Chris Rossi looks at the three Preakness Stakes winners in the last 20 years who didn’t start in the Kentucky Derby and finds a few commonalities.
Related: Recent Preakness history: How have Kentucky Derby winners and favorites fared in the second leg of the Triple Crown since 2001?
See also: Paul Moran ponders jockey Eddie Arcaro’s 1986 prediction that there would never again be a Triple Crown winner. Too many foals, said the jockey. (That could be, in which case, the bright side of the decline in the number of North American registered foals from the recent high of 38,261 in 2005 to 28,260 in 2010 and an estimated 24,700 in 2012, is that if we don’t get a Triple Crown winner this year, we might get one very soon, within the next few years — 2010 was the first year since 1976 that fewer than 30,000 North American foals were registered, and the estimated number for 2012 nearly matches the 24,361 registered in 1970, the year of Secretariat’s birth.)
Not so recent history: “When Mr. Longtail Feasted On Racing.” Arcaro rode two Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway and Citation. The first rivaled Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams for sports fame in 1941, but wasn’t a horse even his connections wanted to call great. “He was not dead game,” said Jimmy Jones, son of trainer Ben Jones. “He had a tendency to give up.” He was fast, though.
Curiously, Frankel appears doomed not to produce a son or daughter who is superior to him. The Racing Post’s bloodstock expert, Tony Morris, writes: “No horse rated 138 has ever sired a horse rated 138 or above. Frankel may well get plenty of good runners, and I hope he does, but I can guarantee he will never sire his equal; he is the ceiling, and regression to the mean dictates that all his stock will be inferior to him.”
This is probably also true of Beyer speed figures. Has a horse who has peaked at 120 or above ever sired an equal? Ghostzapper topped out at 128 (in the 2004 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park); Contested and Hunters Bay, two of his best progeny, certainly haven’t come close to such a number.
As foal crops have declined, so has the number of race days for a total of 6,250 race days lost since 2006. Yet the number of stakes awarded graded status has remained level: 475 awarded in 2006 and 474 awarded in 2011. This failure to adapt to the new racing landscape has resulted in an increase of 14% in the number of races awarded graded status.
The 2016 projection should strike fear in everyone involved in breeding and selling American Thoroughbreds. Without correction, short fields and ducking connections won’t be just the bane of bettors in the very near future.
I’m one of those people who believe we really have changed the conformation of the breed — but not by the surgical conformation. It’s that we have moved the entire breed to a different conformation: the offset knee. It’s happened because those have been the most productive horses.
“I think if they’re talking about weakening the gene pool with medication, then they’re also weakening the gene pool by doing (corrective surgery),” said trainer Charlie Lopresti. “They’re taking mares that produce crooked foals, cosmetically fixing them and selling them for a lot of money at the sale. It used to be back in the old days, only the strong survived, and if they were crooked and they could run through it, they were good horses.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think we all need to get on the same page. And if they’re going to try and clean up the racing act, they need to clean up their act too.”
Copyright © 2000-2016 by Jessica Chapel. All rights reserved.