The Derby-to-Belmont route

It used to be routine for top 3-year-olds to compete in the entire Triple Crown series. But contemporary trainers worry that three races in five weeks is too demanding a schedule. If a horse loses the Kentucky Derby and, therefore, loses a chance to win the Triple Crown, trainers often opt to bypass the Preakness and wait to run next in the Belmont Stakes five weeks later. Dullahan and Union Rags, two principal challengers to I'll Have Another on Saturday, are following this strategy.

Is it a good strategy? In the past, it wouldn't have been. Horses coming out of the Preakness into the Belmont appeared to have an edge in fitness over rivals who had been rested. But over the past 10 years, the evidence suggests that taking the Derby-to-Belmont route pays off. During that period, 27 Preakness starters raced in the Belmont, and only one of them -- Afleet Alex in 2005 -- managed to win. In the same period, 28 horses went from the Derby to the Belmont, with four of them winning and six finishing second.

The record since 2002 of horses who raced in the Derby, skipped the Preakness and ran in the Belmont:

Year Horse Derby Finish Belmont Finish
2011 Stay Thirsty 12 2
2011 Brilliant Speed 7 3
2011 Nehro 2 4
2011 Santiva 6 8
2011 Master of Hounds 5 10
2010 Stately Victor 8 8
2010 Ice Box 2 9
2010 Make Music for Me 4 10
2009 Summer Bird 6 1
2009 Dunkirk 11 2
2009 Mr. Hot Stuff 15 8
2009 Chocolate Candy 5 9
2008 Denis of Cork 3 2
2008 Anak Nakal 7 3
2008 Tale of Ekati 4 6
2007 Tiago 7 3
2007 Imawildandcrzyguy 4 6
2006 Jazil 4 1
2006 Bluegrass Cat 2 2
2006 Steppenwolfer 3 4
2006 Bob and John 17 8
2006 Deputy Glitters 8 10
2005 Andromeda's Hero 8 2
2004 Birdstone 8 1
2003 Empire Maker 1 1
2003 Ten Most Wanted 9 2
2002 Essence of Dubai 9 6
2002 Perfect Drift 3 10

By Andrew Beyer - The Washington Post. Published June 6, 2012.