Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
It's hard to believe that almost a year has passed since we started this website. Looking back, the 2009 Triple Crown races proved extremely satisfying. Mine That Bird proved himself no fluke after the Derby with solid showings in the next two legs of the series ( as well as showing himself to be a horse better suited to dirt than synthetics ), Rachel Alexandra time and again electrified us following her powerful Preakness victory, and Summer Bird showed his Belmont victory was far from an ultimate upset with subsequent victories in the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup on his way to an Eclipse Award as Male 3YO of the Year. With all three of these horses expected to race in the relatively near future, something we haven't seen with any kind of recent regularity from winners of Triple Crown races, this Summer and Fall should have a much stronger " Handicap " division than recent years. But, that stuff is all secondary right now, as with the KY Derby just a few days away, horse racing's main focus has finally turned from the endless arguments concerning who's better, Rachel or Zenyatta, to who is the best 3YO out there....and of course, will this be the year we finally have a Triple Crown winner. Well...will it?
Looking back, the last time we had a Derby favorite like Eskendereya that many felt would win the Triple Crown, at least in my opinion, it was Fusaichi Pegasus. And somehow, despite carrying that load, he won the KY Derby. However, things fell apart after that, with FuPeg winning " only " ( where he beat El Corridor, Albert the Great, as well as Hook and Ladder, in the race ) the Jerome at Belmont in the Fall among his three subsequent performances. While this year's 3YO crop has some depth, it also contains many horses with a great deal of early speed, which may neutralize the obvious talents of Sidney's Candy and Rule, two of the more impressive performers in the Triple Crown preps. This abundance of speed, however, should not hurt Eskendereya, who quite simply has demonstrated the kind of brilliance in both the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct that will make him extremely hard to deny at Churchill on May 1st. He is, at this point, the best and seemingly most tractable horse in the field. But, how far ahead of ourselves are we getting to ask whether or not he can win the Triple Crown? Some would say very far, as winning three races, at a total of 3 and 15/16 miles, in five weeks is the kind of task we only, theoretically, seem to ask of our horses once in their lifetimes in these days of shortened campaigns. But despite all that, what are the chances that in six weeks time we crown a Triple Crown winner for the first time in 32 short years?
I don't think anyone would argue with a conservative estimate that Eskendereya is 35% to win the 2010 KY Derby. Should he win, I doubt anyone would argue with him being a conservative even money ( 50% ) to win the Preakness. And, should he win both these races, it is hard to argue that he will be less than 60% to follow these wins up with a Belmont victory. A quick multiplication of these three conservative numbers gets us 10.5% ( .35 x .5 x .6 ) or slightly less than 9:1. But, that's just for Eskendereya, as surely if he is 35% to win the Derby, the rest of the field is a collective 65%. Let's stay conservative and say that KY Derby winner will be 25% ( 3:1 ) to win the Preakness....or 16.25% to arrive at Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. Considering the short prices Triple Crown hopefuls have been in recent ( and even less recent ) Belmonts, it doesn't seem unfair to tag this horse at no less than 40% to win the Belmont Stakes ( and Triple Crown ) under these circumstances...or 6.5% ( .1625 x .4 ) to win complete the sweep. Adding these two numbers together gives us 17%...or slightly better than a 1 in 6 chance we see ( at least recent ) history in six weeks at beautiful Belmont Park.
Hey, it's horse racing.....and it's never too early to get way ahead of ourselves.