After the Derby Drama, It’s Time to Rethink the Triple Crown Calendar

by May 18, 2023Sports0 comments

The Kentucky Derby after-party has been lowered to a desk (or solid) for one. The Preakness, the second one leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, can be contested Saturday with only a unmarried horse transferring directly to Baltimore from Louisville: Derby winner Mage.

That’s it, that’s the checklist. The shortest checklist since sooner than the Korean War.

It’s the primary time in 75 years that just one Derby starter has entered the Preakness. In 1948, Citation received the Triple Crown partly through scaring off virtually the entire pageant sooner than it even started. He confronted simply 5 different horses within the first leg, 3 others in the second one leg and 7 within the Belmont.

Today, the loss of carryover from Derby to Preakness says as a lot concerning the anachronistic Triple Crown time table because it does anything. Modern thoroughbreds don’t race each and every two weeks, which is the requirement right here if horses need to run in each. If Mage’s connections didn’t have an lively Triple Crown bid, they most likely wouldn’t be in Baltimore, both. (And even that wasn’t sufficient to get 2022 fluke Derby winner Rich Strike to go into the Preakness.)

The spacing between Mage’s 4 occupation races previous to this one: 4 weeks, 4 weeks and 5 weeks. Of the 8 Preakness entrants, none has ever raced on fewer than 3 weeks’ relaxation. Other than Mage, the typical time elapsed for the opposite seven Preakness horses since their remaining race can be 34 days on Saturday.

Mage, who received at Churchill Downs, is the one Kentucky Derby entrant participating within the Preakness. 

Julio Cortez/AP

Perhaps this loss of carryover from Derby to Preakness is an exception, however even then it’s no longer a lot of 1. It’s now common for horses that run within the Derby to skip the Preakness and level towards the Belmont in June—if no longer later in the summertime. Still, horse racing continues to hang to its historical calendar, although its spring 3-year-old stars are not conditioned in a fashion to stick to it.

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The structure I’ve lengthy preferred is preserving the Derby at the first Saturday in May, working the Preakness at the first Saturday in June (or Memorial Day weekend) after which the Belmont at the Fourth of July. The Fourth is a sports activities broadcast desolate tract, when the one competitions are scorching dog-eating contests and midseason baseball video games.

Some have broached a fair wider spacing between races.

“I did see a structure offered, on Twitter or one thing, the place they ran the Derby in May, after which in July, ran the Preakness, after which in October, you ran the Belmont,” mentioned Hall of Fame teacher Shug McGaughey, who may have 15–1 shot Perform within the Preakness. “I didn’t suppose that was once that unhealthy of an concept. I don’t know if it was once one thing I’d vote for or no longer. But in the event that they got here up with it, I don’t suppose I’d combat it an excessive amount of. But I’m a traditionalist. I hate to peer them stay converting a large number of various things. But it’s other occasions now.”

Anything that runs into soccer season dangers being neglected utterly through a mainstream target market, in order that turns out like too lengthy a Triple Crown season. But it not must be condensed to 3 races in 5 weeks. That’s begging for mass defections through Derby horses.

And frankly, there already had been sufficient of the ones sooner than the Run for the Roses on May 6. Aspiring Derby entrant Wild On Ice needed to be euthanized after a coaching damage, and 5 Derby horses scratched the week of the race—probably the most since 1936. That integrated the race-day sidelining of preferred Forte through a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarian because of what was once characterised as a minor factor together with his proper entrance leg.

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Forte at first seemed headed to the Preakness to tackle Mage, a horse Forte had already crushed two times this 12 months, however that was once halted through safeguards towards working an unsound horse. The KHRC and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) have laws that sideline horses who’re put at the vet checklist for soundness issues for 14 days, and then they will have to produce a enough exercise and a destructive blood pattern to go back to racing.

So perhaps we’ll see Forte in New York for the Belmont June tenth. Maybe no longer. Without him, the choice of horses taking over Mage lacks a lot gravitas—however there’s a teacher of top intrigue at the grounds at Pimlico Race Course.

Bob Baffert is again. The maximum achieved teacher within the recreation was once banned from the 2022 Triple Crown after a succession of race-day drugs violations for his horses, and Churchill Downs tacked on a second-year suspension preserving him out of the Derby. But he’s loose to contest this Preakness with National Treasure, the 4–1 3rd selection within the morning line.

“They simply hung me out to dry,” Baffert advised The Athletic this week, pronouncing he was once unfairly singled out and penalized in what was once an extended and sour dispute with Churchill Downs. There is a few sympathy inside of racing for Baffert, but additionally many that imagine he were given what he deserved.

The presence of Baffert, rising from a cloud of controversy, combines with the absence of such a lot of Derby horses after a spring of tragedy and attrition to shape a microcosm of the game’s problems.

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Seven horses died at Churchill Downs from April 27–May 6. An 8th was once euthanized at the observe in entrance of a grandstand of horrified Mother’s Day spectators after breaking down May 14. With that grim backdrop, plus ongoing controversies about drugs and a dwindling core of 3-year-old standouts, this Preakness is extra about what’s flawed with horse racing than what’s proper.

Mage may no longer have so much to triumph over in relation to pageant Saturday, however the Kentucky Derby champion has vital paintings to do to rewrite the destructive narrative of this Triple Crown marketing campaign.


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