Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas says he is rooting for California Chrome to win the Triple Crown — both for the health of the industry and the storyline.
"Just simply having a Triple Crown keeps the industry and the public generally enthused about what's going on," Chuckas said Monday morning in a post-Preakness Stakes news conference at Pimlico Race Course. "It keeps the eyes on it, which brings attention and hopefully creates more customers, and so on."
He also called California Chrome a "feel-good story" with a team comprised of "regular people" who were agreeable and gracious during their time in Baltimore.
California Chrome can become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Feel-good element aside, Chuckas is happy the horse is in the hunt to boost attendance at Pimlico and Laurel Park during the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
"We'd have a nice day, but our attendance here will be two-and-a-half to three times what it is without a Triple Crown [contender]," Chuckas said. "People will wager more. Overall it's a big economic impact for us."
Chuckas estimates the attendance at Belmont will be around 100,000 because of the intrigue of the Triple Crown.
With a record-breaking attendance of 123,469 at the Preakness on Saturday, Chuckas said the entire weekend was "very successful."
He said there were very few expulsions and arrests and that the entire process went smoothly.
"The infield was magical," Chuckas said. "Overall, the accolades came and I couldn't have been happier."
Despite the success, Chuckas make the point again that he believes the Triple Crown should undergo a scheduling change. Currently, the three races occur in a five-week time frame, but Chuckas would like to space out the races to improve the quality of competition.
"We have an obligation to our people to put the best product on the table, and we're not doing it," he said, reiterating a point he made in multiple interviews last week.
He likened changing the schedule to making a structural change in another professional sports league. He said some critics of a spread-out format would argue that an asterisk should be placed next to the horse's name if he or she is to win the Triple Crown.
However, he said MLB, the NBA and the NFL have made all kinds of changes over the years, so this would be no different.
"Do you really believe the Seattle Seahawks should have an asterisk by their name because there's a change in the format?" Chuckas asked. "I don't think so. I really don't."
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