Sunday, June 8, 2014

Triple Crown is Supposed to Be Hard

By now we’ve all heard Steve Coburn’s ranting about the Belmont and the Triple Crown.  I’m not going to weigh in if he was right or wrong in reacting the way he did.  This is an emotional game and when you’re that vested in a horse you tend to lose focus and judgment.  Besides, there are a myriad of responses to his ranting already.

My beef comes with all those that are agreeing with him about the “cheaters” and “cowards” that allegedly wait until the Belmont just to try and upset the apple cart; that only those that start in all three races should be able to run in all three races; that if we’re ever going to see a Triple Crown again something has to change.
I guess my first question is a simple one: why?
This is supposed to be hard.  To quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The "hard" is what makes it great.”
Is the goal to just have another Triple Crown winner?  At all costs?  At cheapening the accomplishment?  If you run each race the first Saturday of May, June and July, respectively, doesn’t the Crown lose its luster?
How does it not?
Three races in five weeks, two of which take these 3-year olds further than they ever have gone before – you win those and you’re not merely good; nor are you great; you are legend.  And that’s what a Triple Crown winner should be: legendary.
There is also a lot of hang-wringing about all the “new shooters” in the Belmont that, like I mentioned, are supposedly only in the race to upset the apple cart.  As an owner I can tell you this right now: if I had a graded stakes quality animal that could run all day but either wasn’t ready, or didn’t qualify, for the Derby, I would take my shot at the Belmont.  Not because I wouldn’t want to see the Triple Crown won but because I want MY horse to win a Classic. 
Winning the Belmont comes once in a horse’s life.  A mile and a half is a unique distance in American racing these days and if you can enhance the value of your horse and perhaps take your only chance to win a Classic, don’t you take it?  I tell you right now, I would.
Do you pass on the Belmont if you feel you have a real chance to win it to be a good sport?  No.   To me that is like a baseball team intentionally swinging and missing the last couple of innings of a perfect game just because it’s so rare that you just have to let it happen.  No, you don’t.  The competition; the ability to beat all comers – that’s what makes a legend.
Just because we may have bred ourselves out of being able to produce a Triple Crown winner doesn’t mean that we have to “dumb down” the series to make it attainable.  It means we need to get better.
Don’t change the series, change how you breed for it or train your horse for it.  It’s supposed to be hard.  The hard is what makes it great.

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