Skipping the Preakness Increasingly Popular for Derby Starters

By Nicole Sauer

Since 1973, an average of five Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starters have ran back in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). By that standard, this year's class of sophomores is under-performing, with only three Derby runners—California Chrome (first), Ride On Curlin (seventh), and General a Rod (11th)—are likely to start in the Preakness. Derby starters have dominated the Preakness and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) since 1973, so their absence from the Preakness may be good news for the newcomers.

Over the past 41 years, 28% of Kentucky Derby starters also ran in the Preakness, and 26% ran in the Belmont. Derby runners have accounted for 72% of the top-three finishers and 74% of the winners of the Preakness and Belmont during that time. Derby starters also have a better average finish position in these races compared to horses that didn't start in the Derby.


Avg. Finish
in Preakness
Avg. Finish
in Belmont
All Derby Starters 4.67 4.63
All Non-Derby Starters 6.88 6.41
Derby Winners 2.57 3.00

Despite the good record of Derby runners in the Preakness and Belmont, sending a horse to all three events has become unpopular, as illustrated in the chart below. There has been a slight increase in the past three years, thanks to three horses in both 2011 (Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, and Mucho Macho Man) and 2013 (Orb, Oxbow, and Will Take Charge) starting in all three events, but overall there has been a distinctive decline in the percentage of Derby starters to contest all three races.

The percentage of Derby-Preakness runners has remained steady over this time period, but the trend of skipping the Preakness and waiting for the Belmont is growing.

Seven of the 14 horses in the 2013 Belmont field followed the Derby-Belmont pattern, including winner Palace Malice, and five of the the past 10 Belmont winners skipped the Preakness after starting in the Derby.

Several Derby contenders that opted out of this year's Preakness are under consideration for the Belmont, including Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong, and Samraat, who finished second, third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in the Derby. Considering the recent record of Derby runners in the Belmont, this is setting up to be a contentious conclusion to the Triple Crown series.


Leave a Comment:

lawrence vaccarelli

"this is setting up to be a contentious conclusion to the Triple Crown series".....sorry to burst the balloon your floating here.....there not coming to the Preakness because they are knocked out ! cant answer the bell so to speak...CC is going to run these chumps off there feet and send them scattering to the for the Belmont....well lets just watch this fiasco first.

14 May 2014 5:08 PM

It's all part of the trend of horses running less often. Today, I'm actually amazed that any Derby starter, other than the winner, would compete in the Preakness. I don't think that any of this has much to do with the breed being today less sound/robust, or that it's somewhat a consequence of drugs. Rather, trainers today know more than in years past, and they realize that more time between races yields better performance, and a sounder horse. Notice what was said by California Chrome's trainer-he prefers to run ALL his horses with at least a 4-5 week interval between races. Pletcher practices much the same. I see this as one of the few improvements in racing over the years. The fans may not like it, but it's better for the horses and owners (in the end). J.T. Lundy once told me that a racehorse is probably at his best for only four races/yr., and I tend to agree. Not enough is written on this subject.

14 May 2014 5:22 PM

As we know the Triple Crown races are knitted close and over the course of many years since the last Triple Crown winner it is obvious that most of these races are not quite what they use to be - those that are skipping the Preakness and taking a "shot" at the Belmont and did not do quite so well in the Derby is the usual scenario.  This is not to say that they are not well-bred and impressionable but rather it is almost impossible to be put through such a grueling test that is timely set so close in competition up against opponents and tracks that are unforgiveable.  Lines were built to last in the past and now simply are production lines that take all of us across the field of dreams and the dream has not come true ~ as yet. Trainers and Owners and Breeders are dreaming too and desparate to make it happen all to no avail as they put in any good possibility they think could do it..not the case historically - we all knew what we had and that they could do it. No need to question fractions, track and turns or distance. (i.e:just read Memories of a Master by J. Scheinman and take a look at the greats). Unless we search and research and take a step back here the entries and the fish bowl of youngsters will continue to seek a success that is more unlikely than likely.

California Chrome has done a whole lot here and shows and struts his stuff - if he can succeed in conquering it will do a lot for the business of racing and get things hopefully back in gear.  He is wished well and it seems to be in the stars for this team making it a must see. We can ask "well, who is he up against" and the answer could be "he's the best of the rest" - and we love him for it.

The note here is simply that if there were an outstanding particular horse that was built to stay on the trail - they would make it through the toughness of the three calls as they did before ~

the trainer would know it and perhaps the percentages would change

Thanks and Good luck to "The Chrome"!

14 May 2014 9:30 PM

Mr. Vaccarelli:

"Fiasco", is it? This is a contentious Preakness; one of the better ones in years. If I were a bookie, I'd book nearly all I could get on C.C. Bayern and Social Inclusion appear to be talents; likely more talented that C.C. Main concern is their seasoning, and innate ability to "want" that distance in mid May of their 3 yr. old year.

14 May 2014 9:44 PM
Pedigree Ann

What exactly to you folks mean when you use the word 'talented?' They look good working in the morning? They are big and heavily muscled? They have fancy, stylish pedigrees? Talent is only part of the equation, after all, even with humans - there is hard work, accepting that occasional failures will happen, and being able to keep going when others give up. I'm sure Stymie and John Henry raced against horses whom you or others may have thought 'more talented' but those two just kept coming at them and beat them all in the end.

15 May 2014 1:32 PM

Us "folks" will try to answer your (rhetorical)question about "talent". Neither pedigree, nor mere good looks (heavily muscled and big is not my idea of good looks) alone equate with talent, at least for me. For example, no one would refer to a yearling as talented by simply observing him standing still.  Rather, willingness (some call it "heart"), an athletic frame, athleticism in motion, a demonstrated ability for atypically good acceleration, a racing carriage of the type that has been displayed by many other good ones, a display of some reasonable semblance of stamina comprise the lion's share of my definition. For example, a horse like Vineyard Haven had fit the bill for me-other than his stamina limitations. He had great talent, but it was limited to about a mile. I mention him in regard to your remark about pedigree. So, try again.  

15 May 2014 4:43 PM
Pedigree Ann

"Bayern and Social Inclusion appear to be talents; likely more talented that C.C."

" willingness (some call it "heart"), an athletic frame, athleticism in motion, a demonstrated ability for atypically good acceleration, a racing carriage of the type that has been displayed by many other good ones, a display of some reasonable semblance of stamina comprise the lion's share of my definition"

But...,, but isn't that what California Chrome has and has shown? Yet you believe that horses he has easily defeated have more 'talent' than he? That is what confuses me.

22 May 2014 3:42 PM

Perhaps this will ease your mind:

In his INITIAL start it was my perception that Forego had real talent-yet he ran unplaced. I touted him to all my friends. Clearly he later proved to be a far better racehorse than those who defeated him in that first race.

Much earlier, I felt the same about Buckpasser-ran 4th in his initial start. He also proved superior to those who defeated him.

Still believe that Bayern and Social Inclusion have more talent than C.C. Likely Candy Boy as well. Hope Candy Boy is "right", and Sadler decides to run him in Belmont.

23 May 2014 9:26 AM

Recent Posts

More Blogs