Haskin's Belmont Report: Why the Crown is Harder Now

After 34 years and 11 failures, this is the year the Triple Crown will be conquered…right? It’s so close you can taste it. Unfortunately, the taste hasn’t lasted very long, quickly dissipating somewhere between the quarter pole and eighth pole of the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Well, once again, the tantalizing taste has returned. We are so close the adrenaline is already pumping. You can visualize it happening and can even project the feelings of euphoria that will encompass you when it does. You convince yourself I’ll Have Another is the one that the racing gods, or whatever divine powers in which you choose to believe, have decreed to be the chosen one.

Generations of racing fans have never seen racing’s ultimate quest achieved. Many weren’t even born the last time it was done. But like most other quests, the longing for something often turns out to be more stimulating than actually achieving it.
If I’ll Have Another does stamp his name in the history books, what will become of future horses attempting to sweep the Crown? Will anyone care? Will the novelty and historical significance be gone in this quick-fix and move-on society?

Those thoughts are way too deep right now. In this moment, everyone wants it badly and racing needs it badly, as temporary a tonic as it may be.

But after so many failures, the question must be asked: Is I’ll Have Another, or any other horse these days, equipped to handle the Belmont Stakes, which has gone through a metamorphosis in recent years, making it tougher to win than it was decades ago?

I’ll Have Another looks as equipped as any other horse we’ve seen since Spectacular Bid. He has the temperament, the pedigree, the class, the versatility, and the tactical speed to excel over Belmont’s grueling 1 1⁄2 miles.

So, why the question mark? Simple, because the entire nature of the Belmont Stakes has changed as has the entire nature of training 3-year-olds. Because we have so many late-developing 3-year-olds and so many trainers looking to salvage something out of the Triple Crown, the concept of competition has changed. Whereas during the Triple Crown decades ago the Belmont Stakes was mainly a coronation for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who pretty much faced small fields consisting mainly of horses he’d already beaten, today’s Derby and Preakness winner must face a large field consisting of a number of fresh faces and horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but skipped the Preakness. Add to the number of legitimate contenders those that run just for the sake of running and you have two major obstacles—fresh, talented horses and a cluttered field, often consisting of several no-hopers with little or no stakes experience.

To demonstrate the dramatic change in the Belmont Stakes, the 11 Triple Crown winners faced 42 opponents in the Belmont, while the 11 Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winners since Affirmed who failed in the final leg of the Triple Crown faced 92 opponents in the Belmont.

Not a single Triple Crown winner faced more than seven opponents in the Belmont. But of the 11 failed attempts, five of them had fields of 10 horses or more, and only three had fields of less than nine.

Of the so-called spoilers, only three ran in the first two legs of the Triple Crown (Victory Gallop, Easy Goer, and Bet Twice, who among them had five seconds and a third in the first two legs), four ran in only one leg of the Triple Crown, and four did not run in any of the previous Triple Crown races.

So, it is apparent that the Belmont Stakes has become much more of an obstacle than it was in the past. Citation could get away with stumbling at the start. Whirlaway, a stone closer, could get away with being closer to the pace in a four-horse field. Secretariat could get away with running his first six furlongs in 1:094⁄5 in a five-horse field. Affirmed, with only four opponents, could get away with turning the Belmont into a virtual match race with the only horse (Alydar) that stood in his way of a Triple Crown sweep. Count Fleet, facing only two opponents, could get away with opening a 12-length lead after three-quarters. War Admiral could get away with being fractious in the gate while facing six rivals. Omaha, facing only four opponents, could get away with being shuffled back after the break. When Sir Barton defeated two opponents, there was no such thing as the Triple Crown.

As great as most of those horses were, it would have been interesting to see if they had gotten away with all that in fields of 10 to 12, consisting mainly of classy, fresh horses pointing just for this race.

I’ll Have Another will be facing a large field that figures to include fresh grade I winners from the Derby, Union Rags and Dullahan, both of whom had bad trips; and up-and-coming stars such as Paynter, who is coming off posting a 106 Beyer Speed Figure, and the powerful stretch runner Street Life, a fast-closing third in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II).

Many feel today’s Thoroughbred cannot handle three grueling races at three different tracks at three different distances in the span of only five weeks. There is nothing to substantiate such a claim, however. It’s not as if many of the horses trying for a Triple Crown sweep, like Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Smarty Jones, and Charismatic, didn’t run winning races in the Belmont. It’s not as if horses such as Easy Goer, Arts and Letters, Afleet Alex, Risen Star, Point Given, and Tabasco Cat, just to name a few, didn’t get better throughout the Triple Crown, with all but Easy Goer winning the final two legs.

Some say the winning Triple Crown is more difficult now because today’s Thoroughbreds are more fragile than those of yesterday. That really doesn’t hold water either. While it may be true to a degree, it only takes one horse to sweep the three races, and surely not every horse in the country is too fragile to put together three top efforts in five weeks. Are horses trained too conservatively because they are not able to handle racing or are horses not able to handle racing because they are trained too conservatively. If horses require five and six weeks now between races, why have eight of the last 15 Kentucky Derby winners been able to come back in two weeks and win the Preakness, and in many cases run better races than they did in the Derby?

Another obstacle that often goes unnoticed is Belmont Park itself. Going 1 1⁄2 miles, most jockeys don’t how to ride there and most horses don’t know to run there. Compared to other American racetracks, Belmont is a freak, designed by sportsmen to emulate the sweeping race courses of Europe. Despite the Belmont distance and the physical nature of the track, tactical speed is still a horse’s most dangerous weapon. Settling into a steady rhythm and relaxing are imperative. Getting hung wide on the turn of no return normally spells disaster. Occasionally, it can be done by a true stayer in an inferior field, but that’s only on rare occasions.

Compared to most of the Derby and Preakness winners since Affirmed who have to failed to sweep the Triple Crown, I’ll Have Another may have the best credentials because none of the Belmont’s obstacles should bother him. He has the tactical speed, he can settle comfortably wherever Mario Gutierrez wants him, he’s bred to get the 1 1⁄2 miles, and he has the right temperament and constitution. Stabled at Belmont for three weeks, he will be familiar with the surface. Gutierrez must also familiarize himself with the track and should take as many mounts as possible. With Gutierrez coming from bullring and Quarter Horse tracks, Belmont will be a rude awakening, even with him having ridden so well at Churchill Downs and Pimlico. But so far, he has adjusted and adapted to everything put before him.

I’ll Have Another will be the fourth Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner since Affirmed to attempt a Triple Crown sweep. And Affirmed also ran in the Santa Anita Derby, so that has been the best prep race to at least get a horse this far. The Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) produced two such horses. And remember, two of those Santa Anita Derby runners, Real Quiet and Silver Charm, came the closest to sweeping the Triple Crown, losing the Belmont by a nose and three-quarters of a length, respectively.

One aspect of preparing a horse for the Triple Crown that has changed is how to get started. It is interesting to note that seven of the last eight Triple Crown winners began their 3-year-old campaign in sprints. Whirlaway, in fact, made his first five starts at 3 in sprint races. The belief back then was that it was best to sharpen a horse before sending him two turns. Running two turns off a layoff early in the year can often be too taxing on a young horse and does not leave sufficient room for improvement as the distances stretch out. That could be one of the reasons that many of our horses run their best Beyer Speed Figures early as 3-year-olds and never duplicate them.

But all the comparisons of Triple Crown winners and near Triple Crown winners mean very little and are merely fodder for conversation. What we’ve learned over the past three decades is that there is no blueprint on how to win the Triple Crown, and the campaigns of the greats of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’70s bear no resemblance to modern-day racing. And we can safely say the Belmont Stakes then and the Belmont Stakes now are worlds apart.

