Triple Crown Depression

Triple Crown Depression

I’m no major racing enthusiast by any means, but I couldn’t help but be cautiously optimistic for a Triple Crown winner this past weekend.  Everybody loves the underdog, and it is hard not to like the story and the people behind California Chrome.

That is until I heard the owner calling the other horses “cowards” and “cheats.”  No doubt you’re aware by now, but in case you’re not familiar with Steve Coburn’s remarks, here’s an article explaining his reaction.

I get it, it would be extremely disappointing.  Hell I was disappointed watching the race, but by the second turn I felt like I wasn’t going to watch history happen… again.


Still, I’m glad everyone ran safely.  Every time I saw pictures of California Chrome I kept thinking back to Charismatic in the 1999 Belmont, and pictured his jockey leaping off after the race and holding Charismatic’s fractured front let.  Now that is heartbreaking.  Stepping on a heel bulb and being a bit tired… well that’s racing.

Now I’m back to the belief that I won’t see a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime.  We may never have one again.  The horses are so evenly matched these days.  Most owners have money to play and everyone tends to breed for speed.  It’s not like the derby is full of one shining star competing against hags.


Talk of changing the rules is interesting to me.  Many suggest lengthening the time between the races, and Coburn rather fervently stated his opinions that horses should have to run in all three races to compete in any of them at all.  To me that’s a bit of an extreme and unfair requirement.

Honestly, I hope they don’t change it.  I like history and tradition and to me that’s a huge part of what horse racing is about.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the powers that be decided to start the process of changing up the rules.  Every year we go without a Triple Crown winner (or contender even) is bad for racing in general.


So what do you think, change the rules or keep tradition in regards to the Triple Crown?

27 thoughts on “Triple Crown Depression

  1. No. It has always been this way. It isn’t a championship like other sports…these races just so happen to run the way they do and was given the Triple Crown name after the fact of a horse winning all three. It wasn’t given the name and then all three races ran.

    As much as we like history, I don’t see it changing. Yes we want another but the fact that it is rare, makes the history of it and the racing much more exciting.

    1. Yes, this. And that horse who first won all three? Was supposed to be a rabbit. One could argue that running a spoiler is the oldest Triple Crown tradition of all. *g*

      One could also argue that whining about fair play after a rule change to allow your horse to wear his nose strip is maybe not quite the thing.

  2. I agree – don’t change it. The Triple Crown is one of the most difficult achievements in sport for a reason… you have to be truly GREAT to do it. Changing it would just cheapen the accomplishment. All of the past TC winners have had to face fresh horses, so while I understand that Coburn is upset and disappointed, he is just wrong. Part of what makes it so hard to do is that it’s 3 different length races on 3 different tracks against any and all who think they can beat you. History has shown just how difficult of an achievement that is. If you start picking and choosing who can enter (which will never happen anyway) what are you really accomplishing? I still have hope that we will see a TC winner sooner or later – when the right horse comes along to do it.

    1. And Tonalist wasn’t a fresh horse, if I may point that out. He had ran the Peter Pan three weeks prior and won.

  3. I don’t want them to change it. If they do, it should be given a different name, and not called the Triple Crown because that would be “irreverent” to the former TC winners that overcame all the same challenges.
    Great thoughts!

  4. I agree with everyone above, changing the rules would cheapen the accomplishment. To be a Triple Crown winner a horse needs to rise above any and all challenges. If you look at past Triple Crown winners histories you will see that they all faced a challenge either on or off the track and rose above it. There will be a Triple Crown winner, the right horse just hasn’t come along yet.

  5. What I want to know is, what rules have changed since the 1970’s? If the answer is none, then I say don’t change it. But I wonder if that’s the case.

    Glad you linked that that article.. interesting read. Bitter, party of one! Though I did chuckle to myself as his wife tried to stop his tirade, knowing that he was on national tv!

    1. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Belmont was happening. I had heard of California Chrome, of course. But I originally had no plans of watching. I’m not a fan of horse racing and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I haven’t watched a horse race since I was a kid. I figured I’d hear what had happened through Facebook, as usual.

