In the theorizing of why no horse has won the Triple Crown since 1978, a theme evolves—horse racing is different now.
Trainers train differently. Horses are bred for different qualities. Fields are bigger. The theories lead to a follow-up question: If the game has changed, shouldn’t its biggest achievement change, too?
Changes are possible—adding more weeks between the races is the most common suggestion. Last month, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club (which runs Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes) discussed ideas for changing the Triple Crown that would reflect the reigning industry standards.
The question may become moot if California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes, and by virtue the Triple Crown, on Saturday. Or maybe not.
Back to the “should” part of the question. We asked four thoroughbred industry followers whether they think the Triple Crown should change.
Alicia Wincze, turfwriter for the Lexington Herald-Leader
“No. Even though the current Triple Crown spacing has only been in place since 1969, altering it would not only take away from the tradition that has been ingrained in race fans but would diminish the prestige of the signature series in the industry.
“The fact only 11 horses have managed to win it has built the Triple Crown up in terms of mystique and appeal. If it is changed and a sweep becomes more common place, the historic implications of pulling off the feat would be watered down with it.”
Eric Mitchell, editor-in-chief of Blood-Horse
“The Triple Crown should not be changed. Yes, there have been only 11 winners, but why does this justify changing the timing between races? The series is tough and it should be tough. It should take an extraordinarily talented horse to win it. It should be noted that we have had 12 horses in a position to win the Triple Crown, which indicates to me that horses today are capable of winning it, they just didn’t have the racing luck to get it done.”
Tom Law, managing editor for thisishorseracing.com and is the former managing editor of Thoroughbred Times
“The Triple Crown should not be changed. Even though it’s been changed many times throughout history— but not since the late 1960s—the current setup is difficult and for good reason. Only the best of the best can sweep the series.
“Horse racing’s greatest attribute is its tradition. I’ve even felt in recent weeks that, given the current leadership (or lack of leadership), that it’s all we have left. Racing does at times feel out of touch and outdated compared to other sports, but perhaps that can be a selling point in today’s ever-changing instant-information culture.
“A proposal to space the races out a month at a time would certainly extend general interest in racing, although it might be a tad too long. That much space in between races would also virtually guarantee a sweep never happening again. Horses that weren’t ready for the Derby and/or Preakness would now have a month longer to prepare. That is a significant amount of time for a young horse.”
Jim Mulvihill, director of media and industry relations for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association
“It’s certainly worth working at. From the NTRA perspective, we’re interested in what’s best for racing. I think when it comes down, we always need to put what’s best for the horses first. It could be a better business decision on top of being better for the horses, which should always be our top priority.”