Mage and National Treasure, the winners of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness, have a grand total of zero stakes wins between them other than their victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
In fact, each colt is still eligible for a conditions race for non-winners of two races other than maiden or claimer.
I point this out not to denigrate the horses who have won the 2023 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but rather to illustrate how things have changed so drastically over the years that I’ve been following Thoroughbred racing.
When Affirmed and Spectacular Bid swept to victory in the middle jewel at Pimlico in 1978 and 1979, racing was in the midst of a golden age. Horses were horses back then, if you know what I mean.
In stark and stunning contrast to what we see today, those two champions had combined to win a total of 23 stakes races through each horse’s respective victory in the Preakness.
Think about those numbers for a minute. The combined stakes victories for Mage and National Treasure through the Preakness are two. The combined stakes victories for Affirmed and Spectacular Bid through their Preakness victories in consecutive seasons was 23.
It’s not apples to apples, I know. I’m taking the extreme example of comparing Mage and National Treasure to a pair of all-time greats, but still, I shudder to think how the sport has changed for the worse in the 44 years since I watched Spectacular Bid cross the wire first at Old Hilltop.
On the bright side, both Mage and National Treasure are still relatively lightly raced colts, and they could have the talent to go on and do nice things as their careers progress.
Of course, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid went on to do better than nice things after their scores in the middle jewel. To be exact, the pair would go on to add 19 additional stakes wins combined after the Preakness.
Will Mage and National Treasure combine to win 19 stakes races after Saturday’s Preakness? Well, no, of course that won’t happen.
How about seven combined stakes wins for the pair from here out? That is almost certainly wishful thinking.
Given the current trend of racing, I’m sorry to say, it would be a success if both horses won a single stakes race after the Preakness. That’s sad, but that’s where we are in racing and the Triple Crown.
For a myriad of reasons, racing is clearly not what it used to be. I found the running of this year’s Preakness to be further and painful evidence of that fact.
Only seven horses ran in the rich and prestigious race, and only one was willing to go for the early lead. The final result came down to a pair of mega trainers with horses who are far from stellar.
The top two finishers had skipped the Derby, hadn’t won a race this year, and were both well beaten in their previous race. This year’s middle jewel was, in a word, depressing.
Perhaps I am a cranky old dinosaur, and you can take this opinion piece with a grain of salt. Or maybe the truly interesting days of racing are getting farther and farther in the rearview mirror.