Lack of Intrigue for 2010 Belmont Stakes
by Robert Ferringo - 5/18/2010
Last week we talked about how Kentucky Derby winners were essentially a 50-50 shot to win the Preakness, as they now have in 70 of the last 135 opportunities. However, this year the Derby winner and the Preakness winner will have zero opportunity to win the Belmont.
Both the Derby winner Super Saver and the Preakness champion Lookin At Lucky are going to skip the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, on June 5. Both horses, according to their handlers, are experiencing fatigue from running intense races back-to-back with just two weeks in between.
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Not having a “recognizable” champion from this year’s class is going to put a big crimp on the Belmont handle. It was already going to receive lackluster coverage because of the lack of a Triple Crown hopeful. But even having one of those horses would have been better than the bare bones coverage I’m sure we’ll see now.
The blogosphere was abuzz on Monday as some prominent bobbleheads wondered whether or not horse racing should be spacing out its Triple Crown races. Right now it’s a three-races-in-a-month grinder that gives zero margin for error and demands physical perfection from any mount hoping to attain immortality. By spreading out the races the idea is to give the horses must-needed rest and soak out public interest by, you know, beating the subject to death over the extra time.
This isn’t a fresh argument. It’s one that has popped up every year for the past decade, at least. But, as always, this is the whiny media’s response when something doesn’t go the way that they like. And, as always, is kind of a sign of the times.
The idea that horses these days “can’t handle it” is ridiculous when they have been doing so for nearly a century and a half. I mean, are you telling me that horses were somehow “tougher” or “better” back in 1874 or 1928 than they are today? Is that a serious argument? With the science of breeding and with the state-of-the-art care that horses have at their disposal today I am stunned that we haven’t bred a legion of Super Horses that would make Comet, Pegasus, and Secretariat looks like mini-ponies.
Yet, as always, it appears that people are getting softer as they get more technologically “advanced”. So now we need to let the horsys get their naps in.
And as far as public interest goes, not many people care about horse racing. And if there is no potential Triple Crown horse then an overwhelming majority don’t care at all. It’s a niche sport. That’s just the way it is. Tennis, boxing, Indy racing, cricket, kickball, pretty much any Olympic sport, etc. are other niche sports. But while they have small core fan bases those that love the sports are really, really into it. That’s just the way it goes and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Changing the schedule of the Triple Crown races and altering the most appealing thing about the sport – the history and tradition – is kind of an immature idea. And in my opinion it does more harm than good because it impacts the soul of the sport. And again, it’s a sign of the time where people would completely alter the schedule and claim “progress” when really it’s about greed and not giving a damn about history. (Which may be why our society seems to keep making the same mistakes over and over and over, but I digress.)
And let’s not pretend that I’m some kind of ultra-conservative, narrow minded, Teabag loving (you take that how you want) cling-to-the-past horse racing purist. Just the opposite. However, I feel that there is no need to change up the schedule of the Triple Crown horse races. Let’s just let the sport be the sport and let’s just enjoy it for what it is.
I’ve been hearing for years that “racing needs a Triple Crown horse to SAVE the sport”. Well, that’s ridiculous. Just because ESPN ass-clowns and bobbleheads don’t pay attention unless a horse is running for the Triple Crown or unless one dies or is maimed in front of a live television audience doesn’t mean that the sport is any worse off. And in my opinion part of the draw of spacing out the races is that people think it may make it easier for a dominant horse to win the Triple Crown. And it probably will. But to quote Jimmy Dugan, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
The Kentucky Derby isn’t hurting. Churchill Downs was packed to the gills in a rainstorm for the second year in a row. The Queen of England was there not too long ago. The Preakness isn’t hurting. Now that they repealed their idiotic rule of no booze in the infield, sending Pimilco back into a state of debauchery on race day, things are on the up and up.
The Belmont is, well, a disaster. The New York Racing Association, crippled by the current money crunch, is ready to shut down just after the Belmont this year. Like all state agencies in, well, just about every state they don’t have the funds to function. And according to the Associated Press the track will lose out on approximately $3 million much-needed dollars because of a lack of Triple Crown contender. However, it’s still one of the major races in the sport and I guarantee they would find a way to hold the race every year.
If the threat is that NBC might drop their racing coverage because they are losing money, well, that’s their fault for overpaying for the rights. And if they do happen to drop their coverage then you can bet that one of the other networks (please not Fox, please not Fox, please not Fox) will be more than happy to slide in and pick up the reigns, so to speak.
The show is going to go on. There will be a Belmont Stakes race on June 5. And I will have money on it. And just because Stuart Scott or Mike and Mike might not care that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to.
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