For some across Europe it may be hard to believe, but we’re still in the midst of the Triple Crown season in England. Deep down I’d love to be two stone lighter for the summer so I could ride in some of these races. But I’m watching from the sidelines and getting drawn in by the marketing that is taking over our major flat races. Every race seems to be part of a series nowadays but I don’t get it. The one thing I do get is our Triple Crown. It’s the greatest and toughest test exclusively for three-year-olds in European racing. The Guineas at one mile, the Derby at a mile and a half, and the St Leger at a mile and six furlongs – the last horse to win this triumvirate since World War II was Nijinsky in 1971, ridden by the great Lester Piggott and trained by Dr Vincent O’Brien.
Of the three races, the Epsom Derby is probably the ultimate test of the Classic generation due to the unique track. I've been lucky enough to ride over the course in a jump jockeys’ flat race a couple of times and it's only when you walk and ride the course that you appreciate what it takes for a horse to win it. To me, it’s definitely the ultimate test of a racehorse.
I'm not saying the Triple Crown is the be all and end all but in the same breath it cannot be made irrelevant. Racing must do all in its power to keep it as important as it is. For example, Sea the Stars could have won the Triple Crown in his Classic year but his trainer John Oxx decided not to run in the final leg as it was considered too long. Maybe it was felt that the lack of speed connected with winning a St Leger would affect the horse’s reputation as a sire?
Has the St Leger become an afterthought because it’s run in September? Over in America their Triple Crown is billed as the ultimate test of a racehorse. It is made up of three races over five weeks run in the same time span as between the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby - the Kentucky Derby, run over a mile and a quarter, the Preakness Stakes, run over the shorter distance of a mile and a three-sixteenths, and the last leg, the Belmont Stakes, run over a mile and a half. There has been no Triple Crown winner since 1978. This year California Chrome won the first two legs of their Triple Crown. Before the Belmont, the horse was a national news story almost daily leading up to the race.
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THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN EUROPEAN TRAINER - ISSUE 46
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Author: David Crosse