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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Triple Crowns: Thoroughbred vs. Quarter Horse

Last Saturday we watched our dreams of a 2013 Triple Crown break into little pieces when Kentucky Derby winner Orb finished a very flat fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico. It was a very disappointing race, and while there a million reasons and excuses we can make for Orb's disappointing race, Pull the Pocket stated it best here.
     But although Thoroughbred Triple Crown dreams have died, Quarter Horse Triple Crown season is just beginning.
     In case you didn't know, Quarter Horse racing has it's own Triple Crown. It compromises of the $750,000 Ruidoso Futurity, the $1,000,000 Rainbow Futurity and the $2,600,000 All American Futurity, all at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. There is also a Derby Triple Crown composed of three Derbies that go by the same names, but it is less important. 
     Although the task of winning the Triple Crown is the same for both breeds, win all 3 races, getting there is very different.
     As we all know, in order to win the Thoroughbred Triple Crown you must first earn enough points by running in prep races to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The top 20 points earners make it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Then, after winning the Derby, you simply need to win the Preakness and the Belmont.
     Getting into the Quarter Horse Triple Crown is a little different. You first need to compete in a trial race for the Ruidoso Futurity. This year there are 25 trials for the Ruidoso Futurity with 245 horses entered. Each horse is timed individually, and the fastest ten times will make it into the final. After that, you need to compete in the Rainbow Futurity trials, be one of the top ten fastest times and then win the final. Then you need to go through the exact same process for the All American Futurity. So in order to complete the Quarter Horse Triple Crown there are six races you need to compete in. 
     The Thoroughbred Triple Crown is contested at three different tracks and three different distances. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is 1 1/4 miles, the Preakness at Pimlico is 1 3/16th miles, and the Belmont is 1 1/2 miles. While the difference between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness is minimal and not very important, the 12 furlongs in the Belmont is difficult and not very many horses are meant to go that far. The Quarter Horse Triple Crown is a bit easier in this respect. All three races are held at the same track so the stress of shipping from track to track isn't a factor. Each race is a different distance, the Ruidoso Futurity is 350 yards, the Rainbow Futurity is 400 yards and the All American Futurity is 440 yards. Most good Quarter Horses will be able to do all of these distances, while a good Thoroughbred is more likely to have trouble making the distances of the Triple Crown races. 
     Trip is a major factor in the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, especially with the big fields. You can get hung too wide around the turns and lose ground, get stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, or any number of little problems that can make or break a race. Trip isn't as big a deal in Quarter Horse racing. The big factor in the Quarter Horse races is the break. Races are made at the break. If your horse stumbles and the break or gets a hard bump, the race is probably over for you. It's an ever bigger factor with a group of inexperienced two year olds who are more likely to be fractious and cause havoc. 
     So which series is more difficult to complete? It's arguable but interesting. If you're interested in following the Quarter Horse Triple Crown, the Ruidoso Futurity trials are on Friday. Post time is 12:00 Eastern, 10:00 Mountain, and you can watch at qracingvideo.com.
     Have a good one, and good luck.

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