Big Brown was supposed to seal the deal. Big Brown was the horse that was going to bring horse racing back to the forefront of the sports world. Then, as you probably know, he had nothing to give as he turned to the back-stretch of the mammoth track at Belmont. After having dominated his competition up to that point (undefeated), Big Brown looked very pedestrian. Not only would the world’s Triple Crown drought continue into its 31st year, but it seems Big Brown’s lack of energy down the stretch has people calling for a change in the Triple Crown. D. Wayne Lukas, who has won 13 Triple Crown races, was very outspoken in this morning’s Lexington Herald Leader,
“We’ve got to short up the Derby to a mile and a eighth, which is what the horses are bred to run,” said Lukas. “Then I’d increase the next two by a 1/16. You’d run the Preakness at a mile and 3/16 and then the Belmont at a mile and a quarter. That’s what we’re breeding out horses for today.”
Hey, I defnitely don’t claim to know anywhere near as much about racing as D. Wayne Lukas does, but I definitely take issue with what he said. The reason that the Triple Crown is so elusive and such a big deal is that only 11 horses have ever achieved the feat. A lot of sports have changed the way they do things, but still seem to work. Basketball added the three-point line, baseball has the DH, football players started wearing helmets and hockey… they changed something, I think. Horse racing is a sport that cannot afford a change like that. Many tracks across the country have put in polytracks or something like it. Luckily, none of the tracks that host Triple Crown races have made the switch.
Part of the mystique of the Triple Crown is that it dates back so many years. Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Triple Crown back in 1919. There was even a 25-year drought from 1948 when Citation won until 1973 when Secretariat blew away the competition. I wasn’t alive back then, but I doubt people were crying out for change in the Triple Crown just because there hadn’t been one for a while. Everyone wants to see a Triple Crown in their lifetime. A generation of people has grown up seeing plenty of almosts, but just because something hasn’t happened, is that reason enough to change something of this historical magnitude?
Maybe the reason people like Lukas want to see a Triple Crown winner is to breathe life in a sport that has been on the decline on the national scale. Perhaps a Triple Crown winner would turn sports media back to covering horse racing except from May and June. Or, maybe it’s because we live in a society which demands instant gratification. People want to see things monumental sports events and they want to see them quickly. Whether it be McGwire and Sosa trying to break Roger Maris’ HR record or hoping the Patriots go undefeated, our society begs to see things that haven’t happened before (or at least in their lifetime).
But, the biggest reason not to change the Triple Crown is that we’ve come so close to seeing one in the last 11 years. Since 1997, 7 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and have gone into the Belmont bidding for a Triple Crown. In 1997, Silver Charm lost by 3/4 of a length to Touch Gold. The next year, Real Quiet was in a dead heat down the stretch with Victory Gallop and ends up losing by a nose. In 2004, Smarty Jones lost to Birdstone by a length. Maybe Barbaro in 2006 could have done the unthinkable?
It just seems there have been enough close calls recently, there’s no need to freak out and make rash decisions. Keep the Triple Crown how it is and how it has always been. Besides, who wanted to see Rick Dutrow be the guy to end the drought?
[ LHL ]