In an era when U.S. thoroughbreds were more robust, it was routine for horses to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown series. Trainers weren’t concerned about giving their horses plenty of rest between races. On the contrary. They often gave a horse a prep race within a week or so of the Belmont Stakes to make them extra sharp. In 1982, Conquistador Cielo won a stakes race on Memorial Day and came back five days later to run away with the Belmont.
The sport has changed dramatically in this respect. Few horses run in all three races; unless a horse has won the Kentucky Derby, many trainers opt to skip the Preakness so a horse can be fresh for the demands of the 1½-mile Belmont five weeks later. This practice may suggest that trainers have become overly conservative, but the Belmont results verify that their caution is warranted.
Since 2006, 23 horses who competed in the Preakness have come back to race in the Belmont Stakes three weeks later. (Some also ran in the Derby; some didn’t). All 23 lost, including Preakness winners California Chrome (2014), Oxbow (2013), Shackleford (2011), Big Brown (2008) and Curlin (2007.) All but two had a worse finishing position in the Belmont than in the Preakness.
The record of horses going from the Preakness to the Belmont since 2006:
|Year||Horse||Preakness finish||Belmont finish|
|Ride on Curlin||2||11|
|General a Rod||4||7|
|Will Take Charge||7||10|
|Mucho Macho Man||6||7|
|Isn’t He Perfect||9||12|
|2009||Mine That Bird||2||3|
|C P West||4||5|
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