Horowitz: The Triple Crown Got It Right And I Hope It Stays This Way - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Horowitz: The Triple Crown Got It Right And I Hope It Stays This Way

Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah, looks back after crossing the finish line to win the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. American Pharoah becomes the 12th Triple Crown winner.

The way the 2020 Triple Crown has come together, albeit unexpectedly because of the effect of COVID-19 on the series, is better for the horses, for the fans, and for the sport of horse racing overall.

Now, if you give me a few seconds to dodge the metaphorical tomatoes currently being hurled my way by some horse racing purists, please allow me to explain.

Having the Triple Crown start later in the year with more time between races is better for the horses.  Three-year-old horses are like adolescents that are still growing and maturing. Determining their legacy and monetary value at that age is the equivalent of having the Little League World Series be the most significant competition in a baseball player's career.

Starting the series in late June instead of early May and then having races in September and October means that the horses will be more physically and mentally equipped for the rigors of racing at the highest level of the sport. The 1 1/8 mile distance for the Belmont is more in line with the speed-favoring skills for which Thoroughbred racehorses are currently being bred.

The fact that owners and trainers are debating whether to target the Santa Anita Derby on June 6 or the Belmont Stakes on June 20 because running in both would be too much is proof that the two weeks between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is not ideal for the horses or the sport in general.

Having the series last three and half months instead of five weeks means that horse racing will get to spend more time in the national sports consciousness.  It also means that the best eligible horses have a better chance of running in all three races, giving them more of a fan following.

Under the traditional format, very few horses run in all three Triple Crown races. We're seeing more horses that never race again after going through the Triple Crown series. Imagine if the best tennis players competed in the French Open but then skipped Wimbledon. Or if the best golfers took part in the Masters but not the U.S. Open and then never golfed again after just one year of competing in Majors.

But, gasp! That's not what Secretariat did. That's not what Seattle Slew did. That's not what Citation did.  The fact is, the Thoroughbred breed and the sports world have changed, and the horse racing community has to learn to be all right with that. Sports adapt based on the evolution of the game and the athletes.  Pitchers today generally don't throw complete games, and somehow baseball fans are fine with that, even though that's not what Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale did. The health of today's pitchers and big-picture success of the sport take precedence to emulating the pitchers of the previous generation.

The 2020 Triple Crown is a product of the crazy times in which we live. However, the silver lining of having the series under a different format this year could actually lead to a golden future for the sport and the horses.

Jonathan Horowitz has announced horse races at 29 tracks over the past 20 years. He is also involved in Thoroughbred aftercare as the president of CANTER USA and announcer of the Thoroughbred Makeover. He is the author of Paulick Report's Thoroughbred Makeover Diaries series about his adventures riding and retraining Cubbie Girl North for the 2020 Makeover.

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