The only conclusion that can be made in regard to the race as the final leg of the Triple Crown is that it was a lot easier to win it back then. That is why it’s worth the wait until we find a horse worthy enough to conquer all three races. One thing is for sure—whoever finally succeeds will have earned it.


Leave a Comment:


Great fodder for conversation, Steve. In respect to I'll Have Another, it's such an assest that the sentimental favorite has the breeding, the disposition and the jockey to win the yes.

Yes, I've visualized it a hundred times. With so many fans rooting for him, maybe we can help Mario get him across the wire in front!

03 Jun 2012 8:48 PM

THANK YOU MR HASKIN!!!  You hit the nail right on the head again!  I agree that it is more difficult to win now days which is what gives the fuel to the naysayers in my opinion.  Instead of looking at the facts as you presented them, they want to say "today's Thoroughbred" is too fragile and cannot run 3 races in 5 weeks.  I am firmly of the belief that the reason they seemingly "cant" is because they are not trained properly for it.  And the reason they run every 5-6 weeks or less is because the trainers are overcautious.  Anyone who follows claiming races will see that they run at least once a month and often every two weeks (which is too often in my opinion).  Now if those horses can manage that feat, why are our most well bred animals not capable of at least what are local claimers can do?  I have never read any science to support the naysayers claims and until I do, I will not believe that today's horses are any less than those of the past.    And for those who keep saying horses should not race at two and the triple crown should be delayed....there is evidence that racing at two is actually BETTER for the horses than starting later.  It has been studied and found that horses that did NOT race at two have a higher incidence of injury and breakdowns. The reasons are somewhat technical but it has to do with the strengthening of the bones and muscles at a younger age rather than later....does that sum it up correctly Steve?

03 Jun 2012 8:50 PM

I think what makes this attempt different from the 11 that came before it, is the distance between a horse actually winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. It was a foregone conclusion the the Derby winner would duplicate in the Preakness. Only Big Brown has done so since Afleet Alex won the Preakness after a 3rd in the Derby. I think everyone has simply forgotten how hard it is. Big Brown's trainer certainly did; Much like Spectacular Bid's failed attempt that came after it was simply easy to win the Triple Crown, little did we know. It's only been attempted once since Smarty Jones and I don't think many believed Big Brown was a suitable winner. I'll Have Another has what it takes and unlike Big Brown I think he proved something in the Derby and Preakness, much like Smarty Jones did. And it was that one who really had everyone thinking it was going to happen. I watched Flower Alley chase Afleet Alex down the Oaklawn Park stretch and proceed to run 2nd at Belmont in the Breeders' Cup Classic. So, I am cheering for him. I wished I had known Lava Man was his lead pony when he won the Kentucky Derby, he was one of my favorite horses. He raced Flower Alley at Belmont, so it's a weird twist that he is there to help a Flower Alley colt win the Triple Crown. And yes I think Lava Man actually helps. I'll Have Another would be a suitable winner. I just hope he solidifies that accomplishment with more to come afterwards. Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex never ran again after the Belmont Stakes and had they won the Triple Crown that would have been horribly disappointing. It may be harder that they didn't though because they seemed worthy and talented enough to win plenty more races. Of course, Afleet Alex lost in the first leg but he and Smarty Jones came within a length of winning the Triple Crown and both never raced again. Despite speculation otherwise.

03 Jun 2012 9:09 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

Another great article as usual. I think one reason that there hasn't been a triple crown winner is-partially-breeders started breeding forsales (fast, speed horses for early returns for the buyer) and not for themselves. Thats why there are so many sprint races; longer races have been cut back. The second-is that the horses are more "hot-housed" now--no long works, too much time between races, etc.. Its really sad though. I would like to see the horses race more often, and longer races. The best of luck to I'll Have Another on Saturday. Anita

03 Jun 2012 9:22 PM
marilyn braudrick

Dear Steve,

Well, i'm the person who dreamed Paynter won the "Derby" last February, when his name wa still M.C's Dream".  Well, we still don't know if he will win a "derby" but . . .that dream was so compelling, I need to bring it up. Since then,  he's made his way all the way to the 3rd jewel.  His workouts for the Belmont are very good. If they run him, who knows.  I'll either be a "seer" or a "deer" (in the headlights). I want a triple crown win for our sport, but based on my own experience, I have to remain loyal to the dream of Paynter winning a "derby".  Was the Belmont ever called a "derby" way back in the day????

03 Jun 2012 9:37 PM
Mister Frisky

IHA will have definitely earned this one if it happens.The Belmont is starting to shape up nice.UR and Dullahan are fresh and working great.Paynter and Street Life seem to have the ped to handle the trip.As foolish as this sounds I even think  Optimizer could figure in the outcome.Especially if they finish 2:30 or slower.

03 Jun 2012 9:54 PM

I was only once at Belmont. The taxi man said his car knew the way. People in line at the gate gave us tips and we gave one back (ours won). The grounds were gorgeous, the building handsome and the track--huge and terrifying.  We had some seats up top behind glass but it was another world. We went down to the paddock.  In walked old Kelso ridden by a fellow as big as the horse.  There was Forego, growing a paunch like any old man. And here, two feet away, came John Henry, there for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. We forgot to bet.  John lost, Kelso died the next day. Forego went back to the farm and we came away from a day spent among people who truly loved their horses.  I cant imagine what it would be like, to be there for the Belmont, but I do know one thing: those jocks better do their homework. That is one mighty long stretch.

03 Jun 2012 10:13 PM

  i see paynter bouncing off his recent 106 beyer because i don't think he can maintain that figure for the distance. so that leaves dullahan who needs go over 100 beyer on dirt. i"ll have another can bounce 4 points off his 109 beyer and still win with daylight. just don't let him look at the tote board before the race because he will be the favorite and has yet to win as the favorite. mario needs to turn for home in front and keep i"ll have another busy late because he normally has a target to shoot for late, this time he will be the target. if he wins he wins by 4 lengths.

03 Jun 2012 10:13 PM

Hey Steve, Great article as usual. Here a recent email quote from my buddy "Boots", who witnessed the last triple crown. Use it if you like it. I'll smooth it over with him. "I saw the last Triple Crown in '78 at Belmont. When they show the replay this coming week, watch  as Alydar and Affirmed run eyeball to eyeball for the last mile of the race. I was hanging over the 2nd level at the 1/16th pole. There was a buzz in the crowd that felt like a locust attack. Every hair on your body was standing at attention. People were running to monitors to see who won. But Cauthen's victory celebration after they crossed the wire told everyone Affirmed had won again. I still have the Belmont glass, worth over $100 at one time.   Boots"

We met you and your sidekick Lenny at Santa Anita early in the AM three years ago. Same morning we caught Zenyatta out for a tour of the grounds. Thanks again for your thoroughly entertaining and perceptive journalism. Aataax

03 Jun 2012 10:33 PM
Carry Back

Great article as usual! Only what people forget it is that in '73 people were saying similar things.It took a horse as great as Secretariat to win it then. Although the 70s horse were iron horses compared to now, they were not Citation, etc. And good horses could not do all 3 then too, including Riva who lost the Preakness almost as a fluke, Majestic Prince (of course Arts & Letters was equally special) and Damascus who may have lost due to being nervous due to  the substitute band.

03 Jun 2012 10:36 PM

Steve, what are you saying.  Come on, before 1973, no horse had won the triple crown in 25 years.  Secretariat in the Belmont, it would not have mattered if there had been 10 horses in the field,  Secretariat was going to run his race.    

Really, Sham was responsible for Secretariat winning the Belmont in record time. Sham put the heat on, and Secretariat and his huge heart, decided not to take the path of least resistance; but rather he decided to dance into racing immortality.

03 Jun 2012 11:01 PM
Karen in Indiana

Very interesting article, Steve.

What I thought about when reading your facts about field size is the difference in foal crop sizes now compared to then. There are just more horses running.

And your point about whether horses are more fragile now - look at how many horses have started out running flat races and did better when switched to steeplechasing, a much tougher sport. I'm thinking of McDynamo & Slip Away as examples.

And as for how much time between races now, that seems to be more for the convenience of the trainer, in my opinion. It takes a lot of manpower and effort to get a horse to a race and the best way to maximize profits is to have as few people as possible and still be able to function (that's any business).

03 Jun 2012 11:46 PM

A Triple Crown is difficult for the American thoroughbred because breeders in this country have been breeding for speed for far too many years.  They don't breed stayers because that is not the "fashion."  Everybody wants fast horses.  I think this is, at least partially, due to the number of quarterhorse trainers who have moved up to training thoroughbreds.  Horses who are bred for speed find it almost impossible to win at 1 1/4 miles, 1 3/16 miles, and 1 1/2 miles in five weeks.  Also true is that horses bred for speed who are asked to win the Triple Crown simply don't have the endurance to persevere through such a demanding campaign.  Stayers are simply tougher horses.

04 Jun 2012 12:26 AM

Steve; thank you for listing the many reasons why we have not seen a Triple Crown winner in so long.  I personally think the biggest reason is the large fields, second the "fresh" horses that show up for the Belmont.  I'd like to see the bonus money come back; not so much the $5,000,000 for a TC winner, but the $1,000,000 for the horse with the best placings in all 3 races.  This might provide the motivation for more of the "losing" Derby contenders to also compete in the Preakness and Belmont.

to Marilyn; to my knowlegde the Belmont Stakes has always been exactly that, never a derby.  So if Paynter should win, he still won't be a derby winner.  There are a few more still to run though, so don't give up hope!

04 Jun 2012 2:13 AM
don igme

It's ok Marilyn, go back to sleep and keep dreaming. Hush little baby.

04 Jun 2012 2:18 AM

You're the absolute best, Steve! As always! Completely agree in so many ways! I have "heard" that TB's these days aren't bred the same as years past. Raced the same, trained the same, don't have the heart. So many TB's are sought after because of their "older" lineage. And breeder's are still seeking the same bloodlines. It was 25 years between Citation and Secretariat. As much as I DO NOT want to be...we must be patient again. I feel I'll Have Another can pull this off. And I hope he does for goodness sakes! He's got a great team....something I feel Big Brown did not have...at least in a trainer. I am pulling for this little chesnutt. So unassuming. If he wins, I will bawl. If he doesn't I will cry tears of joy for hid amazing efforts.

04 Jun 2012 3:09 AM

My biggest "dream" vacation is to attend the KY Derby. And win or lose...I am going next year for my 35th birthday. I can only hope that I will attend the year after the first Triple Crown in 34 years. Regardless, I will try to visit Flower Alley, Rachel, and my very favorite, Zenyatta! Let's keep our fingers crossed TB fans. A

Triple Crown will propel us into the mainstream. Right where our TB's should be'

04 Jun 2012 3:29 AM
The Deacon

Excellent points on all areas discussed Steve. I certainly agree with you. I believe that horses are a little more fragile now. Obviously the continued larger fields also make winning a Triple Crown daunting. This field is very interesting, I visualize slow fractions in this race. There is no speed demon like Bodemeister so IHA must stay within striking range. I think he is good enough, as you do but racing luck always seems to play a big part in the outcome. The best horse doesn't always win, sad but true.

I chose to believe that like the first two legs this race will be close. Guiterrez reminds me a little like Steve Cauthen. Here is a young kid, basically a nobody in the jockey world that comes from nowhere trying to accomplish the impossible. Makes for a great story that's for sure. If he does win, I will be very interested on how your next blog will read.

I am hoping that IHA becomes a great horse. If he wins he will stand beside the 11 immortals who preceded him. Interesting that there are 11 TC winners and 11 Belmont failures. Lucky #12 we all hope. If Super Mario just keeps him out of trouble, rides a good tacticle race then he should win. He is the best 3 year old in the land. Every fan in America, coast to coast should be rooting for him.

I know it broke America's heart when Smarty Jones got caught by Birdstone. You could feel the hush from the crowd and from Tom Durkin's call.

Go get em' IHA, and then America can have another!!!!

04 Jun 2012 3:39 AM
Bill Two

I think Anita B. has it right. The old school way of breeding gave way to commercial breeding and the emphasis on precocity and speed.  What we have today is a thoroughbred not nearly as durable as his ancestors.  You also raised an interesting point: trainers no longer start their 3 yr. old prospects in sprints to begin the season. Most of the horses back in the day used a race like the Bay Shore to begin before entering two turn races.  It seemed logical to do that and I'm not sure why they got away from it.

04 Jun 2012 7:30 AM

I totally disagree with this article. The clincher is, the modern horses are not bred for distance, it's not that they have it harder. To say such disparaging things about the great horses that won the triple crown is nonsense. A field of 11 vs. 5 means nothing in a longer race or even a shorter one since there's plenty of room for 11 horses. The people of the past had more restraint about entering their horses where they didn't belong. To say those who failed to reach the triple crown were as good as those that succeeded is absolute heresy. And to say Secretariat wouldn't have done such fast fractions with more horses is total rubbish. And besides, Real Quiet lost by a nose and Affirmed didn't win by much more than that. It's the nature of racing. Why should this writer muck that up and make excuses for today's horses and the upcoming race?

04 Jun 2012 10:07 AM

I can hardly wait until Saturday.  The only thing wrong with the Belmont actually getting here is the sweetness of the anticipation will be gone.

It looks like a heck of a horse race, and while I have been rooting for that big white face of Dullahan all spring, I'm sure the chestnut face with a white stripe of IHA will be even more welcome.

And, if IHA does pull this off, then we have an even rarer "double triple" to look forward to.  Camelot won the 2nd leg of England's Triple Crown on Saturday.  We'll have to wait until September to see if he will take on and win the long St. Leger's.  The last, and only, time both England and the US had Triple Crown winners was 1935.  The blood of both those winners runs in IHA (Bahram through Flower Alley, and Omaha through Nijinsky to IHA's dam, Arch's Gal Edith).  I can't see a line from Camelot to Bahram, but he does trace back to Omaha's sire, Gallant Fox, who was, of course, an American Triple Crown winner himself.

Could be quite a year.

04 Jun 2012 10:23 AM
Don from PA/DE

Enormous Kudos again Steve, wonderful essay!  Although looking ahead to Saturday is what we should be doing, looking at the recent past, Afleet Alex's lose in the KD was the hardest of defeats, especially after his next two wins and an apparent injury from his Preakness win...he was the horse and of course Smarty Jones just amazed us all into belief as well. Let us hope for a fair track, fair weather and a fair race, racing Gods we await you! Don

04 Jun 2012 10:30 AM
Rusty Weisner

I was unsupervised yesterday and had the misfortune of getting away to bet a few races at Belmont.  Boy, was that track speed-favoring.  It's been that way for the meet.

04 Jun 2012 10:48 AM

Steve, great article, especially after reading the NY Times editorial over the weekend.  Could you comment on the effect of Lasix on the Crown?  Also, the IHA team has stated that they use less Lasix than normal. Could that play a role in IHA's faster recovery, etc.?

04 Jun 2012 10:48 AM

It seems to me that back in the 40's and 70's, the racing world and Belmont itself regaled in the possibility of crowning a TC winner.  

Today, the NYRA and Belmont itself seem resistant to the thought of a TC winner, especially one from California.  For shame!  They keep erecting roadblocks.  

And that seems to be another major difference.

04 Jun 2012 10:56 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

This was an excellent perspective on the Belmont Stakes.  I'm in total agreement and appreciate the "food for thought."  In watching old news reels of former Triple Crown champions, it does look like the Belmont was the "easier" race. Having seen several Belmonts with Triple Crowns on the line, I know that is not the case today.  However, I certainly hope I'll Have Another wins.

04 Jun 2012 11:13 AM


Great research, astute analysis and logical conclusion. Kudos to you again.

One other reason for the difficulty could be that pedigree analysis and breeding philosophy has narrowed in quality thus producing more horses closer in their potential for top class performances. In years past the one or two top-of-the-crop colts were a couple notches above the others thus making the Trile Crown sweep easier IMO. Don't you agree?

This year is a case in point: IHA has everything going for him at a mile and a half but so does Union Rags, Street Life, Paynter and Dullahan. I expect Union Rags to make up for previous disappointments with a vengance.

04 Jun 2012 11:13 AM
Fran Loszynski

I watched the ending of Sunday Morning and they showed a video of young colts and fillies romping in a field resting and breathing in the wind on their manes. Really every racehorse deserves the Triple Crown and IHA has showed his prowess and heart but to me the winner of the Triple Crown should have been in 2005, the great Afleet Alex. Good Luck everyone it is going to be an awesome and hope safe race for all.

04 Jun 2012 11:17 AM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

Interesting article!  Would you please comment on whether or not Union Rags has the pedigree and running style to handle and get the Belmont distance to W, P, or S?  I ask this question, because early on you were quite high on him and now his name is not mentioned by anyone except maybe Matz, as a threat to IHA.


04 Jun 2012 11:18 AM

Good points Mr. Haskins but the number one reason it's tougher to win the TC today is because we do not breed those kind of horses anymore. With the cavalry charge in the Derby, even a decent horse can win it. No doubt that I'll Have Another is a very good horse but if those other closers in the Derby got a decent trip, he would have been challenge in the last 16th.

Decades ago, great horses were challenged by other great classic distance horses because the fields were smaller.

Yes, it is true that it is tougher to win the TC but not because the horses are better but because the horses has regressed. Most of the horses that I have another beat were mainly 8 to 9 furlong horses.

The horses we have been breeding today.

Having said that, I hope IHA another win the TC for 2 reason(s).

The industry need to get some publicity and I am curious who would get the bigger stud fee between IHA or Bodemeister.

My bet is across the board on Bodemeister.

04 Jun 2012 11:18 AM
Bill Two

If I'll Have Another has anything left in the tank - and it looks like he does - he shouldn't have too much trouble winning the Belmont. His competition all have major flaws which present major obstacles to winning the race.  Rags would have to seriously outrun his pedigree to be a factor at the Belmont distance.  Dullahan is a deep closer and that isn't the running style that usually wins Belmonts.  Paynter may be the most dangerous of all -even if he's Baffert's second string.  The horse didn't beat much at Pimlico, but his speed will certainly be something that distinguishes him from the pack.  Belmont is more speed favoring than either Churchill or Pimlico and at times this meet it has been absolutely dominant.  I just don't think Paynter is good enough to beat I'll Have Another.  Having said that I really haven't researched his pedigree.  If any horse upsets the favorite it could be him.

04 Jun 2012 12:23 PM
Heidi Carpenter

Insightful article, Steve. I think good old-fashioned bad luck also likely played a role in the inability of the past 11 TC hopefuls to cinch the crown.

I, for one, am not thinking about this Saturday, and am somewhat neutral about it. It's a little hard to be hopeful after after so many failures. What happens, happens!

And "don igme 04"--thanks for the laugh of the morning!!!

04 Jun 2012 12:34 PM
Pedigree Ann

When the Triple Crown was being won in the past, 12f was not an odd or outlandish distance for a dirt race. The wfa JC Gold Cup was 2 miles up to the time it went to Belmont in the mid-1970s, when it became 12f. Aqueduct had the G2 Gallant Fox at 13f and the G3 Display at 2 miles. Races for 3yos like the Dwyer and Hollywood Derby (replaced by the Swaps) had been 10f dirt. And so on.

Without 10f+ races of the top class on the calendar (which are now rare at the NYRA tracks, as well as elsewhere), the incentive to breed 10f+ dirt horses is reduced. One has to hope one breeds a miler who can outclass his competition or that one with a staying turf pedigree will take to the dirt.

04 Jun 2012 12:38 PM
an ole railbird

o.k iam going to make a stab @ educating some of the readers that closest incounters with t.b. horses, has been, when they were allowed to hand feed 1 treats thru the fence. the t.b. breeders have bred to the market. the market has been for the fastest horses, that ran the best races, that put on the best show, that drew the best crowds, that gambled the most money. the result of those breedings are what brings the most money @the sales & maintane some of their value of ran for a claiming price. the products of those breedings are here now & are primarily horses with some sort of speed & capiablitys of running up to a 1 1/8@ near quarter horse fractions. the jockey club regstery has been a closed gene pool for over 100 years. thats another subject for later. horses this day & time have evolved into a different kind animal. horses are more domesticated& more acceptible to training methods. there is nothing any more competive than 2 stud horses that have looked each other in the eye in a couple of races. there for we have an animal that will give it all on the track. all genders of horses experince competiveness but filly ,mares & geldings dont seem to be as apt to reconize individual competion,like stallions do. the point being horses are known to over extend themselves , to the point of exhaustion, & damageing parts of his body, annywhere from his intrernal organs, to the soles of his feet.--- todays new notion, that a horse should only be raced 1 time a month, has resulted in different training methods,in order to be easier on the animals. this has made it look like the breed is failing. the bleeding hearts should educate them selves on what the t.b horse were capible of less than 100years ago.  i call into point what is called" the punitive expedition" mounted on throughbred sired us calavry remount horses, general "black jack pershing" launched the expedition from columbus,new mexico ,after giving ponocho villa a week head start. general black jack, marched his troops 68 miles, before he went into bivwac. the time in which he traveled this distance, proves that he averaged 18 miles an hour. doctors berrys school of horsemanship taught that the average horse walks & 4 miles an hour. that proves that the animals had to go at an extended trotfor 68 miles in the rough, dry desert. he had 3 horses for every 2 troops, & they changed out horses reglarly.@ times when the terrain would allow, they dismounted,  lined up 3 abreast, with a troop in between 2 horses, & would trot beside there mounts. --- i suggest that some of you people new to the horse business, read a little history that wasnt written out of a grand stand educate your selves as to what a t.b horse was invented for.  refferences to read .WARHORSE its the history of the goverment remount program ,invented to produce a constant supply of productive army horses.  throughbred stallions were the base of the whole program. also read the troopers hand book abook that all army personal were required to read. alright im winded gotta shut,& be "an ole railbird"

04 Jun 2012 12:58 PM

TBs today aren't more fragile, they're just trained too conservatively.  Some of the world's best 3-day event horses are off-the-track TBs, and eventing is far more strenuous and taxing than racing,yet those horses do it successfully into their teens.  It's because of the way they are trained.  It's a similar method to what was used on Afleet Alex, and everyone thought it was extremely strange to see him being galloped twice/day, for long distances.  But when he needed to have a screw inserted into one of his legs, the surgeon went through several drill bits trying to penetrate the bone, because it was so dense--that was a result of the training used on him.  Horses--and humans, too--actually get stronger and build stronger bones when worked harder and more often.  It's called interval training, look it up.

