In his column today, Say Goodbye to the Derby as we know it, Ray Kerrison of the New York Post unloads both barrels at modern training techniques, synthetic surfaces, drugs and modern breeding practices. There isn’t much new in the article to this fan, Kerrison recycles topics that we bloggers have been talking about for a long time. It seems to me that Kerrison's memory is starting to fail as he paints a very dark picture of the modern thoroughbred that in my opinion ignores recent history.
Modern Derby horses have no foundation under them because they can't take the heat. They are so fragile in wind and limb, their genes so crippled by a quarter century of drug abuse, that only a few can endure the rigors of a campaign to cope with a gut-busting marathon like the Derby.
How does Kerrison define modern? After all six horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in the last ten years. Yes they all failed in the Belmont but it’s a disingenuous to describe the breed as crippled as a whole and unable to endure; after all Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and Funny Cide all went on to win important races after the triple crown campaign.
Kerrsion also totally misunderstands the reason for the popularity of polytrack.
That's why modern horses need a kinder, slower, safer running surface like Polytrack. They can't hack the old dirt track.
It’s not unsoundness of the breed that is driving the change; it’s the inherent unsafe, unpredictable and inconsistent nature of current surfaces that is driving the change. Kerrison seems to have forgotten that what is good for the horse is good for the industry.
What Kerrison is right about is that these fresh horses probably will not stand up to the Triple Crown grind. What are the chances that should Tiago or Curlin win, that they could go on to win the Belmont as a sixth or seventh career start? I am not sure of the statistics but I don’t recall any horse ever winning the Belmont as their sixth start.
Horsemen try to tell you that there is a new concept in training - fresh is best. Chances are that an underdone, unseasoned, unhurried specimen will win Saturday's Derby. And if he does, what odds will you give me that he will be around at the end of the year?
The Triple Crown is now further complicated by the ill-conceived new gimmicks like the Yum bonus for beating Barbaro’s winning margin in the Derby. This new bonus effectively front loads the Triple Crown and will serve to decrease interest in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Something that is not good for racing in my mind.