Commentary

Triple Crown medley

Updated: April 13, 2010, 11:06 PM ET
By Randy Moss | Special to ESPN.com

It's amazing what a good underdog story can do. Notice how Mine That Bird seems to have temporarily sparked more interest in horse racing among the so-called mainstream sports media?

• Rachel Alexandra might win the Preakness. If she repeats her Kentucky Oaks, she wins by daylight. And it's a great storyline for the sport. But that doesn't change the opinion here that she shouldn't be running. Why bring her back in 15 days after such a gigantic win? What's the hurry? What happened to doing what's best for the horse? Today's thoroughbreds aren't meant to withstand such rigors, so why take the chance with the filly's long-term best interests? I hope this is 100 percent wrong, but my gut tells me it's 50-50 that Rachel Alexandra will have a maximum of one race left in her career if she runs in the Preakness, just like Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex did. The stress usually seems to create some type of physical problem, and, poof, they're off to the breeding shed. Even if the filly wins, I still don't get it. Impatience might at least be explainable if the Preakness was her only opportunity for a historic victory over colts, but it isn't. The Belmont Stakes makes more sense on several levels, and would be just as popular with fans.

• Too many confuse jockey exertion with horse exertion. If a horse is running its fastest, it doesn't matter whether the rider is tattooing it with the whip or blowing kisses to the crowd. Rachel Alexandra gave the greatest performance in Oaks history, so is unrealistic to assume she was coasting just because Calvin Borel had his whip tucked away and was craning his neck to look back at the opposition.

• Early prediction: Todd Pletcher wins the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Which horse? Absolutely no idea.

• Sure, it would have been poor sportsmanship had Ahmed Zayat and Mark Allen entered extra horses in the Preakness to keep Rachel Alexandra out. But a couple of points should be made. First, Rachel Alexandra was not nominated to the Triple Crown, and supplemental nominees should have disadvantages besides the higher fee, or else too many owners would bypass early nominations altogether. Also, the scheme to exclude the filly would have been perfectly within the rules -- so instead of bellyaching about ethics, correcting that is where racing's focus should be. It is inexcusable that the sport's most prestigious events have eligibility regulations, or lack of them, that would permit such shenanigans. And it's even more inexcusable that Pimlico Race Course didn't spell out rules for supplemental nominees in the first place.

• Mine That Bird's Derby stunner might have an added impact. Now Churchill Downs is probably less likely to upgrade the graded-earnings rule it utilizes to rank horses in the event of oversubscribed fields, which now happens pretty much every year. Many of us have suggested various changes to that rule. But if the Derby had used Breeders' Cup procedures -- with half the field selected by stakes points or earnings and the other half by a panel of experts -- Mine That Bird never would have made it into the gate. If 2-year-old earnings had been eliminated from consideration as many have suggested, Mine That Bird wouldn't have made the cut. And if the Derby field had been limited to 14 horses based on graded earnings as currently defined, Mine That Bird would have barely made the race at No. 14 on the list.

• Track owner Stan Fulton has sunk slot riches into getting Grade 3 status for his ungraded Sunland Derby. Now that Advice, Mine That Bird and Mythical Power have used the race as a springboard to success, Fulton should finally achieve his goal. If that doesn't happen, the entire grading process needs to be blown up and revamped. Fulton could lay the dynamite, and Oaklawn Park, smarting from the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby's annual snubs, would gladly light the fuse.

• When it comes to his race calls, Tom Durkin is a perfectionist. That's one reason he's so consistently stellar. But when Durkin told Daily Racing Form's Jay Hovdey he "didn't do the job I was hired to do" because he was slow to identify Mine That Bird in the Derby's final furlong, he was beating himself up unnecessarily. When Mine That Bird rocketed away from the field, almost everyone did an incredulous double- or triple-take at their programs to make sure they had the right horse. Durkin's handicapping expertise subconsciously spoke exactly what the rest of us were thinking: That can't be him!

• Churchill Downs' cutback to a four-day racing week is another tiny glimpse into the future of racing. Either tracks will willingly cut racing dates -- no, slash them -- or the free market will eventually force it, and much more painfully. You can get too much of a good thing, and at present, there is far too much racing in the U.S.

Randy Moss has been an analyst for ESPN/ABC Sports thoroughbred racing coverage since 1999.

Randy Moss

Horse Racing
Before joining ESPN in 1999 as the network's chief horse-racing analyst, Randy Moss covered the sport for more than two decades for the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Arkansas Democrat.