Maryland Jockey Club Tom Chuckas proposes new schedule for the Triple Crown; will it fly? (MJC Photo)

We know the routine without even thinking about it.

Since 1931, the Kentucky Derby has come first, then Preakness and then The Belmont Stakes.

Prior to 1931, there were eleven occasions in which the Preakness was run prior to the Derby, and twice in which both were run on the same day. The Belmont has been contested before the Preakness eleven times. But, since 1931 it has been Derby, Preakness, Belmont.

Since 1969, the Derby has been the first Saturday in May, The Preakness is run two weeks later, and the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that.

It’s written in stone, isn’t it?

Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas is looking to bust that stone tablet. Is this heresy…or common sense and about darn time?

At his annual post-Preakness media session on Monday, May 19th, Chuckas discussed his proposal to change the date of the Preakness Stakes and the date of the The Belmont in order to allow more time between each meet–for the welfare of the horses. Chuckas is proposing that the Derby retain its first Saturday in May position, but that the Preakness would run the first Saturday in June, and the Belmont the first Saturday in July, giving the horses a full month to recover between races.

Will this increase the odds for creating Triple Crown horses?

In 60 years, from 1919 to 1979, there were 11 Triple Crown Winners. Roughly one a decade. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, 36 years ago.

It is a widely held belief in the horse industry that the Triple Crown schedule is just too grueling and the gamble too great on which to risk a good horse who could have a long racing career ahead of him. Why risk it? (Contrary to some media portrayals, most horsemen love their horses.)

Chuckas seems to agree–and seems to be leading the charge within the industry for change. “I respect tradition but I also think tradition cannot impede the growth or betterment of the industry,” explained Chuckas. “The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years. It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it.” Only three horses from the May 3 Kentucky Derby competed in Saturday’s Preakness.

“But this idea is not just for the Triple Crown races,” continued Chuckas. “We have an obligation to the public to put our best racing on the table when the world is watching and we are not doing that. We could promote a Woodford-Dixie-Manhattan series for older turf stars and Triple Crown filly series with the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and Acorn. All those things are possible but is going to demand a collaborative effort between the parties to make this happen.”

Chuckas said he will work with officials at Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association.