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Jon White: Please Leave the Triple Crown Alone

by Jon White

June 2, 2022

To the powers that be, I say please let it be. Do not fiddle with the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown is the most coveted prize in Thoroughbred racing in the United States. The Triple Crown is by far what gets the most attention from the general public.

What has evolved into a traditional Triple Crown arrangement is the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course two weeks later, then the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park three weeks after the Preakness.

Look, I understand why NBC’s Randy Moss and many others make the argument that the fact that horses don’t race as much as they once did has negatively impacted the Triple Crown. This is especially true regarding the Preakness because it is held only two weeks after the Run for the Roses.

Two weeks between races was not out of the ordinary in the 1970s and 1980s. Even one week between starts was not all that unconventional back then. But now it’s a rarity.

Can you imagine the howls these days if a horse competed in one of the Triple Crown events just five days after having raced? Well, that’s exactly what happened in 1982.

Conquistador Cielo was dazzling against older foes in the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont. He sped one mile in 1:33 flat and won by 7 1/4 lengths on May 31. And then just five days later, Conquistador Cielo splashed his way to a 14-length tour de force on a sloppy track in the Belmont.

Pleas to change the dates of the Triple Crown were reignited this year when it was announced Rich Strike would skip the Preakness after winning the Kentucky Derby in an 80-1 shocker. If someone other than Rich Strike had won the Kentucky Derby, they almost certainly would have run in the Preakness. And if that had happened, would there be such a clamor for the five-week series to be lengthened to at least eight weeks? I doubt it. Should one 80-1 Kentucky Derby winner whose connections elected to pass the Preakness trigger a change to the Triple Crown? I certainly don’t think so.

What generally is being proposed is to move the Preakness to the first week in June and the Belmont to the first week in July. Would that help the Preakness draw a better field? It almost certainly would. The Preakness no doubt would entice more horses who had participated in the Kentucky Derby than the three horses we had this year (Epicenter, Simplification and Happy Jack).

Moss has noted that if the Triple Crown were to be stretched out beyond its current five-week format, it might be even more difficult to sweep the series because of the likelihood that the fields for the Preakness and Belmont would be stronger. It is a valid point.

But the way I see it, the premise that moving the Preakness and Belmont to later dates would likely produce better fields is an acknowledgement that the two races then would be fundamentally different than they currently are, the operative word being different. In other words, it no longer would be the same Triple Crown as when it was won by Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Affirmed in 1978, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

When the drought had reached 30 years in 2008, many believed we were not going to ever see another Triple Crown winner. I was not one of them.

“Yes, it’s possible we will have another Triple Crown winner,” I wrote for Xpressbet.com on May 28, 2008. “I remember so well how it was in the years leading up to Secretariat. Much like now, many people were convinced the Triple Crown would never be swept again because it had not been accomplished since Citation in 1948. There were several theories. One of the most popular theories was the size of the foal crops had grown so much from the 1940s.

“But then along came Secretariat in 1973. And what an exclamation point he put on that Triple Crown when he won the Belmont by 31 lengths. And then along came Seattle Slew in 1977, an undefeated Triple Crown winner. And then along came Affirmed, who won his Triple Crown in 1978 as part of the greatest rivalry in the history of the sport.

“After Affirmed, there was an unmistakable sense of apathy as a lot of people expected Spectacular Bid would join the ranks of Triple Crown winners in 1979. But there was the horrible ride by Ron Franklin in the Belmont, and now, all these years later, we’re still looking for that next Triple Crown winner after Affirmed.

“But it’s not as if no one has come close. Real Quiet lost the Triple Crown by a nose in 1998. Silver Charm lost the Triple Crown by three-quarters of a length in 1997. Smarty Jones in 2004 and Afleet Alex in 2005 each lost the Triple Crown by one length. So one of these years it probably will be achieved again.”

When the drought had reached 37 years in 2015, there was such a groundswell of support to change the Triple Crown that it looked like there was a very good chance that it was going to happen.

But much like Secretariat ending a 25-year drought in 1973, American Pharoah in 2015 proved that the Triple Crown still could be swept by ending a 37-year drought. I felt at the time that it was not an exaggeration to say that American Pharoah saved the Triple Crown.

If American Pharoah or Justify three years later had won a revamped Triple Crown, would their accomplishment be considered equal to that of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1970s? Nope.

