Monday, June 1, 2009

Poll of the Millennium: The Triple Crown

With another year's Triple Crown Trail almost over, and a guarantee there will be no crown bestowed this year (thanks to Rachel Alexandra, Belmont Stakes results notwithstanding), it's worth asking readers what they think of the series.

Are you with D. Wayne Lukas in thinking the Belmont should be shortened? Should the races be spaced farther apart to give horses more time to prep in-between? Are you in the camp of a newsgroup friend of mine who would like to see a distance progression like the British Triple Crown -- a mile race, like the Two Thousand Guineas, to kick things off, then perhaps the Derby at 10f and another classic race? Are Pimlico and the Preakness dead and it's a moot point anyway?

I for one like the Triple Crown the way it is. Yes it's hard to attain. It's supposed to be hard.

The three differences I see in the degree of difficulty vs., say, the 1970s, include:

1. Thoroughbreds whose pedigrees carry somewhat more speed than in the past.

2. A 20-horse Kentucky Derby field that is a traffic nightmare and sometimes can rob a favorite of his advantage in talent or led to the occasional freak result. Our last devastatingly good, woulda, coulda, shoulda been-a Triple Crown winner, Spectacular Bid in '79, was part of a 10-horse Derby field.

3. Trainers who don't really know much anymore about how to prep a horse for three races in a period of six Saturdays, because they're more used to running Grade 1 horses three times in six months.

So vote in the poll and leave your comments in this thread. We're open all week, until Belmont afternoon, anyway.

Disclaimer: The Poll of the Millennium isn't necessarily the or the only poll of the entire millennium and such name is not meant to indicate that it is. The management reserves the right to publish as many Polls of the Millennium, as frequently as it deems reasonable and prudent -- or merely entertaining. The blogger, however, does not cast any vote in Poll of the Millennium.


  1. Yes, back in October, I co-wrote on this topic, on Blood-horse check it out, lots of commentary on this issue, both pros/con. Great topic!

  2. How easy we forget: last year only a Belmont mishap prevented us from crowning unsound speed freak Big Brown the next TC winner (unless you think Da'Tara would have outrun him). Granted it was one of the weakest crops ever, but it proved the current TC CAN be won.

    And how stupid does Mr Lukas think the populace is? If we change the distance of the Belmont, make the Crown an eight-week affair or even go so far as to change the races it consists of, that's it, there would never again be a TC sweep. Nobody in his right mind would consider Derby-10f Belmont-Travers sweep a comparable feat.

    The differences: If you replace your #1 with "the continuing effect of a self-destructive breeding industry and #2 with "running on pharmaceuticals: like father, like son" we'd be perfectly in sync.

  3. While there certainly are some "ills" in the breeding industry, there's some wellness, too.

    Birdstone -- a smaller-than-average horse capable of getting a real distance of ground -- is one example. And he's passed the trait along to Mine That Bird, who might win two of the three legs; traditionally the toughest two, stopped from a TC in the Preakness only by a freakish filly.

    I hope that when people see that you can breed to a Birdstone, get a smallish horse, and win a Kentucky Derby -- no 2-year-old that looks like a 4-year-old and no speed-freaks necessary -- the breeding industry will begin to be reshaped.

    Pharmaceuticals are beginning to fall by the wayside, too. Not fast enough, but more movement in the last 12 months than in the previous 12 years.

    And what? ... I've had nearly a dozen readers of this post, but no votes? ... Help a brother out! :-)

  4. The last woulda-coulda-shoulda Triple Crown winner was NOT Spectacular Bid, but Risen Star! If Risen Star had not been entombed in the 1 hole and pinned along the rail for much of the race, he would have caught Winning Colors and Forty-Niner in the stretch and his Preakness and Belmont wins would have been merely icing on the Triple Crown cake!

  5. Good point. I'm not sure Risen Star was awesome on quite the same level as Spectacular Bid, and by losing the Derby his Triple Crown was shot down in Race 1, not Race 3. But he was awfully good.

    In a different vein, if he'd managed that Derby win and a Triple Crown, would the perception of his sire, Secretariat, as a disappointing stallion be entirely different? ... I don't consider Sec a big disappointment at stud, but a fair number of people do.

  6. We also tend to forget that Real Quiet lost by how much? An inch....the system is fine.


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