04 Jun 2012 1:04 PM

I can't remember ever disagreeing with you before, Steve, but I can't really buy your arguments. Can anyone think the addition of several fresh horses would have kept Secretariat from winning the Belmont? Or Slew or Affirmed? All three went on to confirm their greatness later in their careers.

You make it sound as if winning the TC was easy back in the day, but there was a gap of 25 years between Citation and Secretariat. Many of the same things being said now were being said then: we'll never have another TC winner, it's too tough, etc., and then there were the knocks against Secretariat's pedigree.

Personally, I believe when a horse great enough to win the TC comes along, he'll win it, regardless of field size and fresh challengers. The Racing Gods will take care of it. Maybe IHA is that horse. Guess we'll find out on Saturday! I can't wait.

04 Jun 2012 1:14 PM
Linda in Texas

Alice in Wonderland here - did i miss a day, an article or something?

Chucky betting across the board on

Bodemeister?  I know i am out of the loop usually, but i thought my brain was in the right socket. But i must have missed something. How does one bet on a horse that is not running??

My question was going to be before i read the postings,is why are objections and disqualifications not allowed in the Triple Crown

Races??? I presume scratches are allowed or ordered, but i never hear any objections or disqualifications called.

Forgive me for aloof comments and questions. Inquiring minds want to know.

Thanks Steve. Have a great week.

04 Jun 2012 1:28 PM

Nicely done Steve..I always look forward to reading your thoughts and I do agree with you.I guess it is a dream bringing back a bonus for the horse getting the most points for all three races but wouldn't that be nice?

04 Jun 2012 1:32 PM
Age of Reason

Listen up, racing gods: I'll Have Another has no shot to win the Triple Crown! He is a rank pretender, and there is nothing you all can do to make him win; I will sit back on June 9th and laugh at your gross inability to deliver a Triple Crown winner in the 21st century! #reversepsychology

04 Jun 2012 2:28 PM
Steve Haskin

I'm not quite understanding why some people are bringing up the greatness of Secretariat and Slew and Affirmed. That has absolutely nothing to do with why the Triple Crown is harder to win now. No one is comparing anyone to those three or Citation or War Admiral. Do I actually think Secretariat would have lost the Belmont if there were 12 horses in the race? Of course not. That thought is out of left field. I believe the Belmont is more difficult to win now because of the reasons I gave. But that has nothing at all to do with how great those TC winners were.

04 Jun 2012 2:38 PM

I can't disagree with any of this, and the only grating thing is the apparently obligatory mention, not of "The Kentucky Derby", but "The Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands (tm) !

My Belmont picks for a superfecta, have been for weeks

IHA/Street Life/Dullahan/ ALL

and all other combinations of those

first three plus ALL for 4th.

Street Life is the sleeper at a price, and the 4th horse may well be a BIG price, making it a super worth having.

With Mark Valeski and the Casse horse Stealcase, and also ALPHA out of the race, the scenario gets really exciting.

BTW, the ONLY Belmont I've seen live was the '98 Belmont where Real Quiet got squelched by Victory Gallop. It was a photo finish that seemed to take a full five minutes, maybe because the Stewards were also looking at a possible DQ for Real Quiet, who seemed to bear out and impede VG in the last 20 yards or so.

04 Jun 2012 3:22 PM
Bill Two

Actually, deep closers haven't done badly at all lately in the Belmont: Drosselmeyer and Summer Ice are two that come to mind.  So maybe Dullahan has a better shot than I thought initially??  BTW, what's up with that workout?  Too fast or not?

04 Jun 2012 3:57 PM

Billy Two,

Don't believe the propoganda about Union Rags' pedigree. He's loaded top and bottom with stamina for up to 14 Furlongs buddy. Truth be told, he's royally bred for both speed and stamina and he has the phenotype, stride and running style of a stayer.  Watch and learn my friend.

04 Jun 2012 3:59 PM

and then, there's always the obstacle of the training the modern horse gets between Belmont and Preakness IHA has yet to see one 1.5 mile gallop, much less appropriate speed work as his trainer reverts back to his reputation.

04 Jun 2012 4:11 PM

Linda in Texas or Alice in Wonderland --

You are missing the point, the point I am trying to make is horses are bred for speed today and that is why winning the TC is harder. Horses like Bodemeister (top milers) is what the breeders want. Breeders today do not want horses like IHA, although he does possess some speed.

Maybe, I am saying this the wrong way. Owner/buyers today want to purchase horses like Bodemeister instead of horses like IHA. They want fast ROI and the breeders supply these owners with fast milers.

Mr Haskins -- maybe, what they are saying is we do not breed great ROUTING horses like we used to and I agree. Now, if IHA wins the TC, is he a great routing horse or because he happens just to be a decent (not great) router running against 8-9 furlongs horses. To me, it is a great accomplishments and would ranked him very very good horse. Great? NO, not with the breeding for speed and 8 - 9 furlongs horses.

04 Jun 2012 4:51 PM

I think it comes down to maybe a pin in the hoof or other mishaps,track condition, race riding, not just by the TC Nominee's rider by other jocks looking at the target on his back--just plain luck on the horse feeling good that day.

I suspect IHA will show up and if the stars in order he will win. I fluked a bet on him when paid big loved him in the SA Derby, knocked him to 2nd choice behind Dullahan (who I think is still the one he has to knock off) in the KY Derby but still cashed well. The Preakness I returned to his camp and he has never disappointed and doubt if he will in the Belmont.

He certainly doesn't seem to carry his track around with him winning on different surfaces, like him or not the trainer is top notch, and he shows nothing in his races he can't go another 1/4 mile. Jockey it has always been my claim that 1 length at best and good agents that separates 100 different good riders, it is the horse and racing luck not the rider. (To the comment on Cauthen--he was the hottest thing in racing at the time hardly an unknown despite his age--He was Stevie Wonderboy long before the horse of the same name)

Good for racing if he wins---at this point not for betting---I love the game--that's enough. Hope he wins

04 Jun 2012 5:03 PM

Mr. Haskins, I agree with you completely that the crown is much more difficult to win than it was yesteryear. I have a solution to the problem. If the top 20 money earners, and presumably the best 20 horses in the country were entered into the Kentucky Derby, and were the ONLY horses who could run in the triple crown races, problem would be solved, no more triple crown drought. A horse would be unable to skip the Preakness and join the field at Belmont. If they forfeit the Preakness, they would be ineligible to enter the final leg of the triple crown. No new entries would be accepted for the Preakness or the Belmont. A horse best at a mile and a half would have to jump through the the other hoops first. The 3rd jewel would never again be "stolen" by a fresh pony. The 20 best would all be playing on a level field. It would be fair, and therefore probably boring, but it would end the drought. If I'll Have Another loses, it will be because a fresh horse had a good day, not because IHA is any less terrific, gutsy, or talented. A note on Secretariat, only a fool would deny his greatness, but he wasn't unbeatable, ask Onion. This is horse racing, one never really knows how it will all unfold at the wire. Big Red swept the triple like no other, but it could've been different. It could've been Sham, it could've been a horse like Onion. This is an unpredictable game, the "best" horse doesn't always win.

04 Jun 2012 5:32 PM

Dear Steve,

   Agree with all thoughts. I'm surprised there hasn't been more TC winners based on the fact that they all carry 126 lbs. throughout the series....if it was a progressive handicap format, we'd be lucky to have three TC winners right now!

   I still love Secretariat's 2:24 standard of reference. It's a great basis because the track itself has not changed in many,many years.

