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.

Year Horse Finish
1990 Pendleton Ridge 13th
1991 Corporate Report 9th
1991 Alydavid 14th
1992 Devil His Due 12th
1992 Disposal 18th
1994 Strodes Creek 2nd
1997 Pulpit 4th
1999 Desert Hero 13th
1999 Valhol 15th
2000 Wheelaway 5th
2000 Curule 7th
2000 Trippi 11th
2003 Atswhatimtalknbout 4th
2004 Song of the Sword 11th
2005 Greeley's Galaxy 11th
2006 Showing Up 6th
2007 Curlin 3rd
2009 Summer Bird 6th
2009 Dunkirk 11th
2011 Midnight Interlude 16th

By Andrew Beyer - The Washington Post. Published May 2, 2012.