In just over two weeks, War of Will will try to join racing's most exclusive club: horses to start but fall short in the Kentucky Derby (G1) only to bounce back and win the final two classics.
OK, there's much more interest and prestige in sweeping all three classics, but a whopping 13 horses have done that. Only 11 horses have lost the Derby, then won the other two Triple Crown races. Statistical kidding aside, it's a rare horse who can win two classic races.
War of Will will attempt to become just the 12th horse to fall short in the Derby and win the Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) stakes. He would end a 14-year drought in this category going back to Afleet Alex. And the number of horses to finish off the board in the Derby--War of Will placed seventh in Louisville--to then come back and win the Preakness and Belmont numbers only four.
Granted, the club expands by seven if you count horses who didn't race in the Derby but won the Preakness and Belmont--that group includes Man o' War.
The list of horses to lose the Derby and win the other two legs of the Triple Crown is an impressive one. All but Tabasco Cat earned champion 3-year-old male honors. Tabasco Cat lost out to Holy Bull--who won five grade 1 races that year, two of those top-level wins coming against older horses--to take divisional honors as well as Horse of the Year.
Of the 11, four earned Horse of the Year honors in their 3-year-old seasons: Capot, Nashua, Damascus, and Point Given. (Native Dancer was Horse of the Year at 2 and 4 but lost to Tom Fool at 3.)
And of that group of 11, five are in the Hall of Fame: Bimelech, Native Dancer, Nashua, Damascus, and Point Given.
While there certainly are more "What if?" racing stories involving the horses to win the Derby and Preakness only to come up short in the Belmont, the Preakness-Belmont horses certainly generate their share as well. What if Point Given had been rated off the pace more at Churchill Downs? What if Money Broker hadn't swerved into Native Dancer in the first turn of the Derby?
Considering Maximum Security was disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby for interfering with War of Will, should the son of War Front secure a Belmont victory, his "What if?" story would certainly add an especially interesting chapter.
Preakness-Belmont Winners to Start In, But Not Win Derby
Year Horse Derby Finish
1940 Bimelech 2nd
1949 Capot 2nd
1953 Native Dancer 2nd
1955 Nashua 2nd
1967 Damascus 3rd
1974 Little Current 5th
1988 Risen Star 3rd
1991 Hansel 10th
1994 Tabasco Cat 6th
2001 Point Given 5th
2005 Afleet Alex 3rd