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Welcome to a new feature of this blog, where I will offer my two cents on topics both locally and nationally on a regular basis. I'm open to debate, so if you have thoughts of your own, post them in the comments below or tweet them @WMML1230.
Issue 1: Chrome Dome
California Chrome is like other horses we've seen come and go through the years. The American public watches as they make their way through the Kentucky Derby, become the heavy favorite for the Preakness, and when they win, we wonder if this horse will be the one to end the drought.
We saw it with Funny Cide. With Big Brown. With Real Quiet. Even I'll Have Another before he was scratched from the Belmont and ultimately retired from racing.
California Chrome fought hard throughout the race. But when encouraged to give that extra kick to take the lead, he had nothing to offer and finished in a dead heat for fourth. Part of that could be fatigue from the grueling stretch of three races in five weeks, but it also could be Victor Espinoza's inexperience with the long surface that is Belmont Park.
Especially when California Chrome was forced five-wide through the final turn.
But Calfornia Chrome's result continues, and perhaps adds fuel, the debate on whether or not racing officials need to restructure the Triple Crown so that it's better suited for today's horses. Thoroughbred horses these days do not regularly race fewer than 3 to 4 weeks in between races, and horses aren't bred to race longer distances like they used to.
It'd be very hard to find any of the Triple Crown distances in any Racing Secretary's condition book. While the 1-1/4 mile distance of the Kentucky Derby is more common, you usually only see that distance used in stakes competition opposed to in allowance conditioning. The Preakness is an uncommon distance of 1-3/16 miles, and most tracks shy away from the Belmont's 1-1/2 mile run.
One of the biggest calls for changes in the Triple Crown is to change the spacing between races. While the Triple Crown hasn't always been a 5 week spectacle -- in fact, only three have won the current configuration, the three who won the Triple Crown in the 1970's. But a longer Triple Crown could lower the casual fan's interest in the series, bringing them with a feeling of "who cares" by the time the horses enter the gate for the Belmont.
This isn't even getting into the debate about what horses should be allowed to run in the Preakness or the Belmont, an issue that was raised when Steve Coburn complained post-race about the presence of fresher horses who hadn't raced in either the Preakness or the Kentucky Derby.
As long as these are stakes races, and not invitation-only, you really cannot force horses and their owners who are interested in racing one race of the three out of running. Of the things that have changed with the times in horse racing, the allowing of fresher horses to run in the other legs of the Triple Crown isn't one of them. Even Sir Barton had to face fresher legs when he made his way to the Belmont to complete the first ever Triple Crown sweep.
To change that rule would be to dilute the product, and to manufacture Triple Crown wins. It wouldn't do horse racing a service. And winning the Triple Crown would have less significance because Racing Secretaries made it easier for horses to win all three legs.
This whole argument reminds me about the feat that City Zip pulled off in 2000, when he completed the Saratoga Juvenile Triple. City Zip won the Sanford, the Saratoga Special and the Hopeful in a span of only 37 days.
Unfortunately, City Zip finished 9th in the Florida Derby, thus bringing his Triple Crown path to an end. City Zip won four of his five starts at Saratoga, and was in the money for all five.
It would be nice to see Saratoga Race Course, and the New York Racing Association honor that by naming a race in his honor. Preferably a 2 year old or 3 year old race, because that's when he excelled at Saratoga.
NEXT ISSUE: The New York Rangers are hanging by a very thin thread, one that might be snapped when Game 4 is played on Wednesday. But unless you have cable, you're not going to see it.