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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Changing the Thoroughbred Birthday from January 1 to July 1

There has been plenty of debate on whether the Triple Crown races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) should be changed from 3-year-old’s only to 4-year-old’s only.  Many argue that it will ruin the tradition of the series and those that win a Triple Crown as a 4-year-old would not be comparable to those that have won as a 3-year-old.  The opponents suggest that today’s thoroughbred is not durable enough to win all three races and that many that go thru the series often do not race again or can continue to compete at a top level.

Both ideas seem to be in neutral so why don’t we meet it in the middle.  Let’s change the universal birthday for a thoroughbred from Jan 1 to July 1.  This will allow a 3-year-old to be a mature sophomore instead of a less mature one.  Right now, if a runner in the Kentucky Derby was born in mid-May or later, they are actually not a full three years old.  With this new birth date, they all will be a full three years of age (of course many will be in real life a 4-year-old).  Either way, the rules are broken so let’s make it for a more mature horse for the sake of this argument.

Horse racing peaks in interest around the Triple Crown so why not move the Breeders’ Cup Championships to one of the last two weekends in June to help keep the sport in the spotlight.  Currently, the Breeders’ Cup tries to compete with the NFL, NCAA College Football, NHL and NBA in late October/early November while a move to late June would only have one other major sport to compete with (MLB).  Summer hours would also keep it daylight longer and that can allow the Breeders’ Cup to be run near prime time.

As for the Breeders’ Cup, we can see a change to help keep our star runners in training by making all races for 4-year-old’s and older while switching the Juvenile races (2-year-old’s) to the Breeders’ Cup Derby and Oaks (dirt and turf) which would be for 3-year-old’s only.   Once these sophomores turn four years old on July 1, they can compete in some big events such as the Haskell Invitational and the Travers Stakes.  Note that neither one of these are called Derby’s so maybe they can restrict those races for 4-year-old’s only.

What opens in July?  Two of the most popular meets: Saratoga and Del Mar.  This can be the start of the 2-year-old season instead of April and in some cases March.  By changing the birthday, this will give the young thoroughbreds time to mature and more time to gain experience as they run towards the Triple Crown.  Also, this will allow a bigger window should an injury occur.  Nowadays when there is an injury, it is basically the end of a horse’s chance to race in the Triple Crown as there is little time to recover.   Some notable names we have lost this year due to injury are Violence, Ive Struck A Nerve, Hear The Ghost and Shanghai Bobby.

For this industry to flourish, changes need to be made.  We’ve seen public interest decline over the past 25 years and there is not a quick fix to turn it around.  There would be more than a few challenges to make this birthday move happen as races would have to be rewritten, horse/breeding information for all data would have to be changed, there could possibly be a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, etc.   For an industry that seems to only be stepping on its own feet, this could be a step in the right direction.

What do you think?

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