Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
It’s become an annual column. The stupidity of racing three-year-old horses three times in five weeks at distances they have never run before and, in the case of the Belmont at a mile-and-a-half, a distance they will never run again, is becoming more evident every year.
Once upon a time, horses, even three-year-olds, raced quite frequently. It wasn’t unusual for a horse to race two or three weeks apart. While even in yesteryear three races in five weeks was a difficult grind, it wasn’t absurd.
But that was then. This is now.
WHAT’S AN OWNER OR TRAINER TO DO?
Well, it’s pretty simple. The overwhelming majority of owners and trainers with Triple Crown horses simply don’t race them in all three legs anymore. In fact, the Triple Crown races, whether you like to hear it or not, have become simply a trio of races to shoot for by only one horse – the Kentucky Derby winner. With good horses rarely racing once every four, five or even six weeks, it now seems stupid or even dangerous to race three times in five weeks.
The owners and trainers have spoken loudly by simply walking away from the entry box. Last year, only Derby winner Big Brown and one other horse (Gayego) raced in both the Derby and the Preakness. This year, only Derby winner Mine That Bird and Flying Private are expected to race in all three Triple Crown races. You’d have to count Preakness-winning filly Rachel Alexandra if she decides to go in the Belmont (a foolish mistake if they enter her, it says here) for a grand total of three (the filly won the day before the Derby in the Kentucky Oaks for three-year-old fillies).
The owners and trainers actions (or inactions) speak volumes.
WHAT’S THE SPORT OF RACING TO DO?
Well, there’s actually a simple solution that will help the horses and help the sport. Virtually everybody knows that the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May. A perfect schedule to keep interest up for eight weeks would be the first Saturday in May (the Derby), the first Saturday in June (the Preakness) and the first Saturday in July (the Belmont). Throw in the Travers at Saratoga in late August and you have a fantastic four-race block for the best three-year-olds on the planet – with a reasonable (for the 21st Century) time frame.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
It looks like the problem is tradition. While tradition is to be greatly respected, there has to be a common-sense approach to protect these animals. When Barbaro broke down in the Preakness in 2006, was it because he raced two weeks after the Derby? We’ll never know of course, but he had raced only two times in 13 weeks before the Derby and then two times in 14 days. You get the point.
COMPARE WHAT’S HAPPENED TO PITCHERS IN BASEBALL
For decades, baseball pitchers took the ball wih three days of rest. They would start about 40-41 games a year. Today, and for the last 30 years (at least), pitchers take the ball with four days of rest. They now start about 34-35 games a year.
In addition, the complete game in major league baseball is almost extinct. Once upon a time it was virtually common place. The “tradition” or the “toughness” factor has changed drastically in pitching. If a guy comes out for the eighth inning, his start is sometimes deemed heroic – seriously.
To race a horse three times in five weeks in the 21st Century would be like starting a pitcher every fourth day in the 21st Century. To race a horse at these lengthy distances (especially the Belmont) in the 21st Century would be like making a starting pitcher go nine innings every time he starts in the 21st Century – no matter what.
It’s beyond stupid.
Of course, pitchers can talk and horses (other than Mr. Ed) can’t.
FIX THE TIMING NOW!
Hopefully, the powers-that-be in thoroughbred racing will soon see the obvious – that racing these horses at these distances this frequently long ago became a stupid, dangerous thing. Maybe someone with a brain (and some power) can do something about this glaring problem.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.