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Finishing second in the Kentucky Derby can be an odd thing. One would assume that the second place finisher of the Kentucky Derby would go on to do great things, as he (or she) would have just finished second in the biggest race for three year olds in the country. Sometimes though this is not the case at all. Year after year we have seen horses make giant runs in Kentucky only to fizzle out and do nothing the rest of their careers. The present task at hand for handicappers as we lead up to the Preakness Stakes this weekend is this: Will Exaggerator continue on his recent path of becoming a beast or will he fizzle like many Kentucky Derby second place finishers? Lets take a look at every second place Derby finisher since 2000 and how they fared once the Kentucky Derby was over…
2000: Aptitude – Went on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes, and later won two Grade 1 races as well as a Grade 2 race as a four year old. You would have to call him a success.
2001: Invisible Ink – Could only manage to win one race after the Kentucky Derby in six tries. That race was an allowance event at Churchill Downs. Disappointment.
2002: Proud Citizen – Was able to hit the board in the Preakness Stakes, but had just one win the rest of his career after the Kentucky Derby in nine tries. His one win was in an allowance race at Churchill Downs. Disappointment.
2003: Empire Maker – Successful story with this one! Even though he only ran in two races after the Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker came back to win the Belmont Stakes and then finished second in the Jim Dandy Stakes. Unfortunately, his career was cