Wouldn't we all like to know what would happen if we stuck the same 19 Kentucky Derby starters in a gate at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday and see if Mine That Bird could do it again. Instead it appears as though seven Derby alumni will be going at it again in the gr. 1 Preakness Stakes joined by seven new invaders.
So how do we evaluate these seven Triple Crown rookies who are trying to capitalize on the toll the Kentucky Derby may have taken on those horses and hope to bounce into Maryland on four fresh legs and win the Preakness.
While it has happened twice in the young milleneum, only one other horse has won the Preakness without running in the Kentucky Derby in last 26 runnings.
The most infamous winner in recent memory was 2006 victor Bernardini. As good as his performance was that day, it will be forever remembered as the race in which undefeated Derby winner Barbaro suffered a catostophic injury and left the track in a equine ambulance after being pulled up early in the race.
Red Bullet also won the Preakness after skipping the Derby in 2000, but we have to go all the way back to 1983 winner Deputed Testamony before we find a Preakness winner that did not participate in the Run For The Roses.
While Bernardini went into the Preakness starting gate in the handicapping shadows of Barbaro, the striking son of 1992 Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) winner AP Indy certainly had the credentials of a qualified challenger. While he only had two previous career wins in three starts with one coming against maidens, he had taken the gr. 3 Whithers Stakes at Aqueduct Race Track in New York in the week before Derby. Not only did he easily win the Whithers by almost three lengths, but sizzled the mile race in 1:35 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104.
Red Bullet also came into the Preakness somewhat undercover as impressive Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus looked difficult to beat after winning the Derby as the 2-1 favorite. Red Bullet had won the first three races of his career, including the gr. 3 Gotham Stakes, but in his fourth start was no match for Fusaichi Pegasus in the gr. 2 Wood Memorial in April, losing by more than four lengths as the runner-up.
Deputed Testamony used the local gr. 3 Fredrico Tessio Stakes as his springboard to the Preakness in 1983 when he was entered against Arkansas and Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo. The Derby winner sputtered in the Preakness and finished sixth while Deputed Testamony took his place in history.
Any connection of dots between these three Preakness winner and invaders in 2009 is a long line indeed, but a few have some interesting traits.
Hull is perhaps the most intriquing. A son of former Kentucky Derby favorite and sire Holy Bull, Hull meets the "lightly raced" profile of Red Bullet and Bernardini having only three career races so far. He has won all of those three races by a combined 15 lengths including the gr. 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 25. He appears to have the talent to challenge this field, but will have to continue to improve to defeat the likes of Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire, Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird. But his Beyer Speed figure of 92 in the Derby Trial indicates he may not be that far off.
A dot connector of even greater length exist between Deputed Testimony and this year's local invader Tone It Down. While both ran in the Fredrico Tessio Stakes at Pimlico in their starts just prior to the Preakness, Deputed Testimony had won that race while Tone It Down was third in this year's version. Tone It Down's level of competition has been against much easier than what he'll face in the Preakness and I would think it's a stretch to think he can be competitive Saturday.
Afterall, horses just don't jump to the world class level of the Triple Crown off of a losing effort in a minor stake and a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 and expect to win. Heck, he'll probably be 50-1 in the Preakness. Tell me the last time a horse pulled off something like that?