Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Change Is Imminent

The Triple Crown used to be the most prestigious group of races the connections of a Thoroughbred race horse could ever dream of obtaining. In order to win you need not just speed, stamina, and talent but unbreakable will. It used to showcase the brilliance and dominance that one single thoroughbred could display over their peers or heart wrenching , nail biting stretch battles that hit even the most hardened veterans to the core.

The Breeders Cup series was the biggest hit when it was unveiled in 1984. It showcased America’s most dominating horses in each and every division on one day, making it one of racing most premier events. Who will forget the epic battles we saw the likes of Sunday Silence and Easy Goer? How about the courage of Tiznow, or the brilliance of Ghostzapper? These names only appear if you look at one race out of the original eight. If you look through the rest you will see the names of Lure, Goldikova, Ouija Board, Manila, Arazi, Kona Gold….the list goes on and on.

Up until recently, both these events featured not only the best, most talent horses in America, but they constantly reminded us of the strength, power and beauty of the breed and the sport itself. Nowadays both events seemed to have been cheapened and watered down.  Two of the three jewels of the Triple Crown have lost most of their weight. The Kentucky Derby has always allowed a field of 20 starters, but up until the last decade or so did the fields start to really expand in size. No Triple Crown champion ever had to navigate a field of 20 horses and these were the sport’s Iron Horses. Why must the horses nowadays have to negotiate a field so large, that not even one Triple Crown champion had to contend with? The Belmont has become the Derby/Preakness winner’s worst enemy.  It is often a race for longshots and fresh horses and rarely showcases the nation’s leading three year old.

What used to be an unforgettable annual event in the Breeders Cup is slowly yet surely becoming more and more watered down. The addition of the Juvenile Turf races, the Dirt Mile, and Filly and Mare Sprint were not bad additions at all, in fact they gave the divisions that are typically overlooked, a chance to shine. However races like the Turf Sprint, Marathon, and the newly added Juvenile Sprint seem to only cheapen the event.  In my opinion those three races showcase the second stringer of the sport, who were not quite good enough to make it into the premier events like the Mile, Classic or Juvenile.

Racing needs to get back on its feet. Racing needs to start with a blank slate and look at what has done it good and what has watered it down and cheapened it over the year. Then, it needs to take what was good and find a way to combine its good qualities to maximize the potential of this sport. The Triple Crown is racing’s biggest influence in the mainstream media, but because things like the selection process and the 20 horse cavalry charge allowed in the gates, the first jewel becomes nothing more than bumper cars. Why not limit the field to 14 horses and make up a new selection process that allows for the best horses competing that season to run?

The Breeders Cup has come up with some stellar ideas over the years to promote the series, but on the flip side has come up with some pretty stupid ideas as well. The Win and Your In program should be kept and should keep expanding into other countries and continents, so that horses from Europe, Japan, and Australia can also compete. However I would say that these types of races should only be reserved for the major divisions, such as Classic, Turf, Distaff, Juvenile and Sprint. The elimination of the Juvenile Sprint, Turf Sprint and Marathon would also help regain some of the lost luster.

Racing needs to bring its head out of the sand and into the light. The leaders of this sport need to make sure that it is not being cheapened and stand up and fight for what will improve it, rather than let others make decisions that just lead the sport deeper into oblivion. Will change be easy? No, it never is. But it is necessary in order anything, human, business, sports, to continue to thrive.


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Older Comments about Change Is Imminent...

