Sunday, January 31, 2016

Time to talk Triple Crown

In 2015, when American Pharoah ended the long, painful absence of a Triple Crown winner, it seemed possible at last to relax. Nobody was going to fool around with the format of the three preeminent races for three-year-old Thoroughbreds. Nobody was going to advocate that the Preakness be moved be further away from the Kentucky Derby. Nobody was going to suggest that the Belmont Stakes be shortened, since no modern three-year-old could be expected to win at a mile-and-a-half as well as at the shorter distances of America’s other important races. Somebody could, and did.

But respites never last, and a lot of us would like to see a reprieve with legs. Do we dare hope for a second Triple Crown in the next few years?  Secretariat broke a 25-year drought by winning the Triple Crown in 1973, and he was followed four years later by Seattle Slew, who was followed just the next year by Affirmed. When 1979 saw a near miss by the overwhelmingly superior Spectacular Bid, the Triple Crown appeared to be a very easy thing indeed.

Then came the 37-year gap. There's now a question. Are we in another period like the 1970’s or are we looking like another long drought and a revival of the complaints about the difficulties of the series? So what are the chances this year?

Last year’s two-year-old champion Nyquist is unbeaten and, until he loses, he could be anything. But his brilliantly fast sire Uncle Mo proved unable to win past 8.5 furlongs as did his dam’s sire Forestry.

Today, three months before the Kentucky Derby, another unbeaten colt is getting more attention. The handsome gray Mohaymen has already won at 9 furlongs, just 1/8 mile short of the Kentucky Derby distance. His sire Tapit won at 9 furlongs as did his dam Justwhistledixie. Could either of those play Seattle Slew to American Pharoah’s Secretariat? Maybe. And hopefully.