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I'd suggest that comparing 20-horse Kentucky Derby with a 20-horse Arc (or a 24-horse Melbourne Cup) is an apples to oranges comparison for two major reasons:
1- Longchamp and Flemington are HUGE courses, both in circumference and width. 1 1/2 miles at Longchamp is a one-turn race (and that turn is huge, it just keeps going), and Flemington is almost 1 1/2 miles around with a very long chute for the start. In both races the field runs almost 1/2 a mile before they reach the (first) turn. So you can run 20+ there, Plenty of room.
Churchill Downs is a very tight 1 mile oval, the Crushing the Cup guys call it the "coffin". Long sides, narrow ends.
2- The Arc and the Melbourne Cup are for older horses, so more experienced. Yes, I know 3-year olds run and win the Arc but it's in October, not May. If you're going to put your 3-year-old in that race you better be sure he (or she! Gotta salute Enable, Treve et al) has proven ability over the distance and in traffic.
The "Road to the Derby" has so many prep races such that the horses on it often run in short fields, so not as much experience with NASCAR traffic. So their whole lives they've been facing 10 horses max (13 others if they ran in the BC Juvenile) then suddenly they see 19 others among them. But the worst thing is that there are no prep races at the Derby distance. I know it's what makes the race special but come on. I'd rather see the best 3-year-olds at 10f compete in the Derby, not the best 3-year-olds at 1 1/16-1 1/8 in it.
West was very outspoken on a major morning show this week, calling the Churchill Downs people "a greedy organization" having a 20 horse field. He says it should be 14 "max" like the BC.
That's kind of what I was getting at. 20 unproven 3-year-olds in those unfriendly confines is not a good thing. It's amazing we haven't had a multi-horse spill. We came damn close in 2008 though. Eight Belles tragically broke down during the runout. Had she broken down at the 1/8 pole that would have been the NASCAR "big one".
They at least need to get rid of that auxiliary gate. Looking at that start, same thing happened as has the last two years. The only thing that saved them is Master Fencer was slow out of the gate. I have said this before, they make enough money they can make a special gate just for the Derby, getting rid of that, and helping the inside post a bit more. It would make for a more fair start, relative to 20 horses coming out of there.
The number 7 horse was alone in the front and had the entire track to himself. War of Will was coming to his right to attempt a move. When Maximum Security veered there were 3 horses to his right for a total of 4 horses involved in the incident.
While I agree that 20 is probably too many for this race, I don't see how the numbers impacted Saturday's interferences & near falls.
It was a blessing that WoW got to leave from post 2.
So the industry has the PERFECT opportunity to lower the field to 14 or so now.
Will they do it? I would not bet on it. Their ability to be proactive, about anything, is totally non existent.
Nope, i always maintained 20 are too many. 14 would be fine and it gets the auxillary gate out. The thing is this is a money driven sport so having 14 might have an effect on the purse handle.
Tough enough to 'cap an 8 horse field let alone 20 on the mud!!