But by winning the “same” Triple Crown, this achievement by American Pharoah and Justify is considered to be on a par with the three Triple Crown winners of the 1970s.

Considering we have seen two Triple Crown winners in the last seven years, does tinkering with the three races really seem to be a good idea? Not to me.

Yes, I know, there is a recent example of not sticking with tradition in terms of the dates for the three races comprising the Triple Crown. Due to a worldwide pandemic, all three events were moved in 2020. The Belmont not only was moved to June 20, its distance was shortened to 1 1/8 miles. It was the first time in history that the Belmont was positioned as the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby, contested at its usual distance of 1 1/4 miles, was shifted from the first Saturday in May to Sept. 5. And the Preakness, run at its normal distance of 1 3/16 miles, was moved from May 16 to Oct. 3.

Do you think that if a horse had swept the Triple Crown as it was constructed in 2020 that the feat would be held in the same regard as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, American Pharoah and Justify? No way.

I, for one, certainly applaud the position being taken by New York Racing Association president and CEO Dave O’Rourke.

O’Rourke “made it clear that the racing organization has no immediate plans to sign off on proposals that would alter the status quo,” Bill Finley recently reported for the Thoroughbred Daily News.

“We are touching on tradition here,” O’Rourke said. “We are touching on the one thing that is sacrosanct to our industry in the U.S. We have to be very thoughtful about any proposed changes.

“We understand the arguments on both sides, but this is definitely not an area where a knee-jerk decision should be made. It is something that needs to be deliberated. We would welcome input from everyone.

“This is the one thing in racing that is growing and works really well. It’s a worldwide event. You have a Triple Crown contender and everyone is watching. To lose that momentum, yes, that is a big concern.”

If 1/ST Racing on its own did make the decision to change the date of the Preakness, O’Rourke mentioned various scenarios that NYRA would then entertain concerning the date of the Belmont.

“The possibilities are, we could either stay where we are, we could move it a week, we could move it two weeks,” O’Rourke said. “We would probably open a dialogue with other people in the industry. It impacts more than just one race, especially for us. Right now, it’s just too off-the-cuff and these are not the type of decision that should be made off-the-cuff.”

When it comes to the Triple Crown, my vote is to leave it alone. But of course my vote counts for absolutely nothing.


It’s hard for me to believe that it was during Memorial Day weekend 50 years ago that I made my very first $100 bet.

I had waited and waited and waited to find what I considered to be the right race and the right horse to make my first $100 wager. I did not care about how low the odds might be. I just wanted to try as hard as I possibly could to not lose my first $100 bet.

The race I finally decided on was the Fashion Handicap at Longacres near Seattle on May 28, 1972. The horse I trusted my $100 with was a filly by the name of Turn to Fire.

On Aug. 16, 1970, Pacific Northwest superstar Turbulator broke the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs when he won the Governor’s Handicap at Longacres. Two days before that at Longacres, Turn to Fire made her career debut and finished fourth in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden sprint for 2-year-old fillies.

Turn to Fire failed to win a race in three starts at 2. But she became a star at 3.

As a 3-year-old filly, Turn to Fire raced four times in March at Golden Gate Fields. That’s right. She made four starts during one month, finishing third in a maiden race on March 3, winning a maiden race on March 14, finishing second in an allowance race on March 16, then winning an allowance on March 31.

Following her victory at six furlongs on March 31, Turn to Fire stretched out to one mile and won again in the allowance ranks on April 16. She then was sent to Longacres near Seattle.

Turn to Fire made her Longacres debut in the May 21 Seafair Queen Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for Washington-bred 3-year-old fillies that served as the traditional opening-day feature. Off as the even-money favorite, Turn to Fire lost by a head and a nose while finishing third in the field of 11.

After her narrow defeat in the Seafair Queen, Turn to Fire proceeded to put together a remarkable four-race winning streak, including three stakes victories outside her division. She won the six-furlong Fashion Handicap against her elders, the 6 1/2-furlong Tacoma Handicap by 4 1/2 when beating the boys, then the 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts Handicap when again defeating older distaffers.

Turn to Fire extended her winning streak to four when she toyed with seven other 3-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile British Columbia Oaks at Exhibition Park (now Hastings Racecourse) in Vancouver, Canada. She won by three lengths as a 1-5 favorite.

