This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jeff Scott of The Saratogian…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Racing too obsessed with Triple Crown
Maybe people will believe in him now. After nearly hanging on in the Florida Derby at 68-1 and out-running his 23-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby, Shackleford stayed up all the way to the wire at 12-1 in the Preakness, benefiting from a smart ride by Jesus Castanon and a slow start by Animal Kingdom to hold off the Derby winner by a half-length.
It was a gritty performance by the son of Forestry, who was used early in keeping up with Flashpoint’s 22.69-second opening quarter. After taking over from the pacesetter, Shackleford caught a bit of a breather on the turn, leaving him with enough left to withstand Animal Kingdom’s late charge.
As for Animal Kingdom, he showed his Derby victory was no fluke, making up 18 of an 18 1/2-length deficit before running out of room. However, he was unable to completely make up for a 26-second-plus first quarter-mile.
The Preakness result is unlikely to change the opinion of many that this year’s Triple Crown contenders are a decidedly below-average bunch. The winning time was the slowest in 18 years, and only the top four finishers (which also included Astrology and Dialed In) did much running in the stretch.
The case can be made that outside of Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Derby runner-up Nehro and perhaps Mucho Macho Man, no horse emerged from the first two legs of the Triple Crown with a significant boost to his reputation.
Early indications are there’s a good chance Animal Kingdom and Shackleford will both run back in the Belmont. If they do, and they’re joined by Nehro, Master of Hounds, Alternation and Mucho Macho Man (who reportedly lost a shoe on Saturday), it would make for a solid field.
Although there is a ten
dency to dismiss the Belmont when there is no Triple Crown at stake, the race has seen a number of outstanding performances under these circumstances during the past decade. Point Given (2001), Afleet Alex (2005) and Summer Bird (2009) were all standout winners, as was Rags to Riches in her historic victory over Curlin in 2007. All five of these 3-year-olds were awarded divisional championships, and Point Given and Curlin were named horse of the year.
Racing doesn’t do itself any favors with its continuing obsession with ending the Triple Crown drought. Not only does this focus draw attention away from worthy horses in other divisions, but the inevitable letdown that occurs when the prize once again goes unclaimed leaves the sport scrambling for other story lines.
Whatever happens in the Belmont, this year’s best 3-year-olds will still have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves over the next five months. Among the major races on the schedule are the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic, three 10-furlong staples (the last two for 3-year-olds and up) that appear to be well suited for a proven distance runner such as Animal Kingdom.
No horse has ever won all three of these races, although Easy Goer (1989) and Bernardini (2006) came close. It would make a nice story, though, if one were to pull off the feat in 2011, especially given the lack of respect this year’s 3-year-olds have won so far.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?