Beware the New Shooters?A Look at How Fresh Horses Have Fared in the Preakness
By Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Originally published on May 14, 2010
Updated for 2016
Historically, the numbers aren’t pretty for the new shooters in the Preakness. Of those Preakness starters who have skipped (or couldn’t get into) the Kentucky Derby over the last 20 years, only three have won. That record certainly is not because of under-representation either, as the last 20 runnings of the Preakness have featured 112 new shooters out of a total of 221 starters. That’s about half of all Preakness starters during that time.
So what does it take for a new shooter to win the Preakness? Let’s take a look at the three who have done it in the last twenty years.
Unraced at two, Red Bullet stormed onto the Kentucky Derby trail in 2000, winning his first three races, culminating in the Gotham Stakes, his first start at two turns. After Red Bullet finished a non-threatening second in the Wood Memorial to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, trainer Joe Orseno, citing a lack of seasoning needed to compete in a 20 horse Kentucky Derby, deliberately pointed Red Bullet toward the Preakness, where he turned the tables on Fusaichi Pegasus as the bettors’ second choice.
In 2006, another unraced-at-two colt, Bernardini, burst onto the Triple Crown scene with a win in the Preakness. After exiting a one-turn mile maiden romp at Gulfstream Park, Bernardini bypassed allowance opportunities to proceed directly into graded stakes competition, winning the Withers in a hand ride. Although the cold had only three career races and no two turn experience, bettors let Bernardini go off a mild 12-1, by far the lowest price of any of the new shooters in the 2006 edition.
Rachel Alexandra needs no introduction. She upstaged the Kentucky Derby itself in 2009 when winning the Kentucky Oaks by a record 20-length margin. While many questioned the two-week turnaround heading into the Preakness, the betting public made her the 9/5 favorite at post time over a relatively uninspiring group that included the first four finishers from the Kentucky Derby.
Is there anything to be gleaned from these previous three Preakness winners while handicapping this year’s Preakness? Well, let’s preface these thoughts by saying that it’s tough to draw many conclusions with just a 21-race sample. However, there are some commonalities among these three. All three won graded stakes as 3-year-olds leading up to the Preakness. Both Red Bullet and Bernardini were late developing, lightly raced colts who flashed all the signals to make the successful class rise needed to win a Classic race. And frankly, Rachel Alexandra was a freak in top form in 2009 heading to the Preakness.
So who among this year’s three new shooters fits any of these molds? Only Collected, who is a multiple graded stakes winner this year, having won both the Grade 3 Sham Stakes and the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. Abiding Star is a multiple listed stakes winner and has won five straight races. Awesome Speed is also a multiple listed stakes winner, though he has never won going two turns. Cherry Wine finished third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass after having chased Cupid home fourth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. Fellowship has been a cut below the top 3-year-olds in multiple graded stakes efforts, managing three straight third-place finishes in the Florida preps. Uncle Lino was no match for Exaggerator in two attempts against him in the California preps but did win a listed stake last out at Los Alamitos. Stradivari will be making his stakes debut. Laoban is still a maiden.