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[RC] 2003 SI Article on Triple Crown - FXLivestock

Here is part of an article that was written by Frank Deford in 2003 for Sports Illustrated.  It is pretty amazing that those in the industry know that this is not good for the horses and know the odds.  Obviously, with articles like this, the public is also aware.  The tragedy is that there is no effort to even try to set the system up so that horses can succeed.  Like I mentioned before maybe this is just so ingrained in American Culture that it goes unchallenged.

It's not horse racing's fault that something called the car came along, so that now most Americans can't tell a horse from a hedgehog. It's not horse racing's fault that it once had a virtual monopoly on legal gambling in this country, but now it's purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, lotteries and casinos. But it is racing's fault that the sport has turned into a maternity ward, while never making any effort to turn its showcase, the Triple Crown, into a sensible championship.

Like so many of the most important sporting competitions, the Triple Crown evolved, without anybody planning it. For example, it also doesn't make any sense that one of tennis' Grand Slams, the Australian Open, takes place in January, at the very start of the season, or that the single most important NASCAR race, the Daytona 500, is run on opening day.

But the Triple Crown is even screwier. It is held for 3-year-olds in the spring, before colts may be ready for such demands -- three races, at three tracks in the space of 36 days, at distances the young thoroughbreds have never run before. The first race, the Kentucky Derby, is longer than the second race, the Preakness, and the third race, the Belmont, is at a distance -- 1 1/2 miles -- that is virtually never otherwise run. It would be as if, suddenly, to determine the baseball championship, the World Series was played with a different strike zone and a longer distance to first base.

But here we go again this Saturday at the Belmont with another colt actually having a chance to win the Triple Crown -- a feat that hasn't been achieved since 1978. Given that 34,585 other thoroughbreds were foaled in the U.S. in year 2000, it's amazing that any single 3-year-old could possibly win all three races. This is especially so nowadays when these great, gorgeous beasts are so fragile. It's essentially a fact of life now that any colt who succeeds as a 2-year-old will break down before the Triple Crown even begins.

That lack of continuity, of creating a popular champion, is also extinguished on the other end, because most any horse that does well in the Triple Crown is taken off the track and sent to the breeding shed. In 1973, Secretariat was retired after his 3-year-old season, syndicated at stud for a stupendous $6 million. Today a Secretariat would probably be bought as a sire for as much as $200 million -- -- more than many professional sports franchises.

So the best race horses don't, well, they don't race. The sport is set up to destroy its heroes.

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