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Triple Crown Prospects Remain in the Weeds

by Jeremy Plonk

December 9, 2019

I’ve written nearly 1.5 million words about the 3-year-old trail since the start of Countdown to the Crown in 2006. But somehow I’m at a loss to write much definitive at this point about the 2020 crop as we’re just 3 weeks from the New Year and the start of the 15th season of my scouting report.

The last few years have seen a spark in late bloomers with success in the Triple Crown. Country House was an 0-2 maiden at this stage a year ago, while Maximum Security still was about 10 days away from his $16,000 maiden claiming debut. We all know Justify was only a name on a halter at this point 2 years ago, and Always Dreaming the year prior had not been seen since Saratoga and was 0-2 in the maiden ranks. Cloud Computing wouldn’t debut until February of his ’17 season that resulted in a Preakness score.

So forgive me if the Monday after the Remsen that I’m not going all in for Shotski, the front-end winner at 8-1 on the usual 9-furlong carousel this time of year. Apologies if the wiseguy horse isn’t yet runner-up Ajaaweed, the only closer to make a dent in the top-5 at the Big A. Meanwhile, it’s a no-can-do banking your aspirations on a 4-horse, wet-track Los Alamitos Futurity (won by Thousand Words). And, nope, I’m not willing to commit my letter jacket and go steady with Kentucky Jockey Club winner Silver Prospector or the dispatched and ballyhooed beaten favorite in that race Tiz the Law.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile didn’t lend clarity and trustworthiness with its 3,900-1 trifecta of bombs. Storm the Court was 45-1 when he won that one; he wound up 41-1 in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool. That was no better than 14th choice among 22 individual pari-mutuel interests. No, this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile didn’t continue a seemingly solid run of results that gave us sophomores-to-be like Nyquist, Classic Empire, Good Magic and Game Winner in succession.

Like most things in life, we wind up with a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is that this 2-year-old crop has done absolutely nothing to distinguish itself or any of its members. The good news is that the last few years has shown that it doesn’t really matter as much as it once did.

We will wind up at the first Saturday in May with horses who won or ran well in the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and more. We always do. But in a society that wants its news now – and its hot takes even faster than that – we’re going to have to exercise patience.

As D. Wayne Lukas famously said, “People have questions. Horses have the answers.”