Preakness 2022: Why have new shooters won so much lately?

Preakness 2022: Why have new shooters won so much lately?
Photo: Ron Flatter

It seemed for the longest time that new shooters who had not raced in the Kentucky Derby almost never won the Preakness Stakes. The theory was that horses jumping onto the Triple Crown trail at Pimlico must not have been good enough for the ultimate race at Churchill Downs.

Between 1984 and 2016, only three new shooters – Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006 and Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra in 2009 – won the Preakness.

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Then came Cloud Computing in 2017. And the filly Swiss Skydiver in the weird COVID year 2020. And Rombauer last year. And of the 15 horses who hit the board in the last five runnings of the Preakness, eight were new shooters.

Chalk it up to the new way of doing business in the 3-year-old division. There are three reasons to think that.

1. The points system that has qualified horses for the Derby since 2013 has turned into an all-or-nothing play that boils down to eight major preps in late March and early April. In the old days, a horse might have earned enough money to qualify before that. Now some decent 3-year-olds might not be primed to race during those three weeks from the Louisiana Derby (G2) to the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Preakness becomes the next logical target.

2. The advent of win-and-you’re-in qualifiers for the Preakness led directly to the decision last year by Rombauer’s owners John and Diane Fradkin to skip a chancy Derby campaign in order to focus on Baltimore. Rombauer’s winter victory in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields came with an automatic Preakness berth. Focusing on Baltimore turned out to be a shrewd move.

3. North America’s ever-shrinking foal crop dwindled another 9 percent between 2013 and 2018, the years that produced the 3-year-olds who raced in the Preakness since 2016. The ripple effect has meant a talent dilution in all divisions. Those horses graduating from the Derby to the Preakness cannot be all good, right? At least they might not be as good, top to bottom, as they were six years ago.

The current cluster of victories by new shooters is the most in the Preakness since 1980-83, when three of the four runnings were won by non-Derby horses. Since 1932, when the Preakness was moved permanently behind the Derby on the Triple Crown calendar, 75 of the 90 winners (83 percent) had run for the roses at Churchill Downs. So maybe what is being experienced now is an anomaly.

Win bets, of course, are not everything. For eight years in a row, at least one new shooter has finished in the money at Pimlico; half the time there were two. Over time, 58 of the last 90 renewals of the Preakness (64 percent) have seen at least one new shooter hit the board. In 18 of those years (20 percent) there were at least two. Once, in 1982, they filled the trifecta.

If traditional form holds, then bettors will have that much more reason to bet on Epicenter or Simplification to win. If, instead, the new trend persists, then Secret Oath or Early Voting could be the play.

The following chart shows where the in-the-money Preakness horses since 1932 had finished in the Kentucky Derby. “New” shooters are so designated. The “KD 1” column shows where the Derby winner finished at Pimlico.

1st2nd3rdKD 1  Notes
2022   DNS 
2021NEWKD 6KD 13rdKD results before later DQ.
2020NEWKD 1NEW2ndPreak. 28 days after KD (COVID).
2019KD 7NEWNEWDNSKD results reflect race-day DQ.
2018KD 1KD 6NEW1st 
2017NEWKD 4NEW8th 
2016KD 2NEWKD 13rd 
2015KD 1NEWNEW1st 
2014KD 1KD 7NEW1st 
2013KD 6KD15KD 54th 
2012KD 1KD 2KD 51st 
2011KD 4KD 1NEW2nd 
2010KD 6NEWKD128th 
2009NEWKD 1KD 32nd 
2008KD 1NEWNEW1st 
2007KD 3KD 1KD 22nd 
2005KD 3NEWKD 13rd 
2004KD 1NEWNEW1st 
2003KD 1NEWKD111st 
2002KD 1NEWKD 21st 
2001KD 5KD 7KD 36th 
2000NEWKD 1KD 32nd 
1999KD 1KD 2NEW1st 
1998KD 1KD 2NEW1st 
1997KD 1KD 3KD 21st 
1996KD16KD12KD 6DNS 
1995KD 3NEWKD 13rd 
1994KD 6KD 1NEW2nd 
1993KD 2NEWKD185th 
1992KD 5NEWKD 25th 
1991KD10KD 9KD 36th 
1990KD 2KD 1KD 82nd 
1989KD 1KD 2NEW1st 
1988KD 3KD 6KD 13rd 
1987KD 1KD 2KD 41st 
1986KD11KD 1KD 32nd 
1985KD 7KD 3KD12DNS 
1984KD 5NEWKD 77th 
1983NEWKD 2NEW6th 
1981KD 1KD10NEW1st 
1980NEWKD 1NEW2nd 
1979KD 1KD 3KD 61stNo new shooters in Preakness.
1978KD 1KD 2KD 31st 
1977KD 1NEWKD 21st 
1976KD 3KD 8KD 13rd 
1975KD 4KD 1KD 32nd 
1974KD 5NEWKD 11st 
1973KD 1KD 2KD 31st 
1972NEWKD 2NEW4th 
1971KD 1KD 4KD 21st 
1970KD 8KD 2NEW9th 
1969KD 1KD 2NEW1st 
1968dKD 2NEWKD 13rdKD results before DQ; Preakness after
1967KD 3NEWKD 13rd 
1966KD 1KD 4KD 71st 
1965KD 3KD 2KD 57th 
1964KD 1KD 3KD 21st 
1963KD 3KD 1KD 22nd 
1962NEWKD 3KD 28th 
1961KD 1KD 6KD 21st 
1960NEWKD 3NEW5th 
1959KD 4KD 2KD 7DNS 
1958KD 1KD 2KD 81st 
1957KD 4KD 1NEW2nd 
1956KD 2KD 1KD 72nd 
1954KD 2KD 6KD 3DNS 
1953KD 2NEWKD 45th 
1950KD 2KD 1KD112nd 
1949KD 2KD 3NEW5thPreakness 7 days after KD.
1948KD 1NEWNEW1st 
1947KD 3KD 4KD 24thPreakness 7 days after KD.
1946KD 1KD 4KD 31stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1945NEWKD 1KD 32ndPreakness 7 days after KD.
1944KD 1NEWKD 31stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1943KD 1KD 2NEW1stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1942KD 2KD14NEW5thPreakness 7 days after KD.
1941KD 1NEWKD 81stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1940KD 2KD 4KD 13rdPreakness 7 days after KD.
1939KD 2NEWNEW5thPreakness 7 days after KD.
1938KD 2NEWKD 4DNSPreakness 7 days after KD.
1937KD 1KD 2NEW1stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1936KD 1KD DNFNEW1st 
1935KD 1KD 2KD 61stPreakness 7 days after KD.
1934NEWKD 1KD 22ndPreakness 7 days after KD.
1933KD 2KD 4NEW10thPreakness 7 days after KD.
1932KD 1KD 6NEW1stPreakness 3 days after KD.

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