When comparing athletic achievement in the history of sport in the United States of America, thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown has a very unique distinction. It is the only sporting event where an animal is crowned as champion. Regardless of what criteria anyone uses to define sport, this event is all about the horses, humans are just along for the ride.
Now before you go getting all tangled up in your reins, I’m here to state that there is absolutely no way any horse becomes a champion without a great combination of owner, trainer, staff, and jockey. But on the occasion that a horse crosses the finish line first, it’s the horse’s name, and not the others, that is exclaimed and then subsequently heralded in the horse racing world. Further, if you seek out lists of Triple Crown winners you’ll see the horse’s name listed first and then the group of humans involved afterward. Indeed, as egocentric as our species is, this sporting event is definitely like no other that the people of this country enjoy. I believe that the question of, and the answer to, why this phenomenon exists in our society is found in our history of the United States.
Horse racing is more than just being a sport for most Americans, it’s a part of our culture and who we are as a people. I think that America’s confidence and trust in horse racing, and any wagering that goes along with it, underscores our historical loyalty to horses. After all, when this country was new, many of our ancestors migrated from East to West over this continent sitting on the back of a horse. For a short time horses were the most reliable way to get mail and other items delivered from place to place via the Pony Express. I have nothing against bovines but in my opinion horses got dealt the short end of the historical stick when somebody uttered the word “cowboy” all those years ago. Throughout the history of our country, horses have been with us every furlong of the way.
So yes, unlike any other individual or team sport we follow, root for, or wager on, it’s the horses that stir the drink in horse racing and I say rightfully so. This is never more prominent than when the annual pursuit of the Triple Crown takes place. Oh, to be sure, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see, hear, and read about the owners and the trainers and the jockeys. However, when the voice calling the action heightens with excitement as the race comes down the stretch toward the finish you won’t see any of them. Nope, when that time comes it will be all about the horses.