California Chrome's loss in the Belmont has stirred more debate about the future of the Triple Crown.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Steve Coburn has gone home after finally apologizing. Don't expect to hear from him again until he brings another horse to the Kentucky Derby (he’ll soon discover how lucky he was).
California Chrome is mending. The gash on his right front foot must heal and his energy level needs to rebound before we’ll get a firm answer from trainer Art Sherman about when the colt will race again.
The Triple Crown remains unclaimed -- as it has been since Affirmed and jockey Steve Cauthen exited Belmont Park 36 years ago.
Chrome was a bit of a disappointment. Coburn, one of Chrome's owners, acted like a 6-year-old after the Belmont defeat. But that doesn’t mean we should end the discussion about whether the Triple Crown needs to be repaired.
In fact, this is the perfect time to begin the debate. Here are your options:
A.) ALL IN OR ALL OUT -- Call this one the Coburn Proposal. Only horses that run in the Kentucky Derby can run in the Preakness. Only horses that run in the Derby and Preakness can run in the Belmont.
It rewards the horses (and connections) that are committed to the three-race series, which is certainly a daunting challenge. It eliminates the disadvantage of making a Derby/Preakness winner face so many fresher horses over the 1-1/2 mile challenge at the Belmont.
But it also punishes horses that were bumped off the Derby Trial by illness or injury, like Tonalist, the colt who won last Saturday. It would also diminish the Triple Crown achievement because colts like California Chrome, Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones and others all had to face fresh contenders.
Plus, the Belmont is a Classic race that is considered a prime stand-alone prize by many trainers, especially those based in New York.
B.) TRIPLE CROWN POINTS SYSTEM -- A modification of the Coburn Proposal. Just as a point system is used to determine the 20 horses that start in the Derby, a similar plan would be used in the Preakness and Belmont.
The system would be weighted to credit more points to horses that participate in the Derby and Belmont. The field in the final two classics would be limited to the 12 or 14 horses that earned the most points during the spring.
C.) CHANGE THE CALENDAR – Racing would get a two-for-one benefit from this change.
The horses would be required to run three times in nine weeks, not three times in five weeks. The Kentucky Derby would still be parked on the first Saturday in May.
But the Preakness would be bumped back to the first Saturday in June and the Belmont to the first Saturday in July (or on the Fourth of July).
In theory, more Derby horses would race at Pimlico and Belmont because of the extra rest. More fans would embrace the calendar because the First Saturday concept would be easy to remember.
D.) CHANGE THE DISTANCES – Novice horse racing fans always ask one question whenever I start explaining the Triple Crown:
Why is the Preakness shorter than the Derby?
It's a great question. I've heard multiple answers, most of them involving the word that is always prominent in horse racing debates -- tradition.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is hardly a horse-racing novice. He's won 14 Triple Crown races. One of the changes that Lukas has suggested is this one:
Make the Derby 1-1/8 miles, the Preakness 1-¼ miles and the Belmont 1-½ miles Challenge the horses to give you more every time they go to the track.
E.) LIMIT THE KENTUCKY DERBY FIELD TO 14 -- The Derby, not the Preakness nor Belmont, is the race that has stopped many legitimate Triple Crown candidates.
Experienced trainers will tell you they believe the best horse wins the Derby less than 50 percent of the time because the 20-horse field creates traffic problems. Horses get squeezed in the first turn – or stopped down the stretch by walls of tiring runners. A smaller field could solve that.
F). DO NOTHING --It's the Triple Crown. It’s supposed to be a rigorous test. Don't change anything.