It may not be as historically significant as the 24 consecutive major league loses by the 1889 Cleveland Spiders or the 0-26 losing streak by the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Bucaneers of 1976-1977, but it’s now becoming noticeable – and quite frankly – annoying. Maybe you haven’t even noticed it. But it’s beginning to wear on me a bit.
It has now been since Big Brown won the Monmouth Stakes on September 11, 2008 since a Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands winner has won a subsequent race. That’s right. It has been almost two years since a Kentucky Derby winner has walked into a winner's circle after the first Saturday.
When Mine That Bird lost in the Whitney Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga in early August, it was his seventh consecutive loss since winning the Kentucky Derby last year. Super Saver (photo left) is 0-for-2, after finishing eighth the Preakness (gr. 1); and fourth in last month’s Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) at Monmouth Park. Both races won by Lookin at Lucky.
Gato Del Sol lost 15 consecutive races from September 1983 through April of 1985 before ending his career with a win in the Caballero Handicap at Hollywood, but he had two allowance races and a stake at Del Mar between his Derby victory and his streak of losses.
Proud Clarion, the 1967 Derby winner, finished his career by losing all of his nine races in 1968. But like Gato Del Sol, Proud Clarion won races after the Derby and before his losing streak started.
Tomy Lee, the 1959 Derby winner, had a somewhat pathetic post Churchill Downs career. Trainer Frank Childs chose to return Tommy Lee to California to run in the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park instead of trying for the Triple Crown and skipped both the Preakness and Belmont. Tomy Lee finished sixth in the Cinema and was given six months off before coming back to win a 6 furlong allowance race. He finished his career with two loses at age four. Both Super Saver and Mine That Bird passed Tommy Lee in the post Derby career derby the second they stepped foot on the track for the Preakness.
Prior to Mine That Bird and Super Saver (photo right), the last time the Kentucky Derby winner did not win the Preakness nor the Belmont in two consecutive years was in 1992 and 1993 with Lil E. Tee and Sea Hero respectively.
Lil E. Tee finished fifth in the Preakness and was then sidelined for the rest of his 3-year-old campaign. He returned to race at Oaklawn Park in the Spring, but his only significant win came in the grade 2 Razorback and he was eventually retired later that year.
The connections behind Super Saver may be hoping for racing pattern similar to what Sea Hero showed after his Run for the Roses. After finishing off the board in the Preakness and Belmont, Sea Hero ran fourth in the Jim Dandy in preparation for his victory in the Travers at 6-1 odds. Super Saver was, of course, fourth in the Haskell Invitational before this year’s Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. 1), and happens to be 6-1 in the morning line.
Super Saver won’t have Preakness and Haskell winner Lookin at Lucky to deal with in Saturday’s Travers, but will instead have plenty of competition and some adversity, breaking from the far outside post position eleven. Super Saver gets another shot at Haskell runner-up Trappe Shot and Preakness runner-up First Dude, who was also third in both the Belmont and Haskell. Morning line favorite A Little Warm gets the support nod based on his victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. 2) at Saratoga the same weekend as the Haskell.
The position appears to be of little concern for trainer Todd Pletcher who said that there would be benefits to being so far outside. “It looks like your main speed is 1-2-3-4-5 and the other horses who have drawn the outside can kind of fall in there somewhere,” he said shortly after post positions were drawn. “Sometimes, the No. 11 might be a little further out than you’d ideally like, but I think at 1 ¼ miles it’s okay. You get a decent run to the first turn, so [jockey] Calvin [Borel] should have the option to kind of survey everything inside him.”
But Elliott Walden Jr., the vice president and racing manager for WinStar Farm, the owners of Super Saver, said “the second race off the layoff is typically his best. We hope he learned something off the Haskell and will have a good race. He's got to step up. We'll let him do the talking. He's set up to run very, very well.”
Of course in all fairness, it is hard to burden Super Saver after only two losses after the Derby with a losing steak label. Mine That Bird is the main culprit in this two-year drought. But like Mr. Walden, there are a lot of racing fans hoping that Super Saver steps up in the Travers – and ends this dreaded losing streak.