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February 25, 2018

American Pharoah Runs into History, but Does it Help Horse Racing?


So I have to admit that I was wrong.

A couple of days after American Pharoah dominated on a sloppy track at the Preakness, I made the statement that the horse would suffer the fate of the 13 horses in the past 37 years who have tried to complete the Triple Crown. It’s just too much of a disadvantage for a horse to pull off.

But 1.5 miles later, American Pharoah proved me and other doubters wrong, winning the Belmont by a 5.5 length margin and just dominating the competition in the home stretch to end the Triple Crown drought.

While others now debate whether or not this horse is the best racing horse of all time or if American Pharoah is clutch, there’s another very pressing question: how much does this Triple Crown run help the sport of horse racing going forward?

That is and that will be a very hard question to answer. The next major horse racing competition is the Breeder’s Cup and that’s not until the fall. And the Kentucky Derby is over 10 months away, so that’s a ton of time to wait to really get excited about a race. And unlike soccer following the World Cup, there’s not much to keep the casual fan hanging around after that amazing high.

Also, it is incredibly difficult to find horse racing on television these days. I know a number of years ago I stumbled upon some random channel that was constantly showing horse races across the country and it was a good way to kill time, but I have no idea where that channel is anymore. Fox Sports 1 has shown a horse race or two since it’s inception nearly two years ago, but that’s it. Any person that wants to get into horse racing is basically out of luck if they want to see more of the action.

Finally, horse racing tracks around the country are few and far between. Locally here in the DFW area there’s Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, but last I had checked it was far from being in a financially sound situation. And I have to think that’s the case for tracks across most of the country, save Kentucky. And I really have my doubts that the Triple Crown run will do anything to change that.

But of course when the Kentucky Derby rolls around next April, the excitement will ramp right back up. Will we have Triple Crown winners in back-to-back years? Who will be the horse that will capture the love of the American public for a couple of months? That excitement will drive interest in horse racing back up.

As for an overall raise in the profile of horse racing, I don’t see that happening. It’s too far out of the public’s reach and it’s too far of a wait between the sport’s “majors” to keep the attention it needs. So don’t expect too big of a bump for horse racing even after American Pharoah’s amazing run Saturday.

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