Courtesy of Lisa Grimm, Superfectablog.com
The Courier-Journal notes that all
sixteen 'prominent' horses should make the Derby field this time around; it's a bit
ironic that in a year which seems to have a much stronger group of
three-year-olds than we have likely seen for some time, we may not hit the
maximum field of twenty.
It's become something of an annual tradition at Casa Superfecta to question the need
for a twenty-horse field - last year's edition was a historical
primer reflecting on how relatively recent the annual twenty-horse trend is
- the first full field for years only came in 2005 (with considerable variation
in the decades prior to that). In 2007, I set my own limit of fifteen
worthies, while in 2006 it was a general
lament that many 'great' Derbies had featured smaller numbers of runners -
although it must be said that many Triple Crown winners did defeat large fields
- Gallant Fox was one of fifteen,
beat an eighteen-horse field, War Admiral faced nineteen
other horses (and is thus the only Triple Crown winner from a twenty-horse
field), while Assault
Slew triumphed over seventeen- and fifteen-horse fields, respectively.
To expand on the twenty horses=lower Triple Crown chance, one could argue that
those large fields (often filled with at least a generous handful of horses who
did not deserve to be there) denied Afleet Alex, Point Given and Risen
Star (to name a few) the chance to run their races in the Derby. (Of
course, you can equally well make the point that it's meant to be difficult -
it's certainly a valid position).
But this year may be different; there have been so many obviously talented
horses that some owners and trainers whose horses have already faced the top
eschelon and come away wanting have wisely decided to prep them for other races
- with a few more similar defections from the Derby trail, we may end up with
the most competitive field for many long years - and perhaps with a little
welcome breathing room.