To much competition for the dollar.As far as horses this has been a great decade for some really good ones but if they keep retiring the best 3yos to stud then they have only themselves to blame.
  • DeadHeat · Maybe a rule on that needs to be made. No horse until age five can be bred. If the horse was injured into retirement that would allow them time to recover before breeding. · 2344 days ago
Right on Laura, seems like racing was most prominent in the 70's and 80's in recent memory. Let's find that magic again!!
I agree with you suggestion that the Derby needs to limit the field, 20 horses makes racing luck and post position too important a factor. I didn't like it when the Breeders Cup expanded to two days, for the same reasons you mentioned, diluting the fields, etc. But now I have started to like it, the weekend has become the United States version of Royal Ascot. I would hate to see the Marathon eliminated, we need distance races to reward people who breed for stamina, and I think the Ladies Classic should go back to the American classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.
I agree that 20 horses for the KD is too many, and the selection process should be considered. Let's just be sure it doesn'y end up like the college football BCS system though. I do think that career earnings is a solid system as it rewards both wins and horses that race often. I think that keeping the current system and just cutting the number of entries will put a lot more pressure on owners and trainers to run their horses in larger purse races and possibly eliminate up and coming lightly raced horses like Animal Kingdom. As for the Breeder's Cup, I do agree that adding more races is doing nothing other than flooding the market to "meet consumer demand." It takes away from the prestige that comes with participating in such a limited event.
  • DeadHeat · The cut on entries would put more pressure on, but I would also make the earnings system only include that seasons earnings, not any from when the horse was a juvenile. · 2352 days ago
Agreed on limit and changes for the Derby entries. I do think the BC should have all the races including the JS, TS and Marathon. The better races should be bolstered above them, but why not keep all the racing challenges open to the 2nd teer horses? It's still fun to watch. Just elevate the top horses and races as they should be anyway.
  • DeadHeat · Then add another furlong to the Classic and add back the distance onto other races like the Whitney and Woodward. This way top horses are still competing at longer distances. Right now anything above 10f in America, except for the Belmont is not considered top class. If you add distance to races like the Whitney, Woodward, and Classic the same top Class horses will not neglect to show up just because of an extra furlong. In fact, the added distance will probably only weed out the pretenders that are only milers/9f horses that can't actually dominate at the Classic distance. · 2352 days ago
Sorry, the BC was meant to show off the best this nation had to offer and should be held exclusively for the best. There are undercard races for a reason and if we want like the Marathon and other we should give them the proper undercard status.
I agree on some counts but I think the Breeders' Cup Marathon is extremely important for American racing especially right now. We need to get a focus back towards more distance and stamina based breeding to help build a stronger breed again. The Turf Sprint is a complete waste when you have the Mile. Also I'm worried that the Juvenile Sprint, while highly entertaining to watch I'm sure, will create more problems with Championship voting and also more problems with the Kentucky Derby graded stakes earnings. A juvenile might win at 6 fulongs and earn $250,000 for the win in the Sprint but that doesn't mean they'll be suited for the 1 1/4 miles in the Derby 6 months later.
As for the Kentucky Derby, there have been five races in which there were more than 20 horses. In 1974, when Cannonade won, there was 23 horses. There has been one 22-horse field, and three 21-horse fields. After they ran in 1974, it was decided to cut down the field to a maximum size of 20. It has been that way ever since. As for the BC, yeah, it is getting a bit too much, but, I just stay with the original concept, for the most part, and play the 7 races(juv, juv fillies, sprint, dirt mile, turf mile, long turf, and the classic). The rest I watch with a tad bit less interest.
I do agree about the 20 horse stampede in the Kentucky Derby. That only came about most recently since the start of the 21st century (correct me if I'm wrong on this). Although, going back and looking at the Kentucky Derbies of all eleven Triple Crown winners, War Admiral faced the most competitors being 1 out of 20 horses entered in that year's Kentucky Derby. The shortest field for a Triple Crown winner ever faced in the Kentucky Derby was Citation being 1 out of the 6 entrants. The next largest field was with Omaha (18), and after that was with Assault (17). I, personally, don't like the large field, but out of the eleven Triple Crown winners, only five of them faced ran in the Kentucky Derby with 14+ fields. This includes from largest field to smallest, War Admiral (20), Omaha (18), Assault (17), Gallant Fox (15), and Seattle Slew (15). The other six faced fields smaller than 14. If the large field sizes have always been around since the beginning of the Kentucky Derby (the Triple Crown wasn't called the Triple Crown until after the turn of the 20th century from what I read about the history of the Triple Crown), then I can understand there not being any significant changes on that concept. As far as the history of the selection process goes, I have no idea. I think it does need to be reformed, however. For the Breeders Cup? I definitely understand your opinion on that. I always thought that it seemed like a state-fair carnival when they started doing a two day affair it.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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