   It'll be exciting as hell. IHA should go off at exactly 1/2.

04 Jun 2012 6:02 PM


I love your analysis for 3 reasons:

1. You debunk the myth that thoroughbreds have "become" fragile in 30 years. Darwin would struggle with that "evolution" theory timeline!

2. I'm also tired of the 2nd myth you eliminated: that modern thoroughbred find a few races "grueling." Sure the demands are high. But look up the race record of Australia's Black Caviar to learn how durable the bred "still" is-at least in Oz. She's got 11 Group 1 wins in spite of injury setbacks.

3. You point out that jockeys are far more important in this race-at this distance-at this venue-than they typically are. Hopefully Superior Mario recognizes he has a capable horse-not an invinceable one-and doesn't become the equine Icarus. We can wait awhile before we worry about a "great" label for IHA.

I also think you need to check your math as I believe the 11 Triple Crown winners vanquished 48 opponents, not 42.  

Thank you for not swallowing all the "easy" explanations about how tough it is to win the American Triple Crown. At least we haven't waited since 1970 like our friends in the U.K.

04 Jun 2012 6:03 PM
Jean in Chicago

Linda in TX:  I was confused as well, but I think if you go back and reread that post he was betting that Bodemeister would command a higher stud fee than IHA.

Mary:  Sham pushed Secretariat to records for the Derby and Preakness, Ron Turcotte pushed him in the Belmont because he said he didn't want any possible argument the way there had been after the Preakness.

I agree with everybody who would like more longer races.  If you want short races, go watch Quarter Horses.  Even Standardbreds, while each race is a mile, are putting in several heats to get into the main event.  But I suppose this would require a major change in attitude toward both breeding and training.  If a pinhooker is interested in selling a colt as a 2yr old in training (or younger), he wants one that can run like blazes for a few furlongs before the sales and its up to the buyer to hope he can spot somebody that will mature into a distance horse.

 Isn't there somebody out there with a few zillion dollars to import a Nearco, Ribot or Bull Lea?  Do stallions like Hyperion or Fair Play even exist any more?

04 Jun 2012 7:02 PM
Jean in Chicago

Linda in TX:  Don't forget Dancer's Image 1968 Derby disqualification for testing positive for Bute.  But for years (maybe always) 'everybody' knew that behavior would be overlooked in the Derby that would never be allowed in other races.  Objections are certainly allowed, they just aren't often upheld.  In the Preakness, Gary Stevens said he would have claimed foul for repeated interference if Forty Niner had finished ahead of Winning Colors.  In the 1989 Preakness Pat Day on Easy Goer did claim foul against Sunday Silence, but it was disallowed.

 Maybe the stewards are just reluctant to move down any of the top finishers with such a large audience watching.  It might be viewed as a 'black  eye'  for the sport and, unless it was as blatant as one jockey grabbing another horse's saddle cloth (photos do exist of this), they would have to explain their ruling to people who don't really want to hear about fine details.

04 Jun 2012 8:27 PM

Anita B, if breeders today are just breeding for speed and not stamina, why are all those great stamina laden runners from the past found all through the pedigrees of today's horses?  That is a statement that is said all the time but I can find no basis in fact for it what so ever. And it is funny to me to hear it said that horses from "back then" were the ones with stamina. I have a Blood Horse Silver Anniversary Edition that dates from 1916 to 1940 and guess what they were saying "back then"? That "breeders today are only breeding for speed".  It all just sounds like lip service to me...LOL

04 Jun 2012 8:45 PM
Greg R

 Reading the laments of people who blame the absence of Triple Crown winners on breeding for speed, I'm tempted at first to agree.  In fact, I've often voiced similar complaints. But then I think about what wickedly fast horses the last three TC winners were!!  All three of them outhoofed most of their contemporaries at age two, over short distances.  If they had continued running in sprints later in their careers, all three of them could have been among the best sprinters in the land.  So the whole speed vs. stamina debate is not exactly crystal clear, after all. Some horses that were well known as stayers have thrown many quick types.  And many blazing fast horses have sired or dropped all-day plodders like Drosselmeyer, out of Golden Ballet.  Makes one think of what Wayne Lukas said about a desirable stallion:  "The three most important traits in a sire are speed, speed and speed."  I would paraphrase that as, the three most important traits in a racehorse are sufficient speed early, sufficient speed in the middle and sufficient speed late.  That kind of horse will always be the best bet.  Barbaro, for instance!

05 Jun 2012 12:09 AM


 I love this article.  I've been saying this for years.  It's not that the triple crown winners wouldn't have won with more opponents in the Belmont, but it is an interesting fact that they didn't face more.  In some cases trainers skipped the Belmont when it seemed that trying to beat the Derby/Preakness winner was futile.  This made the fields small.  Today guys love to play the spoiler and a lot more take a shot at a potential TC winner.  Count Fleet and Secretariat are two of my favorite horses of all time, but They scared away the competition.  Who did they beat in the Belmont beside Sham between them?  Count Fleet faced two horses, Secretariat three beside Sham.  Their times showed how great they were and they would have won anyway.  I'm not trying to disparage them, but I'll make a point in a minute.  I do want to note that the most opponents faced in the Belmont by a triple crown winner is 7 shared by Citation and Seattle Slew.  Smarty faced 8 and if Birdstone hadn't been run for second money, he would have won.  In the Belmont, Sir Barton beat 2 horses, Gallant Fox and Whirlaway 3, Omaha 4, War Admiral and Assault 6.  What if Smarty Jones, Real Quiet, and Silver Charm had faced such small fields?  Perhaps the spoilers wouldn't have been there or the races would have been run a little differently.  Maybe they would have won.  And while we wouldn't dispute Secretariat or Count Fleet's greatness, would Omaha or maybe even Whirlaway or Assault have beaten the field Smarty Jones faced?  However, I'm not so much saying the TC winners wouldn't have beaten bigger fields, but that maybe if some of the 2/3s winners had faced smaller fields, they might also have won.  

The other point you made and that was sort of made in an earlier article before the Preakness is that training and race schedules are different.  I think this is key to why we haven't seen a Triple Crown winner in a long time.  I don't buy the idea that the horses are more fragile.  Sunny Jim Fitzimmons said a tired horse is more prone to injury, the idea being that they had to race often to stay in shape so they wouldn't get hurt.  The real reason they're raced so lightly now is nobody wants to risk the payoff in the breeding shed by getting a horse injured.  The thinking is, the fewer races, the less chance of losing the breeding dollars.  But now the horses aren't fit enough to take all three legs.  Most of the great TC winners raced within two weeks of the KD and some ran races between the triple crown races.  The trainers wanted to keep them in racing shape.  I think if IHA wins, we should look at how his training and race schedule has differed from those who made previous attempts.  

 Thanks, as always, for your writing and insights.

05 Jun 2012 2:29 AM

Well as usual another great article you havewritten here. Shame to see the triple crown series come to an end, this year has been the best one in a long time, Mr ONiel has to be given his credit he is sending out a very good pony, and very,very fit. The owner of that horse, IHA is a very good owner. I personelly think that this race is completely in Mario,s hands, really the derby was not that hard a ride, once he got settled after the start, preakness was a supeer easy ride, all he had to do was follow Bodemister,which he did perfectly, but this race is different, Matz and Romans may be outhorsed, but they will not be out jockeyed as the derby, where both horses had jock issues, I believe they will force Mario to have to make a tactiful decision some where along the way, something he has not had to do so far. I do love that IHA though, he absolute great horse, Everyone is trying to get a piece of his action but he is the one who is the big player in that outfit,

05 Jun 2012 9:58 AM

KSweatman: that was a point I brought up last year...once a horse enters the Derby, he must compete, barring injury, in all 3 legs.  No horse can run in any leg unless he ran in the previous leg. And, oddly enough, when horses are first nominated to the KY Derby, it's not called KY Derby nominations...it's called Triple Crown Nominations.

