Monday, June 09, 2014

I agree with California Chrome's owner - but maybe not for the same reasons.

Yes I thought he was out of control after the Belmont but after watching the NBC coverage and promotions leading up to the triple crown races, I actually agree with his opinion, to a degree. I think it might be a good idea to only allow horses who rack up a certain number of points in Kentucky Derby prep races to run in the Preakness and Belmont, as well as the Derby. I would not go as far as saying only the Kentucky Derby starters can run in the Preakness and Belmont but making the other races also fit into the "point system" seems like a great idea to me.

Those who say "why change the triple crown now?" have missed the fact that Churchill Downs has already unilaterally changed it by creating the point system for Kentucky Derby eligibility. By the way, this fact is seared into my mind because Churchill Downs refused to include the Illinois Derby in the points system for seemingly childlike punitive reasons - see for details.

I think it would really help racing if we had a set group of horses and their connections to follow throughout the triple crown media coverage. NBC reached a huge audience but sadly we heard mostly about California Chrome and his colorful connections, while many of the other connections are also very entertaining. Perhaps making the point system apply to the triple crown would narrow the possible contenders to the point where media coverage could help us get to know them better and get behind our favorite. It might help create more long term fans of the sport. So in that regard I agree with California Chrome's owner.

My sense is that in the "old days" the triple crown was more about sporting rivalry and less about maximizing a horse's earning potential - so that is another reason I agree with California Chrome's owner. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for Christophe Clemont, a great trainer and an interesting person. I would like to have heard more about him in the NBC coverage but since he was a newcomer to the series he was mostly overlooked - I'm sure he is fine with that but I'm not. I would have liked to hear more from him and all the other characters in all three races. Clemont may be one of the very few trainers around who can plan out a horse's campaign so carefully. He has done a fabulous job with Tonalist, a very beautiful horse. But to casual fans it's a big letdown to have an unknown horse and connections turn out to be the spoilers.

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