Many were hoping to see Turn to Fire take on the top 3-year-old male at Longacres in 1971, Rock Bath, in the Longacres Derby. But “leg ailments” forced Turn to Fire out of action in mid-summer of 1971, “negating hope for an encounter with Rock Bath in the Derby,” according to a story on the filly in the February 1972 edition of The Washington Horse magazine.

Turn to Fire, owned by and bred by Lee Bensley, went back into training in the spring of 1972 at Golden Gate Fields.

“Trainer Troy Taylor started his chestnut charge four times at Golden Gate,” The Washington Horse story continued. “Though racing with such speedy distaffers as Ribula and Veneke, Turn to Fire returned to the winner’s circle twice and finished second and third in her other two starts.

“So there was very little genuine surprise when, on May 28, Turn to Fire and stablemate Batita Princess jumped off the tote board at 3-10 odds. The occasion was the 25th running of the Fashion Handicap.”

When I bet $100 to win on Turn to Fire in the 1972 Fashion Handicap, Fleet Ahead was who I feared the most. Fleet Ahead had been acclaimed the 1971 Horse of the Meeting at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash.

Fleet Ahead had outrun males to win the 1971 Playfair Mile. Ruler’s Whirl finished second. The year before, Ruler’s Whirl carried 121 pounds and won the Playfair Mile by a neck over Turbulator, who packed a staggering 138 pounds. To this day, no horse has ever carried as much as 138 pounds in a non-restricted stakes race at a track in Washington.

While I respected Fleet Ahead, I did not think Turn to Fire would have any problem beating her and the other six starters in the Fashion Handicap. Turn to Fire not only had won the Fashion the year before as a 3-year-old, she was coming into the 1972 renewal off a sparking 4 1/2-length win in a six-furlong allowance race at Golden Gate.

Though the race took place 50 years ago, I can still vividly recall how sweaty my palms were as Turn to Fire, Fleet Ahead and the others reached the starting gate. I watched the race while standing in front of the grandstand near the winner’s circle with my father.

As expected, Batita Princess and jockey Richard “Tex” Hollingsworth seized the early lead. Fleet Ahead, with Jack Leonard in the saddle, stalked in third on the backstretch. Turn to Fire, with regular rider Larry Pierce in the irons, was fourth early.

Batita Princess zipped the opening quarter in :21 4/5 and half in :44 4/5. Entering the stretch, she led by 1 1/2 lengths. Turn to Fire still was fourth and had yet to begin rallying. I was starting to get very concerned that I was going to lose my $100 win bet.

At the eighth pole, Batita Princess had a 1 1/2-length advantage, but Fleet Ahead now was closing in on the leader. Turn to Fire? She was still fourth. More and more it looked like maybe Turn to Fire was not going to fire. As noted earlier, Turn to Fire was coupled in the wagering with Batita Princess. Out of pure desperation, during the stretch run, I started rooting for Batita Princess to bail me out. It looked like my best chance to cash my first $100 wager would be if Batitia Princess could possibly stay in front all the way to the finish.

But even that backup plan went down the drain when Fleet Ahead took the lead in the final furlong. My heart sank. I thought my $100 wager was dead for sure.

But then Turn to Fire unleashed a furious late charge. Somehow, she turned what had seemed like certain defeat into being involved in a photo finish for the win with Fleet Ahead.

The moment the race was over, I looked over at my dad.

“Who won?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders, saying, “I don’t know.”

It was that close. We both thought it might even be a dead heat.

Turn to Fire was No. 1A. Fleet Ahead was No. 2. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the “photo” sign came down and the numbers were posted on the tote board:

1st 1A
2nd 2
3rd 1
4th 6

Thanks to Turn to Fire’s class and heart, she had eked out a nose victory. For my $100 wager, I made just a $30 profit. But, again, the most important thing to me was not the money I won but rather not losing my first $100 bet. For me to cash this important wager in the 1972 Fashion Handicap, especially in such dramatic fashion, is a memory that I cherish to this day.

Turn to Fire would go on to win the Belle Roberts Handicap that summer for the second year in a row. Again, she prevailed in a photo finish, winning this time by a neck. Again, Fleet Ahead had to settle for second. Turn to Fire carried 124 pounds, spotting 10 to Fleet Ahead.