      But Charles and I just happened to walk into a bar on Saturday that happened to be playing the race. Maybe we were supposed to see history written. And…nope. And after going back and reviewing my facts on past Triple Crown winners, I came up with Britt’s same question: have any rules changed since the 1970’s? That was 3 winners in a decade. Something is different now. If the rules are indeed still the same, then my next question is: if there have been no Triple Crown winner in 35 years, what has changed about the horses themselves? The way they are put together, their conformation? Look at a photo of Secretariat taken anytime during his lifetime and compare that to a photo of California Chrome. Note the differences. They almost look like two different breeds. A thought that won’t change anything, but a thought nonetheless.

  6. I think that the rules should stay the same, but putting another week in between races isn’t necessarily a bad idea. This would make it a little more likely that horses would be capable of running in all three legs. I also think it may help cut down on injuries in horses that still have a bright future ahead of them. If they change the rules they would have to add time in between races anyway to have enough horses left for the Belmont. I’m pretty sure no one, specifically Belmont, is going to be too excited about only three horses running in the third leg for the TC. I doubt they will change the rules and hope they don’t. I’m all for tradition, but I would love to see more horses come out of their three year old campaign sound. I really believe more time would do that and that the horses’ well being should become more of a priority. Also, I don’t think a horse that is talented enough to be competitive should be left out just because they need a longer recovery time after the race. If they run hard enough to need 3-5 weeks off before the next race, they deserve a chance. That’s when we’ll get a real shot to finally have a Triple Crown winner. Maybe.

    1. I’m not sure if it was the Belmost, but there were several races in the 20’s and 30’s that there were only 3 to 5 other horses to challenge a couple of past Triple Crown winners. There seem to have always been small and big fields. But another week, that sounds good to me. I can’t remember the year but it was 20’s or 30’s but Triple Crown winner only had three days off before he was to race in the Preakness. Yikes.

  7. Horse racing, man. I cannot watch it anymore and every year we get to a Derby/Preakness winner and I tell myself I don’t care…and then we get to the Belmont and I do.

    I hear the owner has apologized, so I bear him no ill will. But…spoilers and jockeying for position (ba-dum-tish) and saving your horse for the race you think he can win is part of the game. A great horse does things he shouldn’t be able to do. So Chrome is a good horse, but not a great one, at least not yet. There’s no dishonor in that; he’s in good company. Restricting it to starters in all three? Hell, no. I’d like to see a Triple Crown winner, too, but you can’t give it away. That would do a disservice to the honor and to the horse who won it under made-easy conditions.

    It’ll never happen, but I would love to see the whole series (and sport) be rebranded for older horses instead of babies. I might be okay with lengthening the time between races, but I don’t actually think that would do anyone any favors. Having a horse ready for three big races in five weeks is hard, but keeping a horse sharp enough to fire his best effort three times over a longer span is hard, too.

  8. I think one of the things people keep forgetting is that the point of the TC is to test the horses over three different distances on three completely different race tracks. That means if one horse wins, they will have beat the best horses racing at 1 and 3/16ths of a mile, the best horses racing at 1 and 1/4 of a mile and the best horses racing at 1 and 1/2 of a mile. The length of the race determines what horses run, because MOST horses only run in races that they are good at. It is difficult at best and proving to be almost impossible now, to have a horse that can run 1 and 3/16th to win and then turn around and run 1 and 1/2 miles to win the Belmont.

    The other thing to consider is that the race tracks are all different. That means the jockey’s might be at a disadvantage due to the fact that most jockeys race at one track, or a couple of tracks, not all of the tracks. The Belmont is a huge track and often times the jockey makes his move too early, not recognizing the complexities of the track. I think this was part of what happened the day Smarty Jones got beat.

    The Belmont is called “The Test of the Champion” for a reason. It should continue to do so. If you want to see what it is called to test, just go back and watch Secretariat run that race. Or watch Alydar come in second in all three races against Affirmed, and then tell me it’s not fair.

    The TC is not meant to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to test speed, stamina and heart.

