My conclusion is that the premise that the Triple Crown is the focal point is wrong. The Triple Crown is not the cake, it is the icing. Each of the three races is a separate - and highly important - entity unto itself and I do not believe that should change.
The Kentucky Derby has been run since 1875, the Preakness since 1873, and the Belmont since 1866. It was not until 1923, when Gallant Fox won all three races, that the term Triple Crown was applied to this feat.
Triple Crown is simply a term. It has been used in many other venues, including other horse racing traditions.
"For as long as anyone can recall, the term Triple Crown was used to describe the three classic races for England for three year olds. Their races were the Two Thousand Guineas, the English Derby, and the St. Leger. By 1930, the New York Times was calling this Triple Crown 'the highest glory one can achieve upon the turf.'
"There were previous Triple Crowns in American horse racing. When jockey Fred Taral swept the three major spring events of 1894,4 he was said to have a “triple crown as no jockey has ever won.”
"The Coney Island Jockey Club which races at Sheepshead Bay inaugurated its triple crown in 1907 which featured its major races for three year olds, the Tidal, the Lawrence Realization, and the Coney Island Jockey Club Stakes. If any one horse swept, the series, there would be an additional $10,000 paid out as prize to the champion. The Triple Crown bonus was also offered by the Coney Island Jockey Club in 1908."
Apply it to dachshund field trials. The Maple Dachshund Club, Dachshund Club of the Pawpaws, and the Dachshund Association of Red Oaks, become some of the most prestigious field trials in the country. (Though certainly NOT the only prestigious!) One year, lo and behold, the same dachshund goes Absolute at all three! Somebody calls him a Triple Crown Winner. The term 'sticks' and becomes an honored tradition.
Does that mean a dachshund should be required to run in all three trials if he is going to run in one of them? Is the owner of a dachshund who does not run in all three trials a cheat or a coward? No. I don't think so.
Then there are such issues as running baby horses, how often race horses are being run, how long race horses are running and so forth, but those topics are fodder for other posts.
I do not, by the way, hold Mr. Coburn's post-race remarks against him in any way. In the immediate aftermath of such enormous competitive pressure and hugely severe disappointment, only God knows what any of us would say, whether or not microphones are shoved in our faces!