We are just over five days out from the annual party that is the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore Maryland. As normal, there are some who have confirmed entry for the Grade 1 second leg of the Triple Crown Series, others are on the fence and the “out of the woodwork entrant” has not yet developed.
The confirmed horses for the event are led by Kentucky Derby winner, Orb. Other Derby runners confirmed for the second leg of the Triple Crown are Oxbow, Will Take Charge, Goldencents, Mylute, and Itsmyluckyday. Departing, winner of the G3 Illinois Derby, had confirmed for the Preakness as well as Titletown Five, fourth at the G3 Derby Trail.
There are currently two pending entrants for the May 18th running of the Preakness Stakes in Govenor Charlie, winner of the G3 Sunland Derby and Vyjack, 18th place finish in the Kentucky Derby last time out.
The Preakness is run at a mile and 3/16 over the dirt track at Pimlico racetrack. The Preakness is slightly shorter than the Kentucky Derby distance ran two weeks prior. The history of entrants that enter the Preakness varies. Obviously the Derby winner will enter the race hoping for Triple Crown glory. Some enter because they did not meet the prerequisites to run the Derby and want their shot. Others enter from the Derby and believe they can win the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Still others just want to say they have a horse that ran in a Triple Crown race increasing stud fees when they retire. Last year’s winner was I’ll Have Another and below is a replay of his incredible run.
YouTube Video Courtesy of NTRAHorseRacing
The Kentucky Derby winner is not always guaranteed success in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Let’s take a look at this millennium to provide reference points to this logic. War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), Big Brown (2008), and I’ll Have Another (2012) have all managed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. While Monarchos (2001), Giacomo (2005), Barbaro (2006), Street Sense (2007), Min That Bird (2009), Super Saver (2010) and Animal Kingdom (2011) could not repeat Derby success in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Derby winning success does not guarantee a victory two weeks later at the Preakness. With Barbaro there is obviously a tragic injury that kept him for winning a race he was more than capable of handling. So with him there will always be an asterisk in my book.
There are some key reasons why Derby Winners are not locks for Preakness success. One is blatantly obvious. The Derby winner is coming off of just two weeks of rest. In this day and age it is unheard of to bring top-tier horse back on two weeks rest. Let alone to face the crop of talent presented to them in the Preakness.
Another is the distance of the race. Again I will focus on just this millennium to minimize the amount of data you must review. For this I will point to Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Rachel Alexandra did not run in the Kentucky Derby (she had probably the most impressive Kentucky Oaks performance ever) and was set out at the shorter Preakness distance to take on the boys. She unleashed a glorious stretch run that could not be matched.
What about 2001 when Point Given won the Preakness? Point Given had made a huge run in the second turn of the Kentucky Derby but flattened out on the way home. Monarchos handled the race and distance better at Churchill but the shorter distance was something it appeared Point Given preferred in the Preakness on the way to victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Finally, for me it is the sheer size of the field. In the Kentucky Derby there are 20 horses (unless there is a late scratch) prepared to do battle at Churchill Downs. Imagine how challenging a field that is to navigate and the level of luck to get the perfect trip. Looking at recent history Lookin At Lucky, in Derby 136, was roughed at the start, bumped in the mix shortly later and was forced to go five wide once making the final turn in an attempt to challenge for Derby victory. The sheer size of the field played into his sixth place finish that day. However two weeks later, in a twelve horse field with an uncovered run and much better trip he was able to win the Preakness.
There is obviously no one reason why any horse wins the Preakness. The factors I laid out are some logical reasons explaining what happens at Pimlico. So you expect Orb to be victorious this weekend? Is he a great horse? Obviously he is but there is never a guarantee or eminent victory. The last time the Derby ran in off conditions showed Super Saver victorious. He returned two weeks later and was beaten by Lookin At Lucky. This year’s Derby was run in off conditions so will Orb be good enough to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown this weekend? Or can Will Take Charge, Goldencents or Itsmyluckyday take him down this Saturday? Will history repeat? Nobody knows for sure but that is what makes horse racing so great.
Once the field is set and the post positions are established I will release the contender evaluations and picks for the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes. Check back soon and remember, this is all for fun.