By Bill Finley
1/ST Racing & Gaming is ready to shake up the Triple Crown.
The company, which operates Pimlico Race Course, has confirmed to the TDN that it is giving strong consideration to moving the date of the GI Preakness S. so that it is run four weeks after the GI Kentucky Derby.
“We have discussed it internally and believe it's in the best interests of horses and horse safety to move the race four weeks after the Kentucky Derby,” said Aidan Butler, Chief Executive Officer of 1/ST Racing & Gaming. “This would give horses more time to recover between races to be able to run in the Preakness. Horse safety is more important than tradition. NYRA is aware and considering how this would impact the Belmont. Stay tuned.”
Butler said there would be no further comment at this time.
Should the date of the Preakness get changed, the next move will be up to NYRA, which hosts the GI Belmont. If the Preakness is moved to four weeks after the Derby that would mean that, unless NYRA also shifts the date of the Belmont, the Belmont would be run just one week after the Preakness. That may be exactly what happens.
“NYRA has concerns about fundamental changes to the structure of the Triple Crown. We have no plans to move the date of the Belmont Stakes,” said NYRA spokesperson Pat McKenna.
The current structure of the Triple Crown works far better for the Belmont than it does for the Preakness. With five weeks between the Derby and Belmont, a number of trainers pass the Preakness and go next in the Belmont.
Traditionally, the Triple Crown is run over a five-week period, with two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness and three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. While that may be a long-standing tradition, it has clearly become an impediment to drawing horses to the Preakness because modern trainers are very reluctant to run their horses back within two weeks. In 2022, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice) skipped the Preakness and waited for the Belmont. This year, Kentucky Derby winner Mage (Good Magic) was the only horse from the Derby to run back in the Preakness.
These developments have led to added support for changing the spacing of the races. Just last month, Tom Rooney, the president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, penned an editorial calling for the races be spread further apart. “The time has come in Thoroughbred racing for our own change, to modernize the timeline of the Triple Crown,” he wrote.