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  • 2010 Preakness - The Fallacy of Freshness

       May 13, 2010

    (see all of our Preakness coverage)

    Much is made of the supposed advantage of having a fresh horse in the Preakness. The theory goes that because these fresh horses didn't have to endure the difficulties inherent in the Kentucky Derby, they'll be ready to pounce on the tired horses that did run in the Derby.

    It's a nice theory, but in practice it just doesn't work that way. For the most part, if you have a horse good enough to win the Preakness, you'll run him the Derby. This chart shows Preakness winners since 1979 and you can see that over 80% ran in the Kentucky Derby (35% won the Derby and 55% at least finished in the top three).

    Typically, horses that skip the Derby do so because they haven't accomplished enough to win the race. Unless they suddenly improve, there's little reason to think they can beat the better colts that ran in the Derby.

    Of course, since 1979 six horses that skipped the Derby did win the Preakness. Is there anything special or enlightening about them? Let's look:

    1. Codex won the 1980 Preakness after winning both the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies in California. His owners never bothered to nominate him to the Kentucky Derby, so he couldn't run even though his trainer, a relatively young Wayne Lukas, wanted to.
    2. Aloma's Ruler and Deputed Testamony won the 1982 and 1983 Preakness respectively. Both were basically local horses who won local races between the Derby and Preakness.
    3. Red Bullet won the 2000 Preakness after finishing second in the Wood Memorial and skipping the Derby
    4. Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness after winning the Withers Stakes on Derby Day. Berdardini was only a maiden winner prior to the Derby, albeit a spectacular one.
    5. Finally, Rachel Alexandra won last year's Preakness after running in the Kentucky Oaks. Her original owners didn't believe in running fillies against colts, which is why she didn't run in the Derby

    So, with the single exception of Red Bullet, these horses, even if they didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, came into the Preakness off of a recent prep race that they won. Looking at this year's field, the newcomers don't fit this pattern. They haven't run many recent races and they haven't won a lot of races. I don't see any of them beating the Derby horses, although I haven't yet decided which of those Derby runners I'm going to pick. I'll do that in tomorrow's post.

    Posted by kris at May 13, 2010 11:57 AM

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