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Changing the Triple Crown Schedule

A Case for and Against

By: Chris Pomerleau

To change or not to change that is the question…

Rich Strike with Kentucky Derby Roses

Rich Strike with Kentucky Derby Roses:
Photo Credt: Sara Elbadwi

After the Kentucky Derby there is always a special buzz in the air, especially here in 2022 when we witnessed the improbable (80:1) longshot Rich Strike win Americas most famous horse race. Last week the decision was made by the connections not to run Rich Strike in the Preakness. Understanding that trainers know their horses better than the public, but this still had to be a tough decision to make knowing what is at stake. A part of what makes the Triple Crown so special is the short time between the races at Pimlico and Belmont.

Are the Triple Crown races too close together?


Everything changes over time and traditions need to change as well. The comparison is baseball where years ago pitchers used to pitch multiple times in a week that has seen steadily decline over the decades. Some also blame the breeding for this problem. This is like horse racing where over the years horses have run less and less for a multitude of years and it is not the same as it used to be, and horses could be at greater risk of injury. Also, the Triple Crown races stretched out to 3-months adds longer attention to a sport that needs more fans to survive.


Traditions are the fabric of our society, when you change traditions, you lose what was so special to begin with. Young, developing horses can run in the derby, compete 2 weeks later in the Preakness, and run 3 weeks later in the Belmont. The Belmont and Preakness races have been held longer than the Kentucky Derby dating back to before 1875. The cream always rises to the top, in over 100 plus years there have only been (13) Triple Crown Winners. Yes, it’s difficult but it’s supposed to be.


Is the horse worth more in the breeding shed if he doesn’t run?


Secretariat Statue

Secretariat Statue
Courtesy Of:
Carson ennis/Lowcountry Lens Photography.

For a horse bred for ($7,500) and claimed for ($30,000) he has already exceeded expectations. If he loses badly at this point or is injured any potential breeding money is lost. This game is less about wins and losses but more about how much a horse can make in the breeding shed. What is the monetary incentive to run in the Preakness verse resting and running in the Belmont where he may have a better chance?


Rich Strike can be worth a lot more if he runs in the Preakness and somehow wins again. The risk far outweighs the reward with positive press the two weeks after the derby and potentially a Triple Crown. If you don’t run you can’t win, no one gave Rich Strike a chance in the derby. Imagine if he won the second leg of the Triple Crown.


Should the Triple Crown races be restricted to horses that qualified for the Kentucky Derby?


It’s not fair that other talented horses can sit out a leg of the Triple Crown and enter a well-rested horse rather than a horse that races during the grueling Triple Crown time frame. There has been a lot written about this topic and exhibit A is the 2014 Belmont where California Chrome lost his Triple Crown bid to lightly raced Tonalist leading to co-owner Steve Coburn making his post-race emotional tirade on air. The comparison in sports would be if a mediocre sports team missed the playoffs suddenly could play in the finals.


We should always want to see the best horses and large competitive fields. Limiting who can run has a severe risk to backfire where there would be very small fields in the Preakness and the Derby. Small field sizes impact the betting which is what makes these races so exciting.



American Pharoah

Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah
Photo Credit:
Carson Dennis/Lowcountry Lens Photography

I am on the side of tradition, there is a reason why there have been few Triple Crown winners and those that have won accomplished what only a small group (8%) has done. If the triple crown races were held let’s say a month apart does that prevent a horse from not running?  Some may argue that having 3-months of fanfare brings much needed attention to a dying sport. I do believe there needs to be a big incentive for a horse to run in the Preakness where a bonus is received, and the same for the Belmont.

Winning a Grade 1 premier Triple Crown race is a great accomplishment, but the sport needs to have the best horses compete in all the legs if they are healthy enough to do so. Am I disappointed that Rich Strike is not running in the Preakness, yes as a fan I always want to see the derby winner compete in all three races. The Belmont is always better when there is a potential for a Triple Crown on the line. I will say that the derby trail points maybe should become Triple Crown race points and potentially award lower points to horses finishing beyond 4th place knowing that at some point eligible point horses could gain entry as an alternate. I do not believe it is fair though for a horse that runs in the derby to skip the Preakness and then run in the Belmont.

In a sport that needs desperately needs positive attention Rich Strike accomplished that with his unpredictable victory. I am hoping he makes it to the Belmont and does well there and beyond as he has the potential to bring some new fans to the sport. Just as American Pharoah did for me back in 2015 when I went from casual fan to the passionate horse race fan that I am today.

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