The annual discussion concerning the spacing of the three Triple Crown races is again taking place after California Chrome won the 2014 Preakness Stakes and is in line to become the first Triple Crown champion in 36 years.
Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, answered questions Monday about the dates of the Triple Crown races. Currently, the Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May followed in two weeks by the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes three weeks later.
"I respect tradition but I also think tradition cannot impede the growth or betterment of the industry," Chuckas said. "When we get our most attention we tend to consolidate which is not beneficial to the thoroughbred industry as a whole. People might say you will have to put an asterisk by the horse who wins the Triple Crown under these conditions. This schedule has changed often so the bottom line is you don't have to put an asterisk. If you take a look at the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, all of them have gone through transformations with wild card additions and scheduling changes but do you really believe there should be an asterisk by the Seattle Seahawks because they won the Super Bowl under different conditions that the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I? I don't think so."
Because the Triple Crown has not been swept since 1978 people have criticized the five-week schedule that has been in use since 1931.
"The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years," added Chuckas. "It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it. But this idea is not just for the Triple Crown races. We have an obligation to the public to put our best racing on the table when the world is watching and we are not doing that. We could promote a Woodford-Dixie- Manhattan series for older turf stars and Triple Crown filly series with the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and Acorn. All those things are possible but is going to demand a collaborative effort between the parties to make this happen."
Chuckas is willing to move the Preakness back to the first Saturday in June and work with Churchill Downs and New York Racing Association officials on a schedule that will benefit all concerned.