36 and Counting

Well the dust has settled, the electric atmosphere has quieted, and millions of fans around the world are disappointed. On this potentially fateful, Saturday, the equine equivalent of the Mighty Casey, California Chrome, has struck out. Most assuredly, there is no joy in Muddville, New York, Kentucky and especially in the Golden State.

This latest failure in New York is accentuated with what will likely be a lingering bitter taste. The acerbic comments of co owner Steve Coburn, minutes after the race, framed this Triple a Crown failure in a whole new light. He railed against horse owners and trainers that don’t “Go for it all.” He called them cowardly for not pursuing the Derby. He called loudly and crudely for an overhaul of the rules. He advocates horses not qualifying for the Derby being I eligible for the Preakness and Belmont. He insisted that it is unfair for horses to lay in wait while the Triple Crown warriors slug it out in the first two legs.

There will be intense discussion about Victor Espinoza’s ride in the Belmont. It certainly seemed for a horse that wants to run on the lead, he waited an awfully long time to move. When asked, Chrome rallied but quickly flattened out. Personally, I would rather have seen him overtaken from a stretch lead as opposed to seeing him falter trying to be a stretch closer.

The reason for the three and a half decade run of failure in my opinion is not the set up, the rules or the riders. I point at two factors. 1) Horses, by necessity, are no longer trained hard. The shift to emphasizing speed breeding over stamina, has yielded a far more fragile athlete. 2) Rotten stinking luck. It just hasn’t been in the cards. There have been a number of more than capable horses that have for a number of illogical, bizarre reasons, have not gotten it done. The Red Sox broke a much longer dry spell. Babe Ruth liked to bet the ponies, maybe the curse has shifted from Fenway to Belmont. The bottom line sadly is, another year, another disappointment for horse racing.

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