When Turn to Fire’s racing career was over, she had won 12 of 23 starts.

Pari-mutuel wagering in Washington dates back to 1933. If a Washington Racing Hall of Fame had existed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I am confident that Turn to Fire would have been inducted somewhere along the way. No Washington-bred 3-year-old has ever accomplished more outside her own division than Turn to Fire in 1971.

Unfortunately, the Washington Racing Hall of Fame was not established until 2003. That was 32 years after Turn to Fire’s stellar 1971 campaign. Now it’s been 51 years since that campaign, a time lag that I believe is the main reason that Turn to Fire is not in that Hall of Fame, as she should be.

But there’s always hope. Sometimes a top horse from the past slips through the cracks as far as a Hall of Fame is concerned. For instance, it recently was announced the Royal Heroine, winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in 1984, would be inducted into the national Hall of Fame this year. I was shocked that Royal Heroine was not already in the Hall of Fame. Royal Heroine’s belated induction comes via the Hall of Fame’s Historic Review Committee.

It’s terrific that the national Hall of Fame has a Historic Review Committee to get someone like Royal Heroine into it.

Maybe Turn to the Fire someday will get into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. But I doubt it. If she’s not in it by now, I doubt she ever will be. For me, this is like Rags to Riches.

I have written numerous times that I think it’s preposterous that Rags to Riches is not in the national Hall of Fame. She became the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont Stakes and registered more Grade I victories (four) than two other fillies to have won a Triple Crown race, Genuine Risk (two) and Winning Colors (three).

It’s obvious too many voters believe Rags to Riches, who made seven lifetime starts, did not race enough to get into the Hall of Fame. But she raced more times than Justify.

Even though Justify made just six lifetime starts, I’d say it is an absolute cinch that he will be voted into the Hall of Fame when he first becomes eligible in 2024. All of the Triple Crown winners before Justify are in the Hall of Fame.

Justify will get into the Hall of Fame despite his four Grade I wins being no more than Rags to Riches’ total.

When Justify swept the Triple Crown in 2018, he accomplished something that had not been done in three years. When Rags to Riches won the Belmont, she accomplished something that had not been done in more than a century.

But I have come to realize that it’s very unlikely that Rags to Riches is ever going to be enshrined in the national Hall of Fame, while the same goes for Turn to Fire in the Washington Racing Hall of Fame.


Another Washington-bred star of the 1970s not in the Washington Racing Hall of Fame is the aforementioned Rock Bath. He also possesses credentials to be a member of that Hall of Fame, but he seemingly has been left out largely due to having raced so long ago.

I can remember when Rock Bath’s name happened to come up during a chat I had one evening over dinner in the 1980s with longtime Santa Anita racing secretary Louis Eilken.

I had much respect for Eilken. After all, it was he who replaced the iconic racing official Frank E. “Jimmy” Kilroe as the racing secretary at Santa Anita when Kilroe was promoted to vice-president of racing.

At one point during my dinner conversation with Eilken, the subject turned to a racing secretary’s task of handing out weights in handicap races. Eilken told me about what happened after he assigned 127 pounds to W.R. “Fritz” Hawn’s Vigors for the 1978 edition of the Santa Anita Handicap.

The popular stretch-running Vigors, known as “The White Tornado,” went into the Big ’Cap off an emphatic seven-length victory under 121 pounds in Santa Anita’s San Antonio Stakes. The classy California-bred Ancient Title finished second.

“I raised Vigors six pounds to 127 for the Big ’Cap from the San Antonio,” Eilken recalled. “The San Antonio was not a handicap at that time. It was run under allowance conditions. That meant that the weights carried in the San Antonio weren’t as relevant for the Big ’Cap as they would have been if the San Antonio had been a handicap.”

Eilken said the 127 pounds he gave to Vigors for the Santa Anita Handicap made Hawn’s blood boil.

“Mr. Hawn could not understand the big increase,” Eilken said. “He wouldn’t even talk to me in the paddock before the race.”

But the outcome of the Big ’Cap justified Eilken’s decision to peg Vigors at 127 pounds. Last early in the field of 10, Vigors closed with a rush with future Hall of Fame jockey Darrel McHargue aboard. Despite the big weight increase in the Big ’Cap, Vigors won going away by 2 12 lengths on a wet track labeled as “slow.”

