Keeneland presents American Graded Stakes Standings: New Isn’t Better in Baltimore
Of the 16 horses currently pointing to the Preakness, exactly half ran in the Kentucky Derby, and half are newcomers. Based on the recent history of the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Derby group has a distinct advantage.
Since 1980, when Codex won in Baltimore as a new shooter, only five other eventual Preakness winners came into the race without a start in the Derby.
Since 1983, only three have captured the Preakness without a Run for the Roses – Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Bernardini in 2006 and Red Bullet in 2000.
The form of the last six newcomers to win the Preakness is pretty consistent. Five of them came to Baltimore directly off of a victory. Only Red Bullet failed to win his final Preakness prep, but he was second in the Wood Memorial and had won the Gotham before that, so his form was solid. Five of those six had also recorded at least one graded stakes victory before the Preakness – the only exception being Deputed Testamony in 1983.
There was no set path for these successful newcomers. Rachel Alexandra, of course, romped in the Kentucky Oaks before beating the boys in Baltimore. Bernardini launched his Preakness bid following a Withers victory at Aqueduct, same as Aloma’s Ruler in 1982. Codex was the lone new shooter to come out of California preps, winning the Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Derby prior to the Preakness.
Of this year’s eight new shooters, Hierro would seem to best fit the profile. He’s coming to Baltimore off a win in the Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs. Pretension and Zetterholm, who has won three straight for trainer Rick Dutrow, are the other runners with victories in their last races – both non-graded stakes.
In addition to history being stacked against them, the newcomers will simply face the extremely difficult task of leap-frogging the top six Derby finishers, who may all wind up in the Preakness starting gate.
As for I’ll Have Another’s chances to take a shot at the Triple Crown in New York, 11 horses have captured the first two legs since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978. On pedigree, I’ll Have Another certainly ticks the right boxes when looking at the most recent of those runners. The son of Flower Alley is out of the Mr. Prospector/Raise A Native sire line, which was present in four of the last six Triple Crown hopefuls to take both the Derby and the Preakness.
I’ll Have Another came into the Derby off two graded stakes victories at Santa Anita. Since the turn of the century, none of the four Derby-Preakness winners had a prep in California, but the five before that, dating back to Alysheba in 1987, all had at least one graded stakes prep race at Santa Anita.
Including Charismatic in 1999, four of the last five Derby-Preakness winners came into the Derby off a victory in their final graded stakes prep, the only exception being Funny Cide in 2003, who lost three straight graded stakes races before taking the Derby and the Preakness.
Like the last two runners to reach the Belmont with a chance at the Triple Crown, I’ll Have Another is unbeaten in his sophomore year. Big Brown and Smarty Jones tasted their first career defeats in the Belmont Stakes. I’ll Have Another was 1 for 3 during his juvenile season. The average number of career races heading into the Preakness for the last four runners to win both the Derby and the Preakness is 6.5. I’ll Have Another hits that mark with six starts so far.