For the first time since I’ve started covering the Triple Crown series, the Derby winner will skip the Preakness.
It’s pretty rare, and to boot we’ll likely have a Preakness favorite who was also the Derby favorite that still hasn’t won at age 3. I’m looking at your Post Time Derby selection Improbable.
He actually ran a pretty good Derby finishing fifth, elevated to fourth after traffic troubles forced him outside on the wet track, which isn’t always the place to be at Churchill Downs on a sloppy track. A win would give trainer Bob Baffert a record-breaking eighth Preakness win.
The Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman points out that it will be the first time since 1951 that the first four finishers in the Derby (pre-DQ) will not return to run in the middle jewel. That’s 68 years if you’re keeping score at home.
The only other time in Derby history that the first horse to cross the line was not the official winner was in 1968, when Dancer’s Image was stripped of his win due to a drug infraction.
On the Tuesday morning following the race, the stewards notified trainer Lou Cavaleris, Jr. that traces of a medicinal agent called phenylbutazone had been discovered in Dancer’s Image’s urine. His horse was disqualified and Forward Pass was named the winner.
Courier-Express turf writer Phil Ranallo wrote in his What’s New Harry column that the trainer was so distraught that he left his Louisville hotel room without paying his bill and without his luggage.
Imagine if social media were around back then and the spotlight that would have been shone on Cavaleris. It’s almost unfathomable.
It seems that Maximum Security’s connections aren’t giving up without a fight. As most of the country will move on, the next battle the son of New Year’s Day will fight will be in a court room. Good luck with that.
Now, it’s on to Baltimore and an intriguing Preakness.
The local horse, Alwaysmining is an interesting betting option who won the local prep blowing away the Federico Tesio field with Daniel Centeno aboard by 11 ½-lengths. The only Tesio winner to ever bag the double with the Preakness was Deputed Testimony in 1983, the third annual edition of the prep race.
The Florida Derby horses faired well in the Derby, so it’s only natural to take a good, hard look at Bourbon War, the Mark Hennig-trained colt. He was flying at the end of the Fountain of Youth and we all know about the merry-go-round Florida Derby with no pace to run at, where he finished behind all three Derby runners: Maximum Security, Bodexpress and Code of Honor.
The Preakness could have some speed that could set up a horse with the late running style of Bourbon War. Bodexpress will try and avenge his daddy’s tough beat against I’ll Have Another in 2012. I still think he was traveling well in the Derby before “the Incident” on the far turn. Chris Landeros, 30, is starting to make some noise as a jockey and he caught my eye on Pegasus day with a couple really nice rides.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the television ratings after the controversial Derby and no Triple Crown on the line. They typically plummet for the Belmont once a Triple Crown bid dies in the Charm City.
With not a lot of Derby horses running back it could set up for a very interesting Belmont Stakes with many horses waiting out the five weeks and taking a shot at a classic win at Big Sandy. Horses like Tacitus, Code of Honor and Game Winner come to mind.
A horse you haven’t heard much about is Sueno, the third place finisher in the Louisiana Derby, a race that could end up being underrated. He hasn’t missed the board in six career races and the added distance shouldn’t be an issue. Trainer Keith Desormeaux won the Preakness in 2016 with Exaggerator.
It should be an excellent betting race and even though a Triple Crown is by the boards, we should have a solid, competitive race at Pimlico.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.