What would a Triple Crown winner mean for racing? Nothing if he never runs again

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Ed DeRosa

June 6th, 2014

The morning zoo and shock jock deejays all asked the same two questions: “Can California Chrome do it?” and “What would it mean for Thoroughbred racing if he does?”

Even though I’m betting against California Chrome to win the Belmont Stakes, I’m not silly enough to say, “He can’t win” even if the last 11 to try all lost. Of course he can win. In fact, I think it’s as likely to happen as it is to not. That’s 50-50 (or even money), though, so at 2-to-5 in the win pool and maybe 3- or 4-to-5 in the exotics, it’s easy to play against him.

What would it mean if he wins? Who knows?

I wasn’t alive the last time a horse won the Triple Crown (Affirmed in 1978) or broke a drought when doing so (Secretariat in 1973 after 25 years without one), and the game and society and media have all changed so much since either event that even if I had perspective from that generation I’m not sure how well it would apply today.

California Chrome winning the Triple Crown is more likely to create fans of his specifically than of the sport in general, which means that a Triple Crown can only mean something for racing if the Triple Crown winner continues to race.

When asked the difference in attendance on Sunday at Belmont Park if California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes the previous day versus if he loses, Dave Grening of Daily Racing Form tweeted, “No difference.”

That’s not repeated here to be cynical or downplay the contributions California Chrome and his connections have already made toward getting racing some great attention, and the role they will play going forward whether the horse wins or not.

But racing as an industry seems to have a hard time understanding that the rare horse who crosses over to the general sports fan or equine enthusiast more typically makes fans of that horse than fans of racing, which is why it’s up to the industry to get these people to take the next step.

So, yeah, a win does little to affect the business the next day, week, or even month, but just look at the business expected on Saturday not only at Belmont Park but also at tracks across the country, NBC,, etc., and it’s easy to see that the horse’s next appearance would bring people out to watch him.

Let’s just hope it’s not a retirement ceremony.