By ART PARKER for BetPTC.com
One day early last week I returned from the office supply store and opened my new 2014 calendar. I get one of those large spiral bound types every year with plenty of writing space. One of the first things I do is note the most important days of the year. Naturally the first days are birthdays of the wife and daughter and, of course, my anniversary. Then comes the serious stuff like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup day.
I did the usual and went to the first Saturday in May and noted it as Derby Day. I went to the third Saturday and noted it as Preakness Day. The phone rang (I was at the office) and I was engaged in a long conversation and then someone was waiting to see me. I put away my new calendar and forgot about finishing the important dates. I left the calendar at the office and while at home that night I decided to go ahead and look up the dates for all of the big races in 2014. I noted the Belmont Stakes as June 14 as I was making notes for other races.
At the office the next morning I recorded all of the big racing days in the new calendar and that’s when it hit me. A Belmont Stakes on June 14 would not be the traditional three weeks from the Preakness but rather four weeks. That makes the time frame of the 2014 Triple Crown races six weeks instead of five weeks. I may be wrong, but I can’t ever remember a six week time frame for the Triple Crown, at least in my lifetime. I started to dig a little deeper and there is conflicting information on the date of the Belmont, but it appears to be on June 7, 2014…as far as I know (I’ve been waiting on NYRA to respond to my email so I would know for sure).
For the moment let’s go with June 7, 2014, which would be the normal three weeks between the race in Baltimore and the race in the Big Apple, which would also hold the traditional five week time frame for the Triple Crown.
But what if we had a four week gap between the Preakness and the Belmont? I always remember racing pundits say that one reason the Triple Crown was hard to achieve is because a horse must win all of the races over a short five-week period. And I agree that the time frame adds to the difficulty.
Will a four week gap provide an advantage to a horse that wins the Derby and the Preakness? The answer is “probably not.” It will certainly help a horse that wins the first two legs since it will provide an extra week of rest, or at least in theory that’s true. On the other hand, I remember a big surprise named Charismatic in 1999. Wayne Lukas ran this horse a bunch and the Hall of Fame trainer insisted that his horse needed to run frequently. And the son of Summer Squall almost won the Triple Crown. Based upon that, it’s up to the horse.
There is another reason I don’t think it will give a prospective Triple Crown winner an advantage. That extra week between races just means more time for more maturing horses to be in the starting gate. The three year olds are like teenagers where a couple of weeks can bring about significant changes.
The extra week between the second and third leg would give more time to promote the Belmont and that would probably be a positive change if we did eventually have a possible Triple Crown winner. But if we do not have a possible Triple Crown winner after the Preakness then the extra time between races may actually be too much down time and hurt the Belmont, more so that usual.
What I would like to see is the Preakness moved back one week, whereby the gap between all of the Triple Crown races would be three weeks. No one can complain about the differential in time between races. It would stretch the overall time of the Triple Crown from five weeks to six weeks, which I believe is good for the equine athletes that compete, and it is also something the marketing people should be able to live with.
Oh yes, the calendar with the big racing days. The only huge days I am missing, as of the moment, are the Arlington Million and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (awaiting word from NYRA). Here is a good start in case you wish to make notes in your calendar.
March 01 – Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita)
March 29 – Dubai World Cup (Dubai)
May 02 – Kentucky Oaks (Churchill)
May 03 – Kentucky Derby (Churchill)
May 17 – Preakness (Pimlico)
June 7 – Belmont (Belmont)
August 16 – Alabama (Saratoga) and Arlington Million (the track says this date is probable)
August 23 – Travers (Saratoga)
August 24 – Pacific Classic (Del Mar)
October 05 – Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (France)
October 31 and November 1 – Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships (Santa Anita)