Yoda: I take exception to your use of Black Caviar as an example of stamina.  SHE'S A SPRINTER!  

Jean in Windy City: Wasn't Lonrho slated to stand at stud in the USA...on loan from Australia?  Quite a few American mares have traveled to be bred to such horses as Sea the Stars and Galileo.  So we are getting outbreeding.  And we should not forget our stallions at stud who are very good routers.  I would love to breed a mare to Einstein, Bold Chieftain, or Blame.  Unproven yet...their time will come.

Bill Two(?)...did you mean Belmont winner Summer Bird trained by Tim Ice?

So many are looking forward to the Belmont with great anticipation and the the greatest of expectations.  I'm almost ready to hold my breath until it's all over ....but then...I might miss something.  Go Baby Go...do what so few have been able to accomplish.  I'm simply getting too old to wait any longer.

05 Jun 2012 11:58 AM

In response to some comments:

Yes, the breed is more fragile today due to breeding and/or training.

We are basically breeding the same horse, the horse that you can enter from 6 to 9 furlongs races.

Black Caviar is one example of supposedly a sturdy horse. That is debatable. She runs only 6 furlongs races ON TURF!! Put her in the grueling Cox Plate or Melbourne Cup and she would not last a couple of races but of course she is not bred like the great thoroughbreds Makybe Diva, Phar Lap, Kinston or any of their great stayers. As a matter of fact, Australia had completely stop breeding stayers and mainly breeds 6 furlongs sprinters. Such a shame because I do not even consider 6 furlongs a horse race. But we are no different in our breeding for speed. We do not breed the great routers anymore. I remember not a single Grade 1 race of 6-8 furlongs in the late 60s but we got more today than ever.

Of course we balance that by shortening all the great races in the east such as the Personal Ensign, JCGC, Suburban, Brooklyn. We also eliminated the Malboro Cup and other great routing (thats 10 furlongs or longer) races. We do not have anymore great handicap horses. The handicap horses that Rachel and Havre de Grace ran against in the Woodward was pretty weak but the handicap division has been week for a lot of years.

The industry somehow forgot that it is the handicap division that kept fans interested in racing for the whole year.

In a nutshell, the industry needs to change pretty quick in order to survive.

Being subsidized by their toughest competitor (casinos) will NOT LAST MUCH LONGER. Once the casinos gets their political base in order, they will get rid of the "leeching" racetracks.

That is not an if, that is a when.

05 Jun 2012 12:18 PM

I wear Asic Gel running shoes--I feel more comfortable in them. Does it make me run any faster? No.

Brooks, Nike, New Balance, Adidas, et. all make quality shoes which I am sure would not influence my running time for 1 1/2 miles by a second or even a 1/5 of second given equal conditions, but I wear Asics. No other runner has ever told me I could go faster in another shoe. I met Marty Liquori (lets see if you know famous human runners as well) because he knew my brother---all he said about shoes get a good fit---Mario is a good fit

Why are so many stuck on riders? The horse runs the race. If, and this won't happen, a rider like DeShawn Parker got a top notch agent and he got him into Pletcher's barn as a first call rider---would he all of sudden make the barn cold? Would they lose many race with him and without Javier or Johnny V riding them?

Yes, Belmont is 1 1/2 mile track and a little different--as is every course where someone who rides it regularly will have some advantage. Yes, a truly horrible ride can get a horse beat. That said like my example of DeShawn Parker, Mario was a leading rider for a few years, just not on a "Marque Track" which leads me to believe given a few trips around the oval he is pretty sharp and will figure it out.

It is the horse--one more example--Near the end of two riders fantastic careers and both highly deserved HOF'ers--At one time you would say they were fearless--Chris McCarron and Sandy Hawley as one who was at the sale where Northern Dancer didn't sell with my Dad as a yearling and who saw the Bohemia Stable's star horse run on TV, I watched a few races and neither of these two riders although they still won at a good clip were ever going to dive at an inside hole near the end of their careers. Wide and safe, if you are on the best horse--it really doesn't matter most of the time.

They (Jockeys) are the Generals who plan the battle, not the ones who fight it. Hannabil or Alexander the Great could be the general of your troops and lose if they were using spears against guns.

It's all about the horse

05 Jun 2012 12:23 PM

Oh, Steve! "Secretariat could get away with running his first 6 furlongs in 1:094/5 in a five horse field."

Let me rephrase that: "Secretariat could get away."

Surely you are not suggesting that there were a few horses lurking out of the limelight in the 1970 crop who were capable of setting a new world record had things gone better for them?

Today's thoroughbred gene pool has no new genes in it. All the horses running today got their genes from horses running 100 years ago. While we may have weeded out some of the no-speed type of stamina -- ever notice you can trace Princequillo's stamina through a pedigree like you can trace greying? -- there is still a premium on soundness. It's not the graded stakes that do the winnowing out of the unsound, it's two-year-old training. The 50%+ of TBs that never win a race of any kind do not fail for want of stamina, and they devalue themselves and their parents.

It is a fallacy that old time racers' schedules are a tribute to their soundness. How do you know they were sound? How do you know they weren't unsound and run anyway, in a culture that had never heard the phrase "animal rights"?

Anyone with access to an old ARM should take a look at Bold Ruler's picture. He raced his four-year-old season on ruined forelegs. Forego was unsound. They said they were going to retire him when he came back from a race frankly limping. Buckpasser had repeated quarter tracks. A lot of the techniques that kept the oldtimers going are illegal now. (A lot were then.)

Today's trainer is more likely to know that his horse has sustained a minor injury like a small tendon tear because of the diagnostic devices available, and is less likely to run the horse unsound a) because of a cultural shift and b) because stud choices are based more on one supreme performance and less on a body of work. It pays to nurse the horse along until you are sure it's in shape to deliver the race of its life.

Tens of millions hang in the balance.

05 Jun 2012 7:38 PM
Thoroughbred Bliss

Steve - Fairly simple. Look at the Derby video and what Dullahan was doing easily and quickly at that distance at the wire. I would love to see a Triple Crown winner and I'll Have Another could do it. Couple him with or key him behind Dullahan. Good luck everyone.

05 Jun 2012 9:52 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Marilyn Braudrick

   Dreams are full of metaphors. Maybe The Belmont, since it is for the Triple Crown, represents The Derby as the greatest race. But I hope not !!! I want I'll Have Another to do it. Or maybe your house is going to be painted by a man named Kirby.

06 Jun 2012 9:20 AM
Linda in Texas

Thsnks Chucky, wasn't the young kid in the cereal ad named Chucky? Dr. D. you are the expert.

And thank you Jean in Chicago for the info. Haven't seen you post lately and i have missed you.  

Did not realize you were talking about the stud barn Chucky, my error. And i can understand why Bodemeister would be sought out as he is a big beautiful race horse. Looking at the photo of Bode and 'Another' flying around the first turn i thought at a first glance Zenyatta had been 'snuck' in. Bode is a monster next to I'll Have Another. And i do like him. And i would love to know the mathematics as to why he did not win. I can think up questions, but have no idea how to figure out the answer.

As far as disqualifications go, i am of course aware of bute etc. and other unallowables, but i meant disqualified for running into another horse on purpose over and over,the ganging up by several jockeys to cut one horse off like i feel happened in another TC race this year and slowing or rating on purpose to keep another from proceeding. It bothered me. There are 3 that i am leery of and i won't mention them. I just hope they leave issues home and ride a clean race. I already stated that. I am ducking as i write this, i see the daggers flying! i mentioned no names nor horses connected to them regarding the 3 unpleasant traits. It is not the horse's fault when he is run into the back of another, he would run through a steel vault if his rider directed him to.

Steve, the video with Dale Romans was timely. Me thinks he really finds the "Stakes Barn" a bummer, just like i said before. i like your black cap and shirt, man alive you are color coordinated and a fashion statement just like Our Alex'sBigFan will be in her Cobalt Blue dress.  What did the cap have written on it,anything??? I was hoping you didn't interview Dale Romans with a "Union Rags" cap on.:) I am so anxious about the race that i almost feel like i should not even watch it. I appreciate them all.

And i would at the same time think i had died and gone to Green Pastures should he win.

Good luck and a safe journey to each and every horse, trainer, jockey, owner and all the supporting barn assistants who lovingly devote so much to all of these horses and make them so handsome and powerful and beautiful on the way to the gates!

Give yourselves a hand. And as i say that i choke up. I am entirely too emotional this week and i need to get a grip.

I am no spring chicken Slew,i was 8 years old when Citation won The Triple Crown and remember how delighted my mother was.  But i am hoping to make 97 like my grandpa who fought in The Spanish American War and one of the last Vets to die who did.

And an ole railbird and Deacon, i find you both so calm and knowledgeable in everything you say. Your words to me are like the song a slow flowing river makes.

Steady, soft spoken, never offensive and full of such good racing information.

And Steve, the same thoughts are for you also, you are a real sport and make our days worthwhile every time you write something about this

magnificent sport. You know you are appreciated and so gifted.

Thank you Steve.

06 Jun 2012 5:21 PM
Peggy in California

Linda in Texas,  Thank you for the nice things you have to say and for caring about the people on this blog.  I think that is one of the things (and Dr. D's always funny comments) that sets Steve Haskin's blogs apart from the other ones where people insult each other and say mostly negative things.  I'm anxiously waiting for the race also and hope to see Alex'sBigFan in her beautiful blue dress when they show the live audience.

06 Jun 2012 8:40 PM
Linda in Texas

Peggy in California, thank you very much for your kind words. I enjoy so many who write on this blog who time and time again teach all of us something new.

And i am with you regarding Alex'sBigFan and hope the cameramen realize she is a very famous person to us and show her up close so we can all see her.

Enjoy The Belmont Peggy in California and i hope the horse of your choice wins.


07 Jun 2012 2:20 AM

Linda...I was 5 for Citation, and Arcaro was always my favorite jockey back then.  I keep asking HRTV to do an Inside Information on the only jockey to win 2 Triple Crowns...I hope some day they do.

07 Jun 2012 12:28 PM

You are welcome Linda from Texas --

Just to reaffirm what I meant. Bode will be sought after by breeders/buyers/owners not because he is gorgeous (he is) but because he runs fast miles...That is what owners/buyers wanted for the last 15-20 years....

Bode also lost because he cannot carry that speed past 9 furlongs...

Shackleford, Rachel Alexandra, Quality Road are examples of basically 8-9 furlongs horses....

Although plenty would deny that come up with some excuses but it is fact!

07 Jun 2012 1:33 PM
Teddy Lopez

Hi Steve, great story. I have heard something that you're a kelso fan. Well, I'm the biggest kelso fan in the world and, I think kelso was the greatest racehorse of all-times and, I think you know why, but, I'll tell you why anyway. Kelso beat more great horses and good horses than any other horse of all-times, he won more big races than any other horse of all-times, winning somer of them of few times, like tyhe woodward and, the real unbelievable and, mind boggling one being that in the 87 year history of the jockey gold cup, only 9 horses have ever won it twice and, king kelly did it a crazy 5 times and, did it 5 years in a row! You well know that's a two mile race. he also set the record 3 times doing it and, in the last one breaking his own record! That was after setting a record on dirt only 11 days earlier, which no other horse has ever done before or since! They talk all that stuff about secretariat doing 2:24 flat at belmont and winning by 31 lengths, he was carrying 126 pounds and, he did it on dirt on 2 turns. first of all, the only real competition sec had in that race was sham and, sham broke down. So her took off and, had no traffic at all infront of him to block him anywhere. Have in mind that sec was a big strong horse with long legs, longer legs than kelso who was a small horse who looked like a darn deer and weighed about 900 pounds. Having longer legs means a bigger stride. Oh and , what the hell was 126 pounds to a big strong horse like secretariat, whom Jim Squires and, alot of people say was juiced up on top of that? Now going to kelso, kelso did 2:23 4/5 at the dc international againts the best horses in the world at that time and, he was carrying 126 pounds and, did it on 3 turns. This was on grass. Now, I have spoken to experts all over the country, inc- luding the hall of fame and blood horse and, the daily racing form and, some say grass is faster some say that it depends on the condition of the track for the race. When I asked the ones who say grass is faster, when I asked them how much damn faster, they say about 1 secound. Now if that's true, wouldn't that secound go to hell when you consider kelso did this on 3 turns compared to secs 2 turns? I would think so. Now here it is, they say that year kelso set that record at laurel park the grass was as hard as dirt cause it had rained alot throughout the whole year. He did it in fashion too, beating his younger rival gun bow, who was no slouch! Kelso was 7 years old and, I won't let people forget that this was a small horse who had shorter legs than his greatgrandfather man of war or secretariat. So he must have been covering less ground with his srides but, still look at his timings! The only thing they try to put kelso down for, because hell, he won everything else, is the triple crown. First of all king kelly didn't participate in the triple crown cause he got a late start cause he was hurt, but still he became the first horse to win best 3 year old and not win the triple crown. He did beat horse that had won some of those triple crown races that year! He won something that some say is even harder than that. Kelso is one of only 4 horses to ever win the handicapped triple crown in which he was giving away x amount of weight to other horses. I think there will never be another kelso, they don't even run two miles anymore. Kelso proved it all, like eddie arcaro said 'kelso would have beaten the crap out of citation'. They put kelso in a computor race againts his greatgrandfather man of war and, they had kelso winning by a neck. As far as secretariat, I saw the movie and have the movie and everything. I woould have like to seen him tested with more than 126 pounds, he lost 5 races as it was and, he wasn't giving away any weight to the horses!When prove out beat him, prove out was carrying 6 more pounds than he was. Interesting, prove out has the secound fastest two miles time after the great kelso! Secretariats' people never raced prove out again, some say they avoided him like the plague. Prove out did beat 4 hall of  famers. Sec was beaten by two of allen jerkins horses. Kelso got beaten 3 times by beau purple but mrs. dupont didn't duck him, they finally beat beau purplr the last time. Kelso didn't duck any horse. I use to talk to the late Dick Jenkins who worked with kelso and, he would tell me these wonderful stories about kelso. To sum kelso up when they bought kelso back to belmont cause his so many fans wanted to see the phenomenon again, they had forego with him. Kelso was 26 and forego was 13 and people say kelso still looked as young as forego! He was a small colt who even though he came out of man of war, not many thought wouldf amount to a good horse, never mind the greatest racehorse of all-times. His story isd one for a hell of a movie. Somebody told me, 'man, why havn't they made a movie about him'? Like somebody said 'Once upon a time there was a horse called kelso, buty only once'. Kelsos' biggest fan Teddy.

08 Jun 2012 12:05 AM

Teddy--and you missed the Bohemia Stable moniker--shame on you

08 Jun 2012 1:56 PM

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