Tarnished crown? Horsemen weigh in on altered Triple Crown

Tarnished crown? Horsemen weigh in on altered Triple Crown
Photo: NYRA Photo
Winning the Triple Crown is traditionally the pinnacle of American horse racing. This year, of course, everything is different.

Because of disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, the races are out of order. The Belmont Stakes was shortened from its usual 1 1/2-mile route, which has humbled some of the greatest horses to ever hit the track. It’s all getting started much later than usual, and there are other major races in between Triple Crown events.

It all begs the question of whether a 2020 Triple Crown means as much as it normally would. On a Tuesday media call hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, several top horsemen suggested that it might mean even more this year.

“The naysayers will say, ‘well, you know, you didn’t have the mile and a half, the test of champions,’ ” said Jack Knowlton, co-owner of Tiz the Law, who won the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes. “But I will go back to anybody, and if they watch the Belmont and think that Tiz the Law wouldn’t have won that race at a mile and a half, I would have a big argument with that.”

Knowlton said he thinks the difficulty level of navigating a season that had all its scheduling thrown off by the pandemic should factor in to any discussion of a 2020 Triple Crown’s merit.

“What Barclay Tagg has been able to do to keep this horse on the top of its game for all these many weeks and months,” Knowlton said, “that is really a true test to horsemanship.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, winner of two Triple Crowns, said he couldn’t make a judgment until after the races are completed.

“It’s hard to say until we get all these races run,” Baffert said. “I don’t even think about that. We just go week by week because this world’s changing every day.”

Tom Drury, trainer of Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector, was less reserved when discussing how difficult it would be to win the Triple Crown this year.

“I don’t think there’s any question it’s more impressive,” Drury said. “If Tiz the Law wins all three races, I’ve said it a bunch of times, I think Barclay’s done, that’s an Eclipse Award-winning training job that he’s done with this horse. That’s a tough campaign.”

This weekend and next offer the final points races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, scheduled for Sept. 5. The Preakness, where Tiz the Law could have a chance to seal a Triple Crown, is scheduled for Oct. 3.

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