Saturday is the Preakness Stakes. In a normal year the Preakness takes place two Saturdays after the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks after the Derby the Belmont Stakes is contested. Those are the three jewels of horse racing’s Triple Crown series.
This year’s Triple Crown schedule has been unlike any other thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many racing fans are still shaking their heads at the oddity of a Kentucky Derby taking place on the first Saturday in September.
Longtime racing analyst, horseplayer, and respected columnist Andrew Beyer said he thinks some of this year’s changes should be permanent.
“I think the 3-year-old racing this year has been different but it’s been quite satisfactory,” said Beyer. “I think starting the series later in the year gave horses a chance to mature and really be ready to run top notch races, as TIZ THE LAW did in the Belmont, whereas in modern day racing, horses don’t train and race hard enough going into the Kentucky Derby to really be able to deliver maximum performance.”
Beyer, who developed the Beyer Speed Figure, thinks the spring scheduling of the Derby has resulted in poorer performances there in recent years.
“We just haven’t seen many great Derbies from the speed figure standpoint for a long time,” he said.
In the not-so-distant past there have been calls to alter the schedule or distance of the Triple Crown races, the argument being it was too tough a grind for modern day horses to race at peak performance 3 times in five weeks.
But those grievances were quelled after AMERICAN PHAROAH ended the three-decade Triple Crown drought in 2015, followed closely by JUSTIFY Winning all three in 2018.
Beyer thinks the three races should be spread farther apart, pointing out the two-week turnaround between Derby and Preakness tends to negatively impact the Preakness field.
He also questions the distances of the races, pointing out that 1.5-mile Belmont “is really an anachronism in modern racing,” and suggests perhaps all three races should have their time-table, and distances reconsidered.
“I think the racing industry should, after this season, kind of take a look at the structure of the Triple Crown and see how we might improve it,” said Beyer.
“There’s no rule that we have to do everything the way we did 50 years ago.”
Amen Andy. 2020 has certainly showed us that.