Are four career starts enough?
Contemporary horses campaign much less rigorously than their forebears, and many old guidelines about proper Kentucky Derby preparation have fallen by the wayside. Once it seemed necessary to have a final prep race within two weeks of the Derby; now horses routinely have a three-, four- or five-week break before the first Saturday in May. Horses don't make as many pre-Derby starts as they used to, and no modern-day thoroughbred would race 28 times before the Derby as Carry Back did in 1961. But 3-year-olds still need enough experience to be fit enough for the demands of the Derby. How many starts should they have before the first Saturday in May? History says at least five. No horse with four or fewer starts has won the Derby since 1918, when Exterminator did it. Since then, 28 have tried and failed. Two of the prime contenders in this year's field will attempt to win after racing only four times: Dialed In, the Florida Derby winner, and Midnight Interlude, the Santa Anita Derby winner. They will either consign to the dustbin another of the "rules" for Derby preparation or else add their names to a long list of failures. The horses since 1900 who came into the Derby with four or fewer starts:
|1982||Air Forbes Won||7th|
|1999||Stephen Got Even||14th|
|2008||Denis of Cork||3rd|
By Andrew Beyer - The Washington Post. Published May 4, 2011.