Races are OK, but not the horses

June 04, 1993|By Bill Finley | Bill Finley,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- After this, as uninspiring a Triple Crown as there has ever been, the clamor will start all over again. Fix it. It's broken.

Granted, ABC-TV received its worst-ever ratings for both the Derby and the Preakness this year. And the reaction from most other media outlets for tomorrow's Belmont has been one of no interest. Who can find time or space for the Belmont when Michael Jordan fails to split eights? It's just not a real exciting race or event, not this year, anyway.

The Triple Crown is fine. The problem is with the Triple Crown horses.

A few minor revisions may be in order, but to make sweeping changes in the format of the three races would be to cheapen something that is sacrosanct. It would be like drinking Dom Perignon out of a Flintstones glass.

The main criticism is the distances of the races, that they are too long and no longer fit the racehorse of the '90s. Awww, too bad. The Belmont Stakes is the last 1 1/2 -mile graded stakes race run on the dirt in this country, which is one of the reasons the Triple Crown remains special. It's a demanding race and a demanding series. Only an extremely special horse can win it, and that's the way it should be.

Fortunately, NYRA has no plans to play around with the Belmont distance.

"I wouldn't want to change a thing because of tradition," NYRA vice president of racing Terry Meyocks said. "In a lot of ways, change is good. In other ways, when you have tradition and class races, it's not something you want to fool around with."

Exactly.

There also have been cries to change the Kentucky Derby to a mile and an eighth. Oh, boy, the most exciting minute and 48 seconds in sports. It just does not work.

The other proposed changes call for more spacing between the races. That makes a lot more sense, as long as it's done within reason. Triple Crown officials admit that they're strongly considering putting an extra week between the Derby and the Preakness, making a three-week gap between each Triple Crown race. That will be a little easier on the horses. No problem with that.

More radical solutions call for months between the races, much like they do with the English Triple Crown. Too radical for me.

The real reason interest in the Triple Crown is at an all-time low is because the horses are so ordinary. Prairie Bayou is a marvel of consistency but he's not the least bit flashy. Sea Hero is inconsistent. Who's Cherokee Run?

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