Does a Triple Crown possibility increase interest in horse racing?
When racing season starts the road to the Kentucky Derby, a 35 race series becomes an objective for most all owners and trainers. Most don’t realize their dream for one reason or another. But, before the first Saturday in May there have been many challenging, interesting races run all over the country and many favorites have been established. This year many analysts, owners, trainers and fans felt this was one of the deepest (strongest) fields in years, and it appeared to be. But was it or was American Pharoah that much better?
In the 2015 Derby only four (4) horses (American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund & Frosted) rallied to challenge for the lead. It seemed American Pharoah had to work for the 1 length win, although he ran the longer race. Winning Time: 2:03.02.
In the 2015 Preakness, American Pharoah won by seven (7) lengths. Some have concluded it is because he likes a wet track so much. I guess none of the other horses liked the wet or sloppy track. From the number 1 position, American Pharoah took control early and won easily. Espinoza pushed the pace early and built a lead before storming away from the competition down the stretch, winning by a wide margin in a time of 1:58.46.
Well, now for the 147th 1 ½ mile 2015 Belmont Stakes. By now if you weren’t a racing fan you became one. A euphoria hit everyone including non-racing fans. People who never went to the track or watched a race on TV were tuned in. This is why they call it the greatest two minutes in sports. If you were at the track you know the atmosphere was electrifying, people all seemed to be united. We noticed last year most everyone wanted California Chrome to win. And when he didn’t there was a hush that fell on the crowed. You almost felt sorry for the winner, Tonalist because he was not the focus and yet the winner of the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
As the horses paraded on to the track it seemed there was only one horse entering. People were yelling, screaming, jumping up and down. It was as much excitement as one could take. If you watched the horses coming onto the track you noticed it was so crowed they were barely able to get the last horse onto the track.
As you are aware American Pharoah won the 2015 Belmont and became the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. American Pharoah ran the race in 2:26.65 which was the sixth-fastest of all time and the second-fastest (following only Secretariat in 1973) amongst Triple Crown winners.
After the race the joy jubilation that reverberated through the racetrack and nation was immeasurable. Yes, it takes a good Jockey, owners, horse and team. Actually that’s the way it is in any sport.
So, is the Triple Crown race good for horse racing? What else would bring so many people together from all walks of life with one thought in mind? People who never come to the race track asked about American Pharoah before the race and rooted for him during all of the Triple Crown races. And they talked about him afterwards. What else puts folks in such a good mood and have so much fun and generate so much enthusiasm. They will talk about this race for a long time. And don’t forget there are races to come where maybe California Chrome and American Pharoah may meet in 2015. Who would turn off the TV or not go to the track for that one? Yes, it is the greatest two minutes in sports!
What about a Filly Triple Crown? When recently talking with a top New York trainer, Gary Contessa, he suggested having a Filly Triple Crown. That seems like a great idea. He suggested using existing races, the Kentucky Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan and the Acorn that is currently run on Belmont Stakes day. Wouldn’t that double the fun?
While I see your point, I still believe that Pharoah’s victory isn’t going to grow the sport in any significant way. As I wrote previously this week, thousands of people who’d show up for the EVENT–not necessarily for a horse race, but an EVENT–wouldn’t go back to the track the next day. Or even one year from that date, for next year’s Belmont Stakes. A lot of the energy came from hit-and-run people–not even casual fans. Fans of events. So, while we’re all riding high right now, a much-more telling tale would be to find out what Belmont’s numbers were the day AFTER the Belmont Stakes, or the Saturday following. THAT is a much-more accurate measurement of actual infatuation with the sport, than the ecstatic utterances of 90,000 event-attendees on June 6th.
And the part about people cheering for just one horse? I experienced that in 2003 and 2004, as well. When Funny Cide came out of the chute onto the track, everyone in the house was screaming, “FUN-NY CIDE! FUN-NY CIDE!” so loudly that the building shuddered. I was there, standing behind the box seats on the second floor, and was overwhelmed by the absolute adoration for Funny. The same thing happened the following year, with Smarty Jones. Yes, of course, American Pharoah did win the Triple Crown, but having experienced so many “almosts,” honestly I could not state that his reception was any more rabid than that of Funny Cide or Smarty Jones.