A Triple Crown sweep is far from an everyday occurrence. That’s why it’s remarkable to have not one, but two Triple Crowns on the line this weekend.
The one-eyed wonder Mighty Heart has emerged as a standout among Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and will vie for a sweep of his country’s Triple Crown in Saturday’s Breeders’ S. at Woodbine. A few hours later, the undefeated Contrail will bid for Japanese Triple Crown glory in Sunday’s Kikuka Sho (G1) at Kyoto.
Both colts bring impressive credentials to the table, but sweeping a Triple Crown is a difficult task. Let’s compare and contrast their respective Triple Crown bids, focusing on the advantages and disadvantages of each challenge:
Advantages: Mighty Heart has proven his dominance over Canada’s best 3-year-olds, scoring easy victories in the Queen’s Plate S. and Prince of Wales S. He’s already beaten many of his key rivals in the Breeders’ S., and he’s proven equally successful setting the pace and rallying from behind, giving Mighty Heart plenty of options for working out a clean trip.
Disadvantages: Mighty Heart will be switching to turf for the Breeders’ S., a potentially problematic shift considering he finished 11th in his lone start on grass last winter. He’ll also be stretching out over 1 1/2 miles while running for the third time in six weeks—a testing schedule by any standard. No horse has swept the Canadian Triple Crown since Wando in 2003, back before the Queen’s Plate was contested over a synthetic track. The current configuration requires Triple Crown aspirants to win over three different racing surfaces, a formidable obstacle.
Advantages: Contrail has never tasted defeat, rattling off six victories (including three Group 1 wins) in impressive fashion. Like Mighty Heart, Contrail is versatile in terms of running style, displaying the ability to track the pace or rally from far behind. But unlike Mighty Heart, Contrail isn’t in danger of burning out after a tough Triple Crown campaign—he took four months off during the summer and recently returned with an easy win in the Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2), setting the stage for a peak effort at Kyoto.
Disadvantages: Although Contrail won’t have to switch surfaces for the Kikuka Sho, the 3,000-meter (~1 7/8-mile) distance is a question mark, considering he’s never run farther than 1 1/2 miles. Contrail’s pedigree is packed with stamina, but he’ll face quality rivals on Sunday, with front-running Babbitt a dangerous threat after wiring the 2,200-meter St. Lite Kinen (G2).
Talent alone may carry Mighty Heart and Contrail to victory in their respective Triple Crown bids. But weighing the pros and cons of each challenge, Contrail—who enters fresh and fit while sticking to his preferred surface—appears to face the more manageable task.