Vigors’ victory essentially vindicated Eilken’s judgment to assign him 127 pounds.

After talking about Vigors and the ’78 ‘Big ’Cap, Eilken told me that one of the races he was most proud of in terms of his weight assignments was the 1971 Thanksgiving Day Handicap at Bay Meadows.

“I gave Rock Bath 130 for that race,” Eilken said. “It’s the most weight I ever put on a 3-year-old.”

Owned and bred by Howard Wright and Warren Bean, Rock Bath had the sort of pedigree to suggest he might turn out be a good racehorse. His sire was Cavan, who won the 1958 Belmont Stakes. Rock Bath’s dam, Prologue, was by the highly influential Prince John. Prince John was by the outstanding broodmare sire Princequillo. Secretariat and Sham were both maternal grandsons of Princequillo.

Sue Van Dyke, a longtime editor and writer for the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, groomed Rock Bath as a yearling. According to Van Dyke, she “adored him.”

Rock Bath was consigned to a 1969 yearling sale.

“Placed in the 1969 Washington Horse Breeders sale at Longacres with a $7,000 reserve, the chunky yearling drew no more than a $6,700 bid,” Blane Johnson noted in a a beautifully written profile of Rock Bath that appeared in the Washington Horse magazine’s 1972 Annual Review edition.

Rock Bath stayed with Wright and Bean.

To say Rock Bath was not an immediate success would be an understatement. When he made his racing debut in 1970, he was sent away as the 2-1 favorite in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Longacres. Last early in the field of 10, he rallied to finish third. After another defeat at Longacres, he was sent to Playfair.

Rock Bath lost his next two starts, then competed as a maiden in a stakes race. He finished fourth in Playfair’s Juvenile Mile on Oct. 11. Rock Bath then returned to the maiden ranks. In fact, his owners risked losing him in a maiden $5,000 claiming race at about 6 1/2 furlongs on Oct. 30. This was five days after Turbulator had lost by a neck when finishing second under a whopping 138 pounds in the Playfair Mile.

Sent away at odds of 5-2, Rock Bath won his Oct. 30 race by a half-length. Nobody claimed him.

I sure wish I’d had the foresight to claim Rock Bath for five-grand the day he earned his maiden diploma. But I certainly didn’t have sufficient funds to be claiming any horses. That’s because I was in high school at that time.

Rock Bath did not appear under silks again until the following March 3 at Golden Gate. Next-to-last early in a field of eight, he got up to prevail by a half-length. He paid $89.20 for each $2 win ticket.

In his next three starts, all also at Golden Gate, Rock Bath finished second in a pair of allowance contests and third in the Pacific Stakes.

Trainer Craig Roberts then shipped Rock Bath to Longacres. As the lone 3-year-old in the 1 1/16-mile British Columbia Handicap on July 11, Rock Bath was the longest shot in the race at 6-1. Trailing early and 12 1/2 lengths off the pace at one point, Rock Bath roared home on the muddy track to win by three lengths. All four of the vanquished were older multiple stakes winners.

Thirteen days later (yes, again, two weeks or so between races was not unusual back then), Rock Bath won a 1 1/8-mile allowance affair at Longacres. Again, he won by three lengths. Again, all of his victims were older rivals.

Next, Rock Bath trailed early in a field of 10, then closed with a rush to win the 1 1/16-mile Spokane Handicap for 3-year-olds by a half-length. Favored at 5-2, he carried top weight of 122 pounds, spotting nine pounds to runner-up Command Module, who raced for Jack Diamond, the owner of Exhibition Park, which as noted earlier is the track that now is known as Hastings Racecourse.

Two weeks after the Spokane Handicap, Rock Bath was encumbered with top weight of 125 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Longacres Derby, which also was a handicap race. This time he was conceding 11 pounds to Command Module. The track was muddy.

The Longacres Derby would again produce a Rock Bath and Command Module exacta, although that was so long ago there was no exacta wagering yet at Longacres.

Rock Bath lagged back in last early among the 12 starters. He then “delivered his awesome rush that created what the press later rated the most exciting race of the meeting,” Johnson wrote. “Even on the video-tape rerun it was hard to believe how Rock Bath could have closed that final gap.”

