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Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.

New Faces in the Preakness

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The week before the Kentucky Derby, I sat with Allen Jerkens in his golf cart on the Belmont backstretch. He had just returned from a winter in Florida; the chill of the Belmont morning had him attired in several layers. His face was ruddy from the Gulfstream Park sun.

It was just a week before the Kentucky Derby, and he wanted to know who I liked. Dodging the question, I asked him who he liked. Dodging the question, he mused, “I wonder…did all those horses win those Triple Crowns because they didn’t have to face fresh horses? When they won, did they have all those new horses coming in like they do now?”

I can only hope that the high school students in my classroom attack their assignments as zealously as I did this one.

According to the Daily Racing Form’s list of Preakness probables, I’ll Have Another can expect to face six horses, in a field of 12, that didn’t race in the Derby. Though the likely field is changing daily, it seems clear that if I Have Another wants to come to Belmont as a Triple Crown candidate, he’s going to have to put away fresh horses, some of whom haven’t raced since early April.

The Chief might be heartened to know, though, that the 11 Triple Crown winners also had to face horses that hadn’t raced in the Kentucky Derby. Of course, racing schedules were different then; in 1930, when Gallant Fox won the Triple Crown, the Preakness was run eight days before the Derby.

Even leaving out that 1930 season, it’s entirely possible that those non-Derby horses who showed up for the Preakness had raced not long before their arrival in Baltimore. Still, a look at the results from the Triple Crown years shows that the “new shooter” idea isn’t exactly a recent development.

In 1919, before the three races were known as the Triple Crown, Sir Barton faced 11 other horses in the Preakness, eight of whom hadn’t raced in the Derby. In 1935, Omaha had it relatively easy: the Preakness field that year was only eight, and all but three had raced in Kentucky.

In 1943, Count Fleet faced only three other horses, two of whom had skipped the Derby; he won by eight lengths. Five years later, Citation won the Preakness by five and a half, triumphing over three rivals, none of whom had made an appearance at Churchill Downs.

The biggest Preakness field in which an eventual Triple Crown winner raced was 12, and that was Sir Barton’s; Gallant Fox faced 11, Assault 10.

In 1937, 1943, 1973, and 1978, the horses that finished second in the Kentucky Derby (Pompoon, Blue Swords, Sham, and Alydar respectively) came back in the Preakness…and finished second again. Let’s not tell Bodemeister that.

Certainly, all this talk of Triple Crown records and fields and foes is premature: like my New York Rangers, engaged in game 1 against the dreaded Devils as I type, I’ll Have Another has a long way to go before he can be compared to the 11 horses who have captured sport’s most elusive title.

But if he does win this weekend, the Chief—and the rest of us—will know that he didn’t have it any easier than they did. 

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Racing collection

Comments :

  • John DeMetropolis | May 17 2012 02:54 PM

    Ah, that's why there are only 11 winners of the Triple Crown, and fewer if you take into account those "grandfathered" in by retroactive definition. Aside from new entrants in the Preakness, there is that mile and a half Belmont, AND whoever new who has been aimed for that marathon distance. The Belmont sometimes fairly buires the horse coming in with the first two under their saddle cloth. How many double winners who ran in the Belmont didn't make it? More than a few. Some wag commented that we keep track of Triple Crown winners and survivors of the Titanic. Now, there are no more Titanic survivors, and no new Triple crown winners. Not yet.

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