The Real Reason That I’ll Have Another Couldn’t Complete the Triple Crown
There are many reasons the Triple Crown is so hard to win. Some think the competition is too tough and others believe the last leg at Belmont Park, which stretches a mile and a half, is too far. I believe winning three races in a row in 35 days is the task, yet is near impossible.
The horses who contend for the big races, these equine athletes, are at the top of their game, and give everything they have to get their 1100 lbs bodies around as fast as possible. The stress that these horses incur over the 35-day period between the Derby and the Stakes is absolutely grueling, and has proven time and time again to be too much.
This year was no different, with I’ll Have Another pulling out of the final leg of the Triple Crown because of a tendon problem. This horse has been in rigorous training since he was two years old, and had already overcome an initial soreness in young horses: bucked shins.
Very similar to human shin splints, bucked shins are very painful and make it nearly impossible for a horse to be comfortable when training and therefore, would not be at top performance-level to race.
When a horse is free of buck shins, he continues to train everyday to get ready for the next race. A race takes a lot out of a horse, hauling those massive bodies around so fast creates a lot of wear and tear at every muscle, joint, and bone. Therefore, after a race horses usually get a few days “off” to recover.
On the “off” days, the trainer and groom constantly check the horse over to ensure no new problems occurred affecting the horse’s well being. Very often horses don’t eat well after a race, and when a horse is not eating usually there is a problem. Whether they are just overly tired, have a soreness that is bothering them, or they could be sick (as we all know immune systems get shaky when the body is over tired) there is potential for a red flag. This is all in the trainer’s hands to determine when the right time is to get the horse back to the training track after a race.
Generally speaking, horses of this caliber rarely race more than once a month, that alone can illustrate how difficult three races in 35 days would be. There is a reason why trainers don’t run their horse every week: the horse’s body or mind often cannot handle it. Every trainer has their own process of getting the equine athlete back to a race, usually a few “walk days” proceeded by a couple of light training days, maybe just getting the rider back on the horse’s back. Then the horse usually begins to train harder, leading up to a morning breeze run (a run fast enough to simulate a race) followed by a thorough inspection of the horse, and several days off. The process is repeated until the trainer believes the horse is happy, healthy, sound and fit to race again.
It is important to understand there is a method to a trainer’s madness when it comes to having a horse ready to run. It’s not like you can just enter a horse in a race whenever you choose. These horses are delicate flowers; they get the best treatment, constant care and many steady eyes assuring their health and safety. If a horse is not 100% healthy, trainers of these prestigious animals take precaution and protect their owner’s investment. If the trainer feels the horse may injure themselves, it is their decision about whether or not to let the horse run.
Oftentimes in the pursuit of the ultimate glory in horse racing, the Triple Crown, trainers still run their horses when not in perfect condition. After running two races in two weeks, the Derby and Preakness, it’s almost a guarantee that the horse is tired. History shows that in pursuit of the record book, trainers will still run a tired horse, but this puts the horse in an almost unfair position running against horses that have had four or more weeks since they last raced.
There have been 12 horses that have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness since the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, with obviously none having been able to complete the sweep. Everyone has their own beliefs of why that last leg is so tough.
I strongly believe there are several reasons why horses such as I’ll Have Another can’t complete the Triple Crown; horses get tired, sick or sore, and racing against the best causes a lot of stress on these athletes in too short of a time period.
Another year goes by with no Triple Crown champion; 34 years and counting since the last one. Now we have to wait another year and watch the next crop of two-year olds mature into the 2013 Kentucky Derby hopefuls for that hope that every owner and trainer has – to do what seems near impossible, to go down in history and win all three races – to win the coveted Triple Crown.
…and that is the Last Word.
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