A fitting climax to what turned out to be a forgettable spring.
Triple Crown Purses
It's Time for An Overhaul
Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has been touted by the industry as the Super Bowl of horse racing, but no amount of hype can diminish the fact that the Triple Crown remains the sport's centerpiece, its most glamorous and challenging series of events. With this year's running of the Belmont, it's clear that the Crown needs an overhaul.
When Fusaichi Pegasus and Red Bullet were declared out of the Belmont, the Bullet after his connections decided they wanted to save him for a fall campaign leading to the Breeders' Cup and Pegasus after he suffered a minor hoof injury, the race lost its two premier attractions and became just another weekend feature—competitive but essentially pointless. One problem is that the prize money of the Triple Crown races (each offers a guaranteed $1 million purse) is woefully inadequate. For example, the Dubai World Cup in March is worth $6 million ($3.6 million to the winner). Next year the United Emirates Derby, a prep for the Kentucky Derby, will have a $2 million purse ($1.2 million to the winner). With no Triple Crown on the line, why would the handlers of Pegasus or Red Bullet risk running their horse for the $600,000 first prize in the Belmont when the Breeders' Cup Classic, for which both are aiming, offers a $4 million purse ($2.1 million to the winner)?
This helps explain why only one horse, Impeachment, ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year. "It's a disgrace," Demi O'Byrne, a prominent Irish bloodstock agent, says of the Derby purse. "It's the greatest race in the world. Why is it worth only $1 million?"
Indeed, of the $1,188,400 Derby purse this year, only $500,000 was put up by Churchill Downs; the other $688,400 came from entry fees. That's called getting off cheap.
The Derby should have at least a $4 million purse, and the Preakness and the Belmont should offer enough prize money to create an incentive for owners, thereby preserving the integrity of racing's greatest asset, the Triple Crown.
The Deputy Lays Low
Derby Spotlight Saps Contender
Perhaps only Fusaichi Pegasus went into this year's Triple Crown campaign under the weight of more lofty expectations than Jenine Sahadi, the trainer of The Deputy. Sahadi went to Churchill Downs bidding to become the first woman to train a Kentucky Derby winner, and her diminutive bay colt, who had romped to victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 8, was widely regarded as one of the most talented contenders in the race. But after The Deputy finished 14th, more than 23 lengths behind Pegasus, Sahadi had no satisfactory answer for the only question anybody was asking: What happened?
Sahadi, 37, who was beset by a constant flood of well-wishers and media types for the better part of a month at Churchill, believes that the spectacle leading up to and including the Derby might have been too much for her horse to handle. "The whole experience took a lot out of him," she says. "We were both going a little bit nuts."