05/20/2014 11:24AM

Jerardi: Triple Crown should change with the times

Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat wins the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on Friday at Pimlico.

The Kentucky Derby is not moving from the first Saturday in May. The Belmont Stakes obviously could move from its Saturday date in early June, but New York Racing Association officials might not want to move it. Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas has made it clear that he would like to move the Preakness farther back from the Derby and change the spacing between the Triple Crown races.

Once upon a time, I was opposed. I changed my mind a few years ago. The whole sport has changed dramatically in the last decade. Horses don’t race as much. The very top-class horses almost never run back in two weeks, except from the Derby to the Preakness. Top-class horses do not run three times in five weeks except during the sport’s most important event.

So, the argument in favor of the status quo is that the spacing between races has changed in every other circumstance but can’t be changed in the Triple Crown because of tradition and honoring the horses who won it the old way. I do understand the argument. It is not irrational. I just think it is unrealistic, given how much the very nature of the game has changed.

In the last 20 years, we certainly have had horses who ran well enough to have won the Triple Crown. Smarty Jones, Real Quiet, Afleet Alex, and Silver Charm certainly did. I am not sure that the spacing beat them as much as circumstances and luck.

Still, I would not be opposed to a schedule that holds Triple Crown races on the first Saturday in May, the first Saturday in June, and the first Saturday in July.

“The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years,” Chuckas said. “It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it. But this idea is not just for the Triple Crown races. We have an obligation to the public to put our best racing on the table when the world is watching, and we are not doing that.

“We could promote a Woodford-Dixie-Manhattan series for older turf stars and a Triple Crown filly series with the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, and Acorn. All those things are possible, but it is going to demand a collaborative effort between the parties to make this happen.”

I think Chuckas is right. Still, if it stays the way it is, and I am thinking NYRA will decide that, I would not complain. And I definitely will be there no matter when they run the races.

Ben’s Cat to Penn National next

The second annual Penn Mile will be the featured race May 31 at Penn National, but when you have a supporting feature like the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup and a star like Ben’s Cat to run in it, you have a night to anticipate.

That was Ben’s Cat winning his 21st stakes race just before the Black-Eyed Susan last Friday at Pimlico. It was his third win in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. The 8-year-old, trained by Maryland legend King Leatherbury, needs just $32,010 to hit $2 million in career earnings.

In the 2013 Governor’s Cup, Ben’s Cat was nearly pushed to the outer rail of the grass course and still managed to close to be third. With a reasonable trip, Ben’s Cat is always the one to beat.

“He’s been the same over the past five years,” Leatherbury said. “I criticize myself taking so much for granted. I expect to win. He’s spoiling me ... We say it every year: He’s better than ever. How long can we say that? He’s 8. How long can he keep going like this? Nine? Ten? Eleven? It’s hard to believe. He’s a remarkable, amazing horse.”

Nice bet

Tim Lanning might not have been willing to bet $50,000 of his own money on California Chrome to win the Preakness. But when the grand prize winner of Xpressbet’s $50,000 Preakness Big Bet Sweepstakes had to determine where to place the free $50,000 win bet, he made the correct choice.

With no downside, he had a chance to win $75,000 if the 1-2 favorite won the Preakness. California Chrome did his part, and Lanning got the money.

