05/16/2014 12:52PM

Pimlico seeking change to Triple Crown schedule

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Tom Chuckas, the president of Pimlico, said Friday he will initiate discussions with Churchill Downs and Belmont Park about changing the schedule of the Triple Crown races to allow for more time between races, but not until this year’s Triple Crown has concluded.

The topic of spacing out the Triple Crown is a perennial one, typically bandied about most vigorously in the wake of the Derby, when the field for Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes is set. But Chuckas said he will approach the talks with a new twist – that the races on the undercards of the Triple Crown contests also would benefit from the change.

“If you had the additional spacing, you’d have those horses running at Churchill on the undercard, then coming back for the Preakness undercard, then for Belmont,” Chuckas said.

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The prospect of changing the date of the Derby from the first Saturday in May to any other date is highly unlikely, so any change to the schedule would have to be worked out between Pimlico and the New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park.

Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing, said the association would have no comment on any plans to change the date of the Belmont Stakes.

Chuckas’s intention to talk with Churchill and NYRA about a change in the Triple Crown schedule was first reported by the Blood-Horse.

::2014 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more

Resistance to changing the schedule would come not only from racing purists but from NYRA. The association brought in Panza last year to revamp New York’s racing product, and his push has been to create major racing events. As part of that effort, NYRA put together a Belmont Stakes card that is offering $8 million in purses June 7, up from $3 million last year, making it the second-richest race card on the U.S. calendar behind only the Saturday Breeders’ Cup card.

In addition, Belmont plans to run five graded stakes races on its July 5 card.

Also, complaints about the strength of the fields for the Preakness undercard have to be viewed in the context of the card’s current offerings. The largest purse on the Preakness undercard is $400,000, for the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes. The remainder of the stakes races have purses that top out at $150,000, not exactly big money in an era when racetracks are increasingly putting up rich prizes for stakes horses.

Pimlico is owned by the Stronach Group, a private company controlled by Frank Stronach, who has been willing in the past to unilaterally buck the status quo. Stronach pushed the nonprofit company Oak Tree Racing Association out of his Santa Anita Park, and last year, he supported a plan for his Gulfstream Park in Florida to race head-to-head against Calder Race Course for the first time.

“We’re taking the tack in Maryland to be very cooperative,” Chuckas said when asked if Pimlico would be willing to make a change to the Preakness on its own. “I really don’t want to have to face the prospect of anyone making a unilateral decision.”

Nickm 9 months ago
its 2014, not 1940. things change. we play football indoors, we go 12 and not 15 rounds in a championship fight, pitchers throw 100 pitches, tennis rackets and golf clubs are not just made of wood, goalies wear masks, college basketball has a time clock and the players can now dunk, we have the three point shot, college football will have a championship game, we gamble online, and we legalized weed. things change. the belmont should be the paramount triple crown race because it is not all about speed but also endurance, logistics and real time jockey strategy. its a fabulous race with a lot going on. excuses would now be eliminated with a well rested derby and preakness champion taking on all comers for a race to history. do it. things change and so should the dates for the triple crown. it will be great.
Anonymous 11 months ago
It is fitting that this clown named chuckles came from harness racing. He snaked another guy out of this job about 5 years ago. He is a fool and does not even know all the reasons why. Stronach will fire him when he has the whim to. I am not Anonymous, I am Dr. Fager 132 but DRF makes me Anonymous.
Crystal David 11 months ago
Stupidest idea ever! If you make the triple crown easier to win, it will cease to have meaning! The trainers just need to get over their fear of RACING their RACE horses! If you notice Mr Chuckas, 3 of the top 4 finishers in the Preakness, came from where? That's right - the DERBY!!!! Please NYRA, show more sense than this guy and don't ruin the triple crown!!!
Terry Mak 11 months ago
Meaning gone.....
Terry Mak 11 months ago
It's the same as if they added a fifth major in golf,the records are history.
Walt Gekko 11 months ago
The fact the Derby winner repeated and the second finisher also raced in the Derby (and the third finisher would have also been in the Derby had he made it on points and actually would have raced two weeks ago were it not for a foot bruise) speaks for itself.
not impressed 11 months ago
Give it a break on the spacing. If claiming horses can run 17 times from May through November and run soundly then the GI caliber horses can run 3 races in 5 weeks. It's harder to run 3 races a in week than 3 in 5 weeks.
Ian GW 11 months ago
I admire what Pimlico did with cards. One bad day with weather and second day ton of scratches. I passed on so many races that lost appeal. Same horses were entered like 5 races and don't even think he ran. The Dutrow horse. That kind of dumb stuff no good for racing. The 80% 20% in favor of horsemen hurts the game. If racing was smart and saw and 8% increase in handle, this is the time to capture players. Not sure they care but a lot of changes need to happen even if it means less racing. Start with closing about 50 tracks that have 0 appeal.
Michael La Rosa 11 months ago
What makes the Triple Crown the Triple Crown is the toughness to do it. Sure you're asking a lot for a 3yo to run a 1-1/4mi race then come back in 2 weeks to run 1-3/16ths and top it off at a 1-1/2mi distance. All of this done in 5 weeks. Yes it's hard, yes it's asking a lot of a horse to accomplish. But to do so a horse becomes immortal. His name lives on forever. It is one of the toughest accomplishments in sports and it should remain that way. That is the essence of the triple crown the toughness, the ability to be able to conquer such a feat and in doing so obtain greatness.
Old timer 11 months ago
The sad thing about this whole stupid proposal is that the people running this industry have caused a lowering of the standards for today's thoroughbreds. I know that it was a long time ago, but Citation was a thoroughbred just like the horses of today. Yet he ran a race in Maryland in April; then won the Derby Trial; won the Derby a week later; won the Preakness; then ran in and won the Jersey Derby in between the Preakness and Belmont and then won the Triple Crown. What's that... 6 races in 7 or 8 weeks!