Racing stands at the brink of greatness again with an 12th bid for the Triple Crown, the first one in 34 years if I'll Have Another is successful. At this point the failed bids since the last sweep at the throne now exceed the number of champions who climbed the peak. Averaged out, there has been one try every three years for this title for a horse no to do this at this point is abnormal. As a weathered racing fan once said, “Anything is possible and probable.” Could this year’s challenger do it? He stands just as good a chance as his last ten peers who attempted the feat. Racing needs more than one champion to spur a revival in the sport though.
Competition lends to the sport; the past two races in the series were close finishes between two top tier runners for their generation that sparked debate and strong opinions among the fans. More of the same throughout the rest of the year in the other important races would be unreal. The elite of horse racing needs to meet up more that two or three times in the year. Top horses vying for the big prizes sparks interest and increased handle on the big days. We had a taste of this in 2007 when Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Rags to Riches met up in the spring and later on the first two mentioned had a rematch in the Classic with Horse of the Year on the line. Unfortunately, Hard Spun and Street Sense were whisked away to stud leaving Curlin all alone to do the entire heavy lifting the following year. More competition at the top is better for the product, people like seeing the best of any sport going head to head frequently. Thus more incentive should be put up to see elite meet up more often.
There are other divisions than the three-year-old colts; it is hard to believe that from the coverage racing receives beyond the Belmont Stakes. The second half of the racing season has taken up bigger importance now that the top horses are on a lighter schedule. Every race in each division takes on a playoff feel as the season progresses. Now that NBC Sports has picked coverage of the important races in the summer and fall one would hope that this takes place. The more coverage that horse racing receives, the better it is for all involved. More casual fans could show up and increased wagering volume is a positive byproduct that could be seen from this.
All the tools are there for thoroughbred racing to make a decent comeback. Last time this sport was in a position to move forward was 2008, NBC had 2/3 of the Triple Crown and ESPN had rights to most of the major races from June on. ESPN did little with their resources, minimized their coverage, and racing remained stagnant from the point that Big Brown pulled up on the far turn at Belmont. NBC Sports and horse racing are sitting on a gold mine win, lose, or draw on the afternoon of June 9th. It is all about the utilization of the tools at their disposal.