No starts as 2-year-old entering the Derby; Does it matter?
One piece of Kentucky Derby history is receiving significant attention this week: No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. This is a potentially crucial precedent because Bodemeister, the probable favorite on Saturday, did not start his racing career until Jan. 17, 2012.
The history of the Derby has provided several indicators to underscore the fact that a colt needs extensive preparation -- and not just good recent form -- to win at 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May. But these indicators have become less relevant in an era when thoroughbreds are campaigned more sparingly than their ancestors.
Once it was a "rule" that a horse needed three prep races as a 3-year-old to win the Derby. But beginning in 2007, four Derbies were captured by a colt with only two prep races. Once it was a "rule" that a horse needed a prep race within four weeks of the Derby. Then Barbaro (2006) and Big Brown (2008) won after five-week layoffs.
But the rule that a horse needs 2-year-old experience has held. Since 1990, a total of 20 Derby runners have tried to overcome the precedent and all have failed.
This list includes talented runners such as Curlin and Summer Bird, who went on to capture the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, respectively. People who believe in the importance of 2-year-old experience could argue that their lack of seasoning hampered them in the Derby. Debunkers of history maintain that this is just another outmoded rule that is certain to be disproved sooner or later -- perhaps as soon as Saturday.
|1992||Devil His Due||12th|
|2004||Song of the Sword||11th|
By Andrew Beyer - The Washington Post. Published May 2, 2012.