Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is this the dawning of a new era in horseracing?

Some random thoughts as I look forward to the First Saturday in May.

Terry Zeitz, a friend on Facebook, had this to say: "I think the Triple Crown series this year is going to be something that we haven't witnessed since the 1970's when Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed were the kings of the sport."

Her words gave me pause and caused me to think about whether we could be at the dawning of a new era in the sport. We won't actually know how the 2012 crop will wind up the year until it has played out, and it's a crap shoot as to how they will run in the Derby. And some will go on to the Preakness and the Belmont. Some of our favorites may disappoint in the Triple Crown races but go on to greater glory later this year at the summer and fall races, like Stay Thirsty and a couple others did last year. We could even see a horse challenge the 34 year old dry spell we have had as far as a Triple Crown champion! I'm hoping with all my might!

I've had a few "theories" and have pondered about all of this. Many have decried the 3 year old crop of 2011 -- and as a whole, it was mediocre at best, although a few of those horses are continuing to thrill us on the track this year as 4 yr olds.
But, back to my "theory":

1970 has been written about as having a similar crop of three year olds who were mediocre at best. As an example, Horse of the Year honors were shared by a 6-year old gelding by the name of Fort Marcy and a 3 year old by the name of Personality! Anybody remember those two? What brightens my day when I think about that so-called mediocre 1970 three year old season, I immediately land on the birth of (I think) the greatest racehorse of any century, Secretariat!! Yep! Our hero was born that year, and in the 1970s we saw THREE -- count 'em -- three Triple Crown winners. Not since the 1940s when there were FOUR Triple Crown winners have we seen such a glorious decade like the 1970s. In between the TC winners, we also had a couple of other stars like Forego (three times HOY), Spectacular Bid (HOY), and of course, the great John Henry started his career in the late 1970s! Wow!

So, I'm hoping the 2011 crop of three year olds, inarguably forgettable for the most part (yes, there are a few standouts we all like, but you know what I mean!) has signaled that perhaps, with this year's crop of three year olds being hailed as one of the best in years, maybe we are seeing the dawning of a new Triple Crown era.

I grant you, this is a long shot. Back in the 1940s and the 1970s, we weren't dealing with some of the issues we have today: drugs and the nearly imploding American Thoroughbred in the breeding shed leading to increased fragility, shorter careers, making the achievement of a TC champ highly unlikely. Even so, I am an optimist, and I'm hoping out of all this chaos of change we see going on around us that ultimately we will return to a day when our TBs can run without drugs and a few new lines will emerge to strengthen our bloodstock. A TC champ would certainly lift our sagging sport out of the doldrums and give it a much-needed shot in the arm. It has been a long dry spell. Maybe, just maybe.......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ann Maree, it's a well written article. Thanks for referring to my comments.
Well we have to have hope. And I hope that the triple crown happens while the owners of the last three triple crown winners are still alive to see it.
This year is already special, as some of the horses who ran as three year olds are back and winning again. And it's great to see Pat Byrne and Michael Matz back as well in this years triple crown trail.
And I don't think that it's breeding that is all to blame for the dry spell. The use of lasix in graded stakes shares much of the blame. And the 20 horse field in the Derby is daunting.