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 2017

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 22 runnings of the Preakness have featured 123 new shooters out of a total of 240 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? In a word: none. There are no winners of multiple graded stakes among this year’s group of five new faces. Senior Investment and Multiplier have won graded stakes this year, the Grade 3 Lexington and the Grade 3 Illinois Derby respectively. Term of Art won a graded stakes last year, the off-the-turf Grade 3 Cecil B DeMille Stakes. Conquest Mo Money won back-to-back listed stakes earlier this winter at Sunland Park, and Cloud Computing placed in pair of graded stakes at Aqueduct this spring. The Preakness will be his fourth career start.

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