Preakness 2013 - Can You Win After Skipping the Derby?

Rachel Alexandra Preakness 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Following the 1982 Kentucky Derby, the connections for the winner, Gato Del Sol, made a very surprising decision. For the first time in 23 years the Kentucky Derby winner would by-pass the second jewel and rest instead for the Belmont Stakes. The absence of Gato Del Sol took away the chance of a Triple Crown but it also introduced us to Aloma’s Ruler, a horse that skipped the Kentucky Derby.
The following year Sunny’s Halo made it to Pimlico to race in the Preakness Stakes but the Kentucky Derby winner was not able to carry his win streak into the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. As a substitute story line we were once again introduced to another winner that did not run in the Kentucky Derby. This time it was Deputed Testamony, a Maryland Bred that proved he didn’t need the Kentucky Derby in order to win on his home turf.
Since 1983 however, the rare feat has remained somewhat unusual as only 3 of the last 29 Preakness Stakes winners skipped the Kentucky Derby. Although it has occurred twice in the last eight years I recommend we look at whom two of these horses were.
The first and most recognizable of course is a sweet gal by the name of Rachel Alexandra. Not only did she prove to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Kentucky Oaks field in 2009 (20 ¼ lengths to be exact) she also left us wondering if she was good enough to beat the boys the following day. The next time she had the opportunity she made sure we received the answer loud and clear. She became the first Filly to win the Preakness since 1924 and she did it from the most unlikely position; Post 13.
Next was Bernardini in 2006. He got off to a late start and didn’t begin racing until age 3. Shortly after his maiden debut he then had to be sidelined with an infection. He was kept away from racing for about 2 months but the highly regarded colt and son of A.P. Indy came roaring back. After winning the Withers he then went on to win the Preakness Stakes plus many other graded stakes races.
Another interesting note about both of these Preakness winners is that they became eclipse award winners for the same year in which they slid in and stole the second jewel. So, when we look back and consider just how good they were, are we surprised that they won the Preakness Stakes after skipping the Kentucky Derby?
In my opinion that is a very easy answer; absolutely not. But what about the other horse that remains the only Preakness winner to skip the Derby since 1983. It was Red Bullet in 2000. Although he never went on to win another graded stakes race following his big score in the Preakness, Red Bullet still had a respectable record leading up to his first Triple Crown race. The son of Unbridled also did not race at age 2 but his 3-yr-old season took off when he scored in the Gotham. He then followed it up with a 2nd place finish to the eventual Kentucky Derby winner in the Wood Memorial. The next time he saw Fusaichi Pegasus however, it was his turn.
Although Red Bullet may have been suited for the Kentucky Derby his connections elected to pass and Preakness preparations began instead. Because he was already regarded as a potential contender can anyone guess who I’m going to compare Red Bullet to?
Departing is another horse that got a late start in his racing career. In fact, he didn’t race for the first time until late December. Nevertheless, just like Red Bullet he was undefeated in three races prior to his first major Kentucky Derby prep. Although Red Bullet finished better in his, Departing still notched a solid performance against a very tough field in the Louisiana Derby. Finally, it was the prep against Kentucky Derby starters that the decision to skip the first leg of the Triple Crown was made and the Preakness Stakes became the goal.
Unlike Red Bullet however, Departing raced one more time between his major Kentucky Derby prep and the Preakness Stakes. His monster win in the Illinois Derby proved what we already knew but it won’t be until Saturday May 18 until we find out if we can compare him to Red Bullet any more than I already have. 
The other probable starters for the 2013 Preakness Stakes that will attempt to become the next horse to win after skipping the Kentucky Derby are Titletown Five, Govenor Charlie and Street Spice. It’s not that any of these three can’t win the second jewel of the Triple Crown but I will say that I will be surprised if they do. I give Govenor Charlie the best shot of these three but I also think that Departing has the best chance of the four.
Compared to other years in recent history I think this is a good crop of contenders that will be trying to achieve what has become a rare occurrence. But, I also don’t see any of these four ending the year as an Eclipse award nominee. So, I can only compare them to Red Bullet in 2000. However, their path leading up to the Preakness Stakes is where I end the comparison because I can’t envision them being the best horse at Pimlico next weekend. 


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Older Comments about Preakness 2013 - Can You Win After Skipping the Derby?...

I think the Preakness is the best evidance of the fallacy of the advantage of the fresh and rested horse. In the past most trainers wanted a horse to have a prep race 2-3 weeks before a big race and the Preakness shows that it still works today. As Floridaf mentioned since 1984 only Red Bullet has won the Preakness without running in the Derby or Oaks two weeks earlier or Bernardini winning the Withers in late April. It is hard to think of the Derby as being a prep for the Preakness, but for almost all horses running in the Derby is a big advantage in Baltimore.
I specifically remember trainer Joe Orseno of Red Bullet saying right after their Wood Memorial loss to Fusaishi Pegasus, when asked if Churchill was the next race, he said that he would bypass the Derby, and await the horse that just beat him, in five weeks. He said it so confidently, that I was actually looking for the rematch, and loaded up on Red Bullet.
I have no idea how to account for Red Bullet, but I wonder if the race prior to the Preakness has anything to do with Preakness success. Rachel Alexandra raced the day before the Derby, and Bernardini raced the week prior to the Derby, leading me to believe that their success stemmed in part from the fact that they, like the Derby winner, were in peak condition going into the Preakness. Red Bullet is the anomaly, however, because his last race before the Preakness was the Wood Memorial, a month before the Derby.
I think the beholder should run
Any money on Titletwon Five is dead money. He should be running in the 6F stakes on the undercard or better yet a a ALW NWx1 somewhere. DW Lukas simply amazes me.

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