Command Module led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go. Rock Bath was sixth at that point, 4 1/2 lengths off the lead. Despite losing both front shoes during the race, Rock Bath unleashed a fantastic late kick to win by neck as the 4-5 favorite.

Rock Bath’s reward for winning the Longacres Derby despite blowing two shoes was he was asked to “carry the grandstand,” as they say, in his next race, the Washington Championship for state-breds on Sept. 13.

“Assigned the second-highest impost ever awarded at Longacres, a leadened 132 pounds, Rock Bath entered the Sept. 11 event at 1 1/16 miles giving away 13 pounds to the next-highest rival Philatelist,” Johnson wrote.

The only horse to ever tote more than 132 pounds at Longacres at that point was Hank H., who won the 1947 Washington Championship under 138 pounds.

The 132 pounds proved to be too much for Rock Bath, though his performance when having to carry so much weight actually was admirable. He lost by just a half-length when finishing fourth as the 3-5 favorite. The older multiple stakes winner Bouncing Kim won by a nose.

Twelve days later, Rock Bath rebounded from his loss beneath 132 pounds. He carried top weight of 126 pounds and proved a punctual 5-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile San Francisco Handicap for 3-year-olds at Bay Meadows.

Joe Baze (now-retired national Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze’s father) rode Rock Bath in all of his Longacres wins, plus the San Francisco Handicap.

When Rock Bath made his next start, he had a new jockey. John Sellers, who would be inducted into the national Hall of Fame in 2007, piloted Rock Bath in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race for 3-year-olds at Bay Meadows on Nov. 13. Rock Bath, an 8-5 favorite, won by 3 1/2 lengths on a muddy track.

And that set the stage for the race that Eilken had talked about over dinner in the 1980s, the 1 1/16-mile Thanksgiving Day Handicap for 3-year-olds. As mentioned early, Eilken assigned Rock Bath 130 pounds, the most weight Eilken had ever put on a 3-year-old.

As when Vigors took the 1978 Santa Anita Handicap after Eilken had given him 127 pounds, Rock Bath won the 1971 Thanksgiving Day Handicap when Eilken asked him to carry 130.

With Sellers again in the saddle, Rock Bath was last early in the field of nine, then rocketed home to win by 1 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite.

Rock Bath would never win another stakes race, which does not help his cause in terms of ever getting into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, after his marvelous 1971 campaign, he did set a course record of 2:16 3/5 for 1 3/8 miles when victorious in an allowance race on the turf at Golden Gate on May 4, 1973. Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby the next day.

And consider what Rock Bath did in the final start of his career. Ridden by John Rotz in Hollywood Park’s 1973 Sunset Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the turf July 23, Rock Bath ran third to Cougar II and Life Cycle. Rock Bath finished only 2 1/2 lengths behind Cougar II, who was elected to the national Hall of Fame in 2006.

In Cougar II’s next start after the Sunset Handicap, he finished third to none other than Secretariat and Riva Ridge in the inaugural Marlboro Cup Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.


Letruska moved into the top spot in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, supplanting Country Grammer. I find it interesting that these two would swap positions in the poll despite the fact that neither has raced in a while. Letruska hasn’t started since winning Oaklawn Park’s Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap on April 23. Country Grammer has not competed since capturing the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 26.

Country Grammer had been No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks. What did he do wrong to relinquish the top spot? Nothing. Country Grammer had his first published workout since the Dubai World Cup last Saturday, then got knocked from the top spot in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.

The Top 10 on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 249 Letruska (8)
2. 245 Country Grammer (18)
3. 198 Life Is Good (3)
4. 160 Speaker’s Corner
5. 155 Hot Rod Charlie
6. 150 Olympiad
7. 134 Jackie’s Warrior
8. 72 Golden Pal
9. 62 Express Train
10. 46 Flightline


As was the case last week, Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting and Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Epicenter are deadlocked at the top of the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll this week.

This week’s Top 10 on the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 265 Early Voting (8)
1. 265 Epicenter (13)
3. 207 Zandon
4. 204 Rich Strike (7)
5. 145 Jack Christopher (1)
6. 137 Secret Oath
7. 121 Mo Donegal
8. 56 Creative Minister
9. 46 Simplification
10. 33 Taiba