j More than 1 year ago
The schedule of the Triple Crown should not change. Any change would take away the established method of measure the top 3yo horses in the land, that CAN WIN THE THREE JEWELS RACES IN 5 WEEKS. Spacing the races only will endorse what lazy trainers and horses are turned to. Racing horses are athletes that are supposed to gallop and train every day, like CC does, and not stay in the stables resting as is claimed now by the lazy trainers. Stamina and speed does not show once every one or two months. If the horse trains, it develops his natural strength and abilities. Take the human marathon runner: 5 malnourished guys, from Africa, determined to be the best in the world, then they train for such a dream. They train year round, running land and mountains, in the heat and in the cold, and when gets to the marathon, THEY ARE THE WINNERS, leaving far behind all super nourished and underachievers athletes that were based in a "scientific method" of super foods and cutting corners in the training, alleging that stamina would take them to the victory, ending up being losers that barely can make it to the end of the race. Can we see any similarity in the horse races? If horses in the KD do not have the power and strength to run the Preakness, they should stay out of it. Rarely more than 10 horses run the Preakness. Nobody wants to see a horse that takes a month to come back from "exhaustion" of running ONE race, to be the champ. It is historically known that takes 11 days to a horse be completely reestablished from a race, so, why extend that period to 30 days? Is it easier for a trainer to exercise a horse once a week? YES, IT IS! Is it easier just have a horse ready for a race once a month instead of twice? YES, IT IS! He is still making the same money and having half the effort, and the horse is deteriorating in the barn. MUSCLES NEED EXERCISE IN ORDER TO STAY IN TOP SHAPE. There should have no change in the TRIPLE CROWN SCHEDULE.
Stewart Winograd More than 1 year ago
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness regularly draw crowds of 100,000+, and if there is a Triple Crown hopeful in the Belmont, that's a huge day of racing too. Meanwhile, most days at the track you can shoot a cannonball through the stands and not hit anybody. The Triple Crown is one of the few parts of horse racing that ain't broken. No need to fix it.
mikey More than 1 year ago
It is the Skip Aways, the Alyshebas, the Spectacular Bids that raced for more than half a dozen races that kept this industry in the headlines.....great thoroughbreds that kept on racing....but this industry does not get it and never will.....instead they keep kicking the drug can down the road and kept shortening races to accomodate the mediocrity in breeding....
mikey More than 1 year ago
But since we do not breed for the great thoroughbreds anymore, the popularity of this sport continue to decline.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
all geldings,and you dild not mention cigar who was a dud in the breeding shed,but i agree with you, ask caual sports fan who was the last triple crown winner or what races make up the triple crown and he wont know the answer. i remember when the biggest race of the year was the marlboro cup,that faded
mikey More than 1 year ago
A triple crown winner is not going to increase the interest of this sport. It will have a small blip but that's about it. Today, the talkingheads have no clue why this industry became so popular decades ago. Sure the competition for gambling dollars is not as intense as it is today but it is not the gambling part of this industry that made it popular. It is the great thoroughbreds. Yes, interest in the triple crown as part of it but IT IS THE HANDICAP THOROUGHBREDS THAT RACED FOR YEARS AND KEPT THE INDUSTRY IN THE HEADLINES!! it is the Kelsos, Foregos, John Henrys who ran in then prestigious races such as the BIG CAP TO THE HANDICAP TRIPLE that now is nothing more than faded memories.......
mikey More than 1 year ago
Even if CC wins the triple crown against mediocre horses, how is he going to attract new serious fans when he would be out to stud and there will be no follow through to make him a "star" and be in the headlines.
Aaron Wilson More than 1 year ago
Make the triple crown for 4 year olds instead of fragile and still growing 3 year olds. Haven't we seen enough 2 and 3 yr old colts rushed then knocked off the trail with injuries.
Mark Dawson More than 1 year ago
Lengthening the spacing will make it HARDER!! Now you are asking a horse to qualify prepare for the Derby for many months, then win the Derby, then remain at the top of your game all the way through to July??? Talk about a recipe for injuries..... thats a LONG time for a horse to be in heavy training...
Surasak More than 1 year ago
Well, to be fair all horses qualified to run in KD limited to 20 which is the first leg of TC. The second leg should be limited to only horses that participated in first leg, and the 3rd leg of TC should be limited to only horse that participated in first and second leg.
Mike R More than 1 year ago
I believe Big Brown would have been the Triple Crown winner in a walkover if your criteria were in place, *steroids included.
Bryan Horn More than 1 year ago
I doubt Social Inclusion runs. There is a very good shot Chrome could have to wire the field to win. It'll be him, Samraat and Tonalist out front and w/ 2 NY jockeys going against Espinoza, Chrome needs to be ready. If the jocks recognize the slower fractions being set, they could gang up on Chrome which could make for a wild finish. Gonna be tough to win from too far back this year. I think it's a 2 horse race between Tonalist and Chrome; Samraat's a nice long-shot play; ROC, Curve, Wicked: someone will be closing hard too.