  9. Don’t change it. The Triple Crown winner is supposed to be a super horse. When Secretariat won, it had been 25 years since the last TC winner. They said there wouldn’t be another TC winner, then we had 3 in one decade. I personally never saw anything special about California Chrome (except the flashy markings). He didn’t win the first two races by many lengths and he had horses gaining on him at the end. He seemed very tired, even in the paddock on the day of the Belmont. He was so calm, in fact, that the jockey dropped his stirrups before the race. I’m not sure why three weeks isn’t enough rest time between races. There were only two weeks between the first two races and no one is complaining about that. I get that the Belmont is longer, but I think three week is a lot of time. I’m very disappointed in the owner. Cry, be upset, but to blame others and call them names is classless.

  10. Shame Chrome’s owner was such a poor sport in losing. Chrome was kinda this underdog, everyone wanted to win, if only they had been gracious losers, it still could have been a good ending, I mean they still made lots of money. I ultimately agree it shouldn’t change. Another week between may not be a bad idea, but how about just better training at the longer length before you get there? Someday we will see another TC winner.

  11. You know that if something changed about the way the TC races are run (only horses from all three races, longer time between races, etc) that the second a horse won the TC, people would be like, “Boo, you whore! You would never have won it if it was the way it used to be! Cheaters!”

  12. I think the lack of TC winners is a direct reflection of the fact that the breed is slowly but surely falling apart. We’re breeding them fast, sure, but less durable, more fragile, and without the stamina they used to have. I think it’s time to reassess TB bloodlines, not TC rules!

      1. I agree. The breed has changed, but so has the expectations.

        In earlier years, horses raced a lot. Go back and read the Black Stallion series if you don’t think so. Or the Margauret Henry books. The horses that made it to the Derby could have had a dozen races under their belts. Now, the horses are raced sparingly, and then pulled for breeding or discarded.

        I think the main issue is that bad breeding choices are being made, in part because people with a lot of money have gotten involved in the sport. People who have no idea about conformation, or niche breeding or what it might take to improve the breed. Or what combination of events have to happen to produce a Secretariat, or an Affirmed. Or even a Native Dancer or Bold Ruler.

  13. Sadly, it seems horses aren’t bred to be Triple Crown winners anymore. Back in the day, a horse might race weekly, had lots of bone and stamina, and didn’t head off to the breeding shed after one winning season. It’s just a different game these days. I was disappointed in the outcome of the Belmont, but not surprised.

    One thing I will say, after hearing the negative comments made about Churchill Downs at the Preakness, and then the (embarassing) outburst at the Belmont is – California Chrome has waaaay more class than his owners. Way more.

  14. If they change it, it won’t be a real Triple Crown. I have lots of thoughts about this but I don’t want to write a novel. 🙂

  15. I had this very same feeling after watching Sunday Silence lose his bid in the Belmont. I have to agree that I doubt we’ll see a Triple Crown winner in the near future if ever. But, to change the rules would completely cheapen the TC.

  16. If they changed it, any future Triple Crown winners would never be compared favorably with the past. It would be a Triple Crown with an asterisk.

  17. It was SO sad to see that race slip away. Poor guy just didnt have it in him 🙁 I think if everything stays how it is right now I wont see a TC either. Im just not sure there is a great way to change it all. Chrome is still a great horse that is loved by this country!

  18. I don’t think they should change it BUT I also think that our world is more money driven these days- trying to ruin the chance of a TC winner however they can. Sad…

  19. While he could’ve made his point much more elegantly (and apparently he had said that before the race, not only right after the loss), I’m split. On one hand there’s tradition. On the other hand it does seem kind of unfair that a fresh horse can come in and race every year. But there’s tradition, and I love tradition. But There’s this thing about tradition… If you don’t change you die. Eventing has gone through major changed to stay alive, and is continuing to do so amd figure out the best path for the sport. Some are resistant. But it’s what’s kept the sport thriving. And your sport-Hunters have changed dramatically from its traditional roots! Things have to change to survive, sadly.

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