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THE ROAD TO THE PREAKNESS STAKES


 

There have been many different roads traveled by many different horses before finally accomplishing the goal of a Preakness win. This is one thing that makes this game of horse racing so great and appealing. There is no set way to do things. There isn’t a “Triple Crown training for Dummies” book in stores to show you the way to do things. Even the connections that have won multiple Preakness Stakes have changed things along the way. Instead of just looking at the race prior to the Preakness, which majority of the time is The Kentucky Derby, I decided to take a look at the Preakness winners since 1981 and compare the prep race before the derby each horse ran in before the Preakness Stakes. The results were somewhat surprising.



Leading the way is the Santa Anita Derby which was no surprise to me considering how California racing was thriving in the 1980s, but is not today. Since 1980 a total of 9 Preakness winners have prepped in the Santa Anita Derby before heading to Churchill for the Kentucky Derby. The only horse to prep in The Santa Anita Derby and not go on to the Kentucky Derby was D Wayne Lukas trained Codex. Not only does the Santa Anita Derby have the most horses out of the other stakes preps it also seems to have much of the better Preakness winners, such as Snow Chief, Sunday Silence, Tabasco Cat, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and Point Given. Of those six, four ended up winning 2 out of the 3 legs of the Triple Crown. It will be interesting to see how the numbers compare a few decades from now with Santa Anita along with all California racetracks switching from conventional dirt to synthetic surfaces.
 


The runner up was the most surprising one. The Arkansas Derby has had 6 Preakness winners who prepped at Oaklawn Park. The headline horse to use the Arkansas Derby as a stepping stone to a Preakness win was the John Servis trained Smarty Jones who won all three Derby prep stakes races at Oaklawn Park including the Arkansas Derby before heading to Churchill Downs to win the Kentucky Derby. He then went to Pimlico and won the Preakness by a record 11 ˝ lengths. Other horses to prep in the Arkansas Derby before winning the Preakness were Gate Dancer, Tank’s Prospect, Pine Bluff, Afleet Alex, and Curlin. All six of these horses went on to the Kentucky Derby before heading to Pimlico for The Preakness. With quite a few of the prep races being switched from conventional dirt to synthetic surfaces I expect Oaklawn Park and the Arkansas Derby to continue this success. Recently the Arkansas Derby has produced 3 of the last 5 Preakness Winners.
 

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After that there is a 3 way tie with 3 wins. The first race is the Wood Memorial. The three Preakness winners consist of Pleasant Colony, Red Bullet, and the gelding Funny Cide. Pleasant Colony and Funny Cide both prepped in the Wood Memorial before going on to wins in The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness. Unfortunately both horses went on to run third in The Belmont Stakes. With the rich history of The Wood Memorial I was surprised to see this race with so few Preakness winners.



The next race with 3 wins is The Bluegrass Stakes. This was a big surprise to me. The Bluegrass Stakes arguably has the most tradition when it comes to Triple Crown prep races. Summer Squall, Prairie Bayou, and Louis Quatorze all used The Bluegrass as preps.



I am afraid that with Keeneland Racetrack putting in a synthetic surface instead of conventional dirt that the days of the Bluegrass being a top end Triple Crown prep race are over which is very sad for the game of horse racing.



The Final race with 3 wins is the Lexington Stakes. The Lexington is contested two weeks before The Kentucky Derby so most of the time the field consists of horses scrambling for a spot in the starting gate for The Kentucky Derby which is why this is quite surprising. Risen Star, Hansel, and Charismatic won The Lexington Stakes before going on to win The Preakness Stakes. Also all three horses ended up winning two out of the three legs of the Triple Crown.



Next, we have The Withers which has been used by Aloma’s Ruler and Bernardini before they went on to wins in The Preakness. Lastly we have the Tessio, a local prep, with Deputed Testamony, the Illinois Derby with War Emblem, and the Florida Derby and Big Brown.
 

 

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