Time to change the Triple Crown Format?

Triple Crown Races

The thoroughbred racing industry needs to shake things up a bit and that includes the strong possibility of changing the Triple Crown. Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas, has a plan that he shared with Sports Talk. He feels that after 139 years it might be time that the series think about mixing things up a bit.

Capituring a Triple Crown means winning three races during a five-week period might and it might just  be too much to ask in this day and age of speed horses. Chuckas has been vocal about changing the Triple Crown series format in a way that would help the horses from a physical standpoint and, at the same time, advance the promotion of the races.

“I think that having the Kentucky Derby run the first Saturday in May, then move the Preakness to the first Saturday in June and conclude the Triple Crown series with the Belmont set for the first Saturday in July is something we should consider,” Chuckas said.

Chuckas said he was aware that his plan would upset those who want to keep the tradition, but all sports must change with the times, and thoroughbred racing is no different.

“The way horses are trained these days, which is for speed over endurance, it really makes more sense to allow more time between races,” Chuckas said. “If we were to run the series over three months instead of five weeks, I feel that we would have stronger and deeper fields at both the Preakness and the Belmont. It would give the horses that finish second or third at the Derby, or even just had a bad day, a chance to regroup and run in the other two legs of the Triple Crown.”

Chuckas said that having the Triple Crown run during three months instead of five weeks might also be a good idea for NBC, the series’ broadcast partner.

“I feel that NBC could work with Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park so that we can have plenty of races in between the Triple Crown series events,” Chuckas said. “Some could come from the primary three tracks, while others could come from tracks around the country. The point is we could get far more promotion and network programming out of running a three-month Triple Crown series than the present five-week cycle.”

It would seem that from a television standpoint, more races would be good for NBC and its investment in thoroughbred racing. But would the other tracks buy into what Chuckas is selling?

“I have not spoken to either Churchill Downs or Belmont Park, but after Saturday’s race, there will be time to talk with the key people,” Chuckas said. “My first question will be, ‘If we put tradition aside for a moment, what would your objections be?’ I really think that this makes sense, and I hope that my friends at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park agree with me. But we will have to wait and see.”