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
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?