Triple Crown Needs More Communication

By Tim Capps

With the 2010 Triple Crown now in the record books, it is time for the annual wailing and gnashing of teeth that always follows or starts happening during the five weeks of Triple Crown hoopla.

This year’s wailing has been predictable: The races are too close together; it’s too early in the season for 3-year-olds who, in some instances aren’t yet 3, to be exposed to such rigor; and—saddest of all—the distances of the races need to be altered because the American Thoroughbred of today is no longer up to running a mile and a half, maybe even a mile and a quarter.

The fact we haven’t had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 does not suggest the event is in need of a major overhaul.

It is wise to note that eight of the 11 Triple Crown winners did so while competing against much smaller foal crops than did Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, which speaks volumes about those three.

Zev, in 1923, became the first horse to run in all three “Triple” races and win two of them. Since that time, 41 horses have run in all three and won two of them. Of those, 21 captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and 19 lost in the Belmont (Derby/Preakness winners Burgoo King and Bold Venture did not run in the Belmont due to injury).

Our only suggestion—and it won’t happen—is to limit the Derby field to 14 starters, which would make the Derby less of a “who’s luckiest” contest. Of greater concern is what is happening off the track.

A major issue with the Triple Crown is that the three host tracks are all going in different directions economically, and certainly don’t have much of a dialogue about the event.

Having the Derby and Preakness on NBC while the Belmont was on ABC for the past five years was dysfunctional, and with those contracts having expired it isn’t clear what happens next.

While the Triple Crown isn’t dead, it isn’t healthy, either. Don’t let the failure to communicate destroy a great American sporting tradition.


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