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||Master of Hounds||5||10|
|2010||Make Music for Me||4||10|
|2009||Mr. Hot Stuff||15||8|
|2008||Denis of Cork||3||2|
|2008||Tale of Ekati||4||6|
|2006||Bob and John||17||8|
|2003||Ten Most Wanted||9||2|
|2002||Essence of Dubai||9||6|
By Andrew Beyer - The Washington Post. Published June 6, 2012.