THE PREAKNESS IS PREDICTIVE
Going into Preakness Stakes (G1) week following the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), I toyed with a commentary about spacing the Triple Crown races differently to elicit more consistency among performers race-to-race.
Respected columnists Jay Hovdey from Daily Racing Form and Pat Forde of ESPN.com (and formerly of the Louisville Courier-Journal) addressed the issue, with Hovdey wondering if the Preakness had lost some of its luster through the years because of the increased importance of the Derby and Forde musing that an extra week between the opening and middle jewels of American Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown might attract more Preakness starters.
I agree with both points. I do think the Preakness gets shortchanged in the prestige department. It is just impossible for the media and hype machine to come down off a Derby high and build it back up again within a week. And the two weeks of rest between classics probably cost this year’s Preakness field runners such as Derby runner-up Ice Box and fourth-place finisher Make Music for Me, both of whom will compete in the Belmont Stakes (G1) five weeks after the Derby and three weeks after the Preakness.
Then I started to look at the winners of each race and could not come up with a reason why the Preakness would want to change anything.
Of the previous ten Preakness winners, all ten were or became champions. The last eight male winners all were named champion three-year-old male, and a filly, Rachel Alexandra, won last year en route to Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old filly honors.
Speaking of Horse of the Year, the Preakness rules the roost in that category as well, as two of its past three, three of its past nine, and four of its past 11 winners all went on to win Horse of the Year.
Many people I talked to Preakness week were surprised when I reminded them how successful the Preakness has been as a key race for end-of-season awards. Since 1999, only the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) has had more winners accept the Horse of the Year trophy (5-4). Curlin won the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Horse of the Year honors in 2007.
The only Derby winner during that time to win Horse of the Year was Charismatic in 1999; the only Belmont winner during that time to win Horse of the Year was Point Given in ’01; and interestingly enough, both horses won the Preakness in their respective Horse of the Year seasons.
I do not know why the Preakness form holds out throughout the year better than the other two classics other than to point out what everyone else usually does—that in recent years the race has been the most formful of the Triple Crown races with favorites winning in seven of the past 11 runnings compared with four Derby-winning favorites and two (out of ten) Belmont-winning favorites during that period.
To me, those kinds of results mean the Preakness is fine the way it is and where it is on the schedule.
by Ed DeRosa
ZITO NABS VELAZQUES FOR FLY DOWN
Top rider John Velazquez will ride leading fancy Fly Down in the Belmont Stakes, final leg of the US Triple Crown on June 5.
Trainer Nick Zito,who has won the race twice in the last six years, has turned to Velazquez because Fly Down's regular rider Jose Lezcano will be aboard likely favourite Ice Box, a late-charging runner-up to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby after his Florida Derby win.
Fly Down comes to the Belmont on the back of victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, the designated trial at the New York venue.
"BelmontPark, John Velazquez, Nick Zito, we've had good luck together," said Zito, speaking to the Daily Racing Form.
"Plus, I've known Johnny since he was 18. I had a lot of good jockeys wanting to ride this horse, but I went with the New York jockey."
Other likely Belmont runners include Preakness runner-up First Dude, Blue Grass Stakes winner Stately Victor and Dublin, who lost all chance at Pimlico when veering right at the starting gate.
by Nicholas Godfrey
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