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Derby Winners Often Repeat in the Preakness

Author: Greg Melikov

Six Kentucky Derby winners in the past nine years have captured the Preakness, four by 1½ lengths or more.

That's a good omen for Barbaro, who crushed the opposition, winning the 132nd Kentucky Derby and ending a 50-year losing streak by 3-year-olds resting five weeks or longer after their final prep.

Needles was off six weeks before his triumph at Churchill Downs in 1956. Both had won the Florida Derby. However, Needles was edged out by Fabius in the Preakness.

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Barbaro is likely to face 14 fewer horses than he defeated at Louisville when he won by 6½ lengths; this was the largest margin since '46 when Triple Crown champ Assault scored by 8 lengths at the 1¼ miles.

Only two Derby also-rans will try him in the 131st Preakness: Brother Derek, who rallied from 10th after a mile to dead-heat for fourth with Jazil, and Sweetnorthernsaint, who pressed the pace in third until the stretch when he tired and finished seventh.

The Preakness has had fewer than 10 starters just once in the last 15 years when eight ran in '00. Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who scared away all by seven challengers, was upset at 1-5 by Red Bullet, who skipped America's Race.

Bernardini, Hemingway's Key, and Like Now will try to become the second horse to win the Preakness after skipping the Derby since '83, when Deputed Testimony performed the feat.

Bernardini won this year's Withers. Like Now ran second in the Lexington, while Hemingway's Key placed eighth.

Two other horses being considered for the Preakness are more likely to run in stakes on the undercard. Trainer Bob Baffert decided against entering any of his Derby horses. Baffert said Point Determined, ninth, and Bob and John, 17th, would be pointed toward the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Bluegrass Cat, the Derby runner-up, and Steppenwolfer, third, are also expected to run in the Belmont. The largest winning margin in the Preakness came in '04 when Smarty Jones cruised to an 11½-length victory, besting Funny Cide's record of 9¾ lengths in '03.

Most of the previous races since Silver Charm triumphed by a head in '97 were closer. In fact, only three horses had shared the one-time record of 8 lengths: Little Current, '74; Bold, '51; and Buddhist, 1889.

This year's Preakness should be tighter. I like the undefeated Barbaro despite the shorter layoff.

Sweetnorthernsaint and Brother Derek should bounce back and be tougher at 1 3/16 miles. Either could win.

Ironically, the largest margin of 10 lengths stood for 130 years after the inaugural Preakness in 1873. The aptly named Survivor set that record.


About the author: Contributing Writer