As we inch closer to the 2008 Kentucky Derby, there is one certainty that we can all agree on: There will only be one winner and a whole bunch of disappointment. With that in mind, here's an interesting question to ponder:
Since 1978, who was the best Derby starter that did not win? In other words, which horse started in the Derby, did not win, but achieved greatness either prior to or after the first Saturday in May?
I chose the last 30 years as a reference for this question, in part because that was the last time we had a Triple Crown winner, but also because I am too young to remember any further back.
As I began to look back on this, obvious names came to mind: Curlin (third in 2007 Derby, won Preakness and BC Classic), Point Given (fifth in 2001 Derby, won Preakness and Belmont), Easy Goer (second in 1989 Derby, won Belmont and five grade I races after that), and of course Alydar, who was second in all three legs of the Triple Crown in 1978.
But after picking the brain of esteemed colleague Evan Hammonds, we came up with a bunch of others. What about Risen Star, an underrated colt who was third in the 1988 Derby, but went on to win the Preakness and the Belmont (by a whopping 14 ¾ lengths)?
There is also Victory Gallop, who was second in the 1998 Derby and Preakness, then went on to capture the Belmont, and the Whitney the following year.
Or we can go back to champion 2-year-old Arazi. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1991 as part of an eight-race winning streak, then finished eighth in the Derby the following year before being taken back to France where he was a group II winner.
How about Holy Bull? After a disappointing 12th in the 1994 Derby he reeled off six victories in a row, including the Haskell and Travers.
Evan came up with a pair of good ones - Johannesburg and Slew o' Gold. Johannesburg, like Arazi, did his best work before the Derby, winning seven of his first eight races in Europe before finishing eighth in the 2002 Run for the Roses.
Slew o' Gold was a monster. The son of Seattle Slew was fourth in the 1983 Derby, but still went on to become champion 3-year-old, and the following year won an Eclipse Award as an older horse.
Those are the 10 that we came up with. Let me know what you guys think. Please vote below and we'll crown a champion in a few weeks.
For the record, my vote goes to Point Given. I admit, I am a little biased because he is my favorite horse of all time, but you can't argue with what he did - 9 for 13 in his career, won two legs of Triple Crown, 3-year-old champion, first horse to win four $1 million races in a row. He was a man amongst boys. Easy Goer would probably be my second choice.
For results of the poll go here