year-old colts, fillies and geldings — young horses who have just begun their racing career.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day. In my view, trainers should invest in longevity, not the quick gain from a racing series that is physically demanding on both the horses and their connections.
My reasoning is simple. The Triple Crown is too many races with not enough space for rehabilitation, rejuvenation and rest between starts.
Additionally, you are asking these lightly-raced horses to run the classic distance of one-and-a-quarter miles for the very first time.
Two weeks later, asking the same equines to run a faster, shorter distance before asking the same group to run a very long distance at Belmont.
For me, it’s easy. Buck tradition and space these three races out. Run the Kentucky Derby in its usual slot on the first Saturday in May.
Run The Preakness in June and Belmont in July. Instead of jamming these youngsters with three races in five weeks, extend it to three races over three months. This will allow horses to mature gracefully.
Right now, we are asking way too much and damaging this crop of three-year-olds. Quite frankly, it’s an overload for the right to see a Triple Crown winner.
This year’s winner, Rich Strike, an 80-1 long shot at The Kentucky Derby, didn’t compete at Preakness. And Saturday’s Preakness winner, Early Voting, skipped the Derby.
I applaud trainer Rich Strike’s trainer Eric Reed for doing that. Many owners and trainers get into the game for the universal thought of winning the Derby.
After doing so, many fix their gaze on snatching the second jewel with hopes of vying for the Triple Crown. Some owners and trainers put their gains in front of the equine’s health and welfare.
Remember, all of these three-year-old horses are still learning what racing is all about and finding their way around the distances and surfaces.
A thoroughbred is a beautiful, majestic and intelligent animal. They are fragile and run with heart. Let’s revisit the Triple Crown and make changes that will protect these freshman runners and extend their racing careers.
Remember, racing is about the horse, not the wallet or pocketbook. Let’s give these young horses a solid foundation to develop and improve through their understanding of the race game, not ours.
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