The big question coming out of the Preakness is whether or not Rachel Alexandra will start in the Belmont. To some on the scene and watching the race on TV, she seemed very tired in the aftermath of her greatest achievement. She had to be sponged repeatedly to cool her off. This happens to many horses following a hard race, but this horse is something special, so everyone has to be very careful with her going forward. That creates the question as to whether or not she will race at 1 1/2 miles in the "Test Of The Champion" in three weeks, but what if she had more time to get ready for the 141st Belmont Stakes.
I think there are two alternatives to the current Triple Crown schedules that are acceptable to the one we have now. To review that for those of you scoring at home, the Derby is the first Saturday in May, the Preakness is two weeks after that, and the Belmont is three weeks after the Preakness. Why can't you have three weeks between each race? This gives more recovery time after the longest race of their careers (the Derby) and stretches the overall time between the series to six weeks instead of five.
The other alternative is to run each race on the first Saturday of each month. The Derby on the first Saturday in May, the Preakness on the first Saturday in June, and the Belmont on the first Saturday in July. What is the big deal with giving young, fragile horses sufficient recovery time between the most grueling races they will ever run in their careers?
Is it because Secretariat did it that way? Take that tradition stuff and stick it in a sock, folks. Gallant Fox won the Preakness four days BEFORE he won the Derby in 1930. Does that cheapen Secretariat's accomplishment because he didn't do it on the same schedule? Of course not.
Thoroughbreds are not as sturdy as they were in Secretariat's day, just as they weren't as sturdy in Secretariat's day as they were in Gallant Fox's day. The sport's marquee events need to evolve with the breed to give the horses of today an adequate chance to complete the Crown and even more so, a chance to do it in one piece.
Tune in for more tomorrow from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!