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Will you be more likely to watch the Belmont Stakes now that I'll Have Another has a chance to become the 12th Triple Crown winner? Will the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years help raise the profile of horse racing with sports fans?
By Kate Fagan
I'll definitely watch the Belmont Stakes, but that won't be unusual behavior, since I try to watch each leg of the Triple Crown every year. Obviously, the exploits of I'll Have Another makes the race more interesting -- and I'm sure the ratings will be higher than they've been in a while.
Still, I'm not sure I believe a Triple Crown winner is actually good for horse racing. As it stands right now -- and has stood since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978 -- a casual flock of fans tunes in each year to see if a horse is going to finally break through. Yes, these fans are perennially disappointed, but the mystique of the 33-year drought and the legend of the Triple Crown's difficulty draws a segment of fans that otherwise wouldn't watch. And each spring, they have a reason to tune in again.
In this way, the stakes for horse racing are always heightened. (Just like each Red Sox season was before they finally won it in 2004.) I think if I'll Have Another wins the Belmont, some of that allure disappears. And while that victory would be exhilarating to watch for those 90 seconds, it would eliminate the main reason fans tune in to The Preakness each year -- to see if the Derby winner can take the second leg of the Crown.
Sometimes, having an elusive trophy is better for a sport than having a champion.
By Jane McManus
I understand the appeal of horse racing. The Triple Crown is an American fixture, and that kind of tradition means something.
Eight Belles was the kind of story I followed closely. The filly was one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby in 2008, and no less a woman than Hillary Clinton had an eye on the race as a female with no concept of breaking barriers or gender roles challenged the boys.
To see her broken legs at the finish line, to know she was soon euthanized ...
Horse racing is a sport with critical issues to address, as recent reporting by the New York Times' Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich has documented. So as historic as it is to have I'll Have Another going for the Triple Crown, it's hard to ignore the problems in the sport.
For the last few years, the stories from the track have been grim. Money has come to a sport that was struggling, and horses have been pushed to race beyond their capacity. Horses are breaking down at rates that make it hard to cheer from the stands.
Plenty of people will be able to tuck this information under a glorious straw hat on race day. But in the back of my mind, I'll be hoping the field safely makes it to the finish line.
By Amanda Rykoff
Make mine a triple! For the first time since 2008, we've got a shot at a Triple Crown winner. Of course I'll be watching the Belmont Stakes on June 9. If it's a sports happening, count me in. Since I live in New York City, I'm even considering organizing a trip to Belmont Park for what could be a historic event. I ventured out to Belmont in 2008 and 2004, the last two times a horse raced for the Triple Crown. If I don't get there in person, I'll definitely be watching on TV, rooting for I'll Have Another (I picked the horse as my Kentucky Derby winner, for the record). The horse has a great backstory and has run two spectacular races to get here.
But will a Triple Crown win help raise the profile of horse racing with sports fans? In the immediate future, absolutely. There will be a buzz as we head into the weekend of June 9, and casual sports fans will watch in hopes of seeing history made. This is also the first Triple Crown threat in the age of Twitter (yes, Twitter was around in 2008, but it wasn't nearly as widely accepted), so I expect the chatter to be magnified as we approach the race. If I'll Have Another does have another win in New York, sports fans will be talking about it and marking it as a milestone. But it won't turn horse racing from the niche sport it is to anything more mainstream. Horse racing's glory days have long since passed.
I hope I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown. It will be exciting and the perfect ending to a great story. But even if it happens, sports fans will go back to not paying attention to horse racing until next year's Kentucky Derby.
By Sarah Spain
Despite spending most of my youth reading about horses, taking horseback riding lessons and even going to summer camp for riding, I've never had much interest in horse racing. I do hope to make it down to the Kentucky Derby one day to enjoy a mint julep in a big, floppy hat, and I might even get to the Preakness some year to experience the infield insanity. But in either case, the races themselves would be of interest only because of the small wager I might make on the outcome.
I won't be watching the Belmont Stakes to see if I'll Have Another can claim the Triple Crown, but I will seek the highlights on "SportsCenter" if he does. I can't imagine a Triple Crown winner will turn uninterested parties like me into real fans, but it might cause the casual race fan to get into the sport a bit more, especially those who bet big on I'll Have Another to win again.
By Melissa Jacobs
Back in 1999 when I first discovered my love for horse racing, I got an early peek at Charismatic, who, like I'll Have Another, won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. I had seen Charismatic race at Bay Meadows in the San Francisco Bay Area and was taken with his lineage, trainer, and yes, his name. Even as a 31-1 Derby long shot, I decided to throw a little coin on him, which, after the race, turned into a lot of coin. The betting slip from that day is one of my most prized possessions and still gives me chills when I look at it. During those few weeks, I couldn't get enough Charismatic news. When he won the Preakness, I could feel horse racing creeping into my top-five sport list, and when he narrowly lost the Belmont because of injury, I cried and cried. I loved that horse.
But the issue with Charismatic, like all Triple Crown contenders, is his real shelf life for stardom was just longer than a month. Same with Funny Cide, Big Brown and now I'll Have Another. Horse racing is the ultimate bandwagon sport, except unlike the excitement of a Valparaiso or VCU during March Madness, all the future holds for the Charismatics or I'll Have Anothers of this world is their studding potential. That is why, even with a new Triple Crown winner, horse racing won't sustain the attention of most age groups. It is challenging enough to keep up with the intricacies of the sports, players and teams we are already invested in for the long haul (Mario Manningham is a now a 49er. Repeat: Mario Manningham is a 49er), most regular sports fans simply don't have the "sports brain space" to get invested in horse after horse year round. Yes, more people will watch the Belmont because of I'll Have Another's Triple Crown quest, and the sport will have a residual popularity if he is successful. But don't expect it to last longer than the next "can't miss" or "crazy underdog" horse.
By Adena Andrews
When it comes to sports I am a Jackie of all trades. From lumberjacking, to cheerleading to outdoor fishing, if there is a winner, I'm watching. It's no different when it comes to the Belmont Stakes and witnessing I'll Have Another become the 12th Triple Crown winner in history.
The rarity of this moment is what makes it so special. Every sport has a champion each year but the stars must be aligned just so for a Triple Crown winner to come through your lifetime. That's what sports is all about, capturing that one shining moment.
My friends may not know why I'm missing another NBA game to watch horse racing but I'll be satisfied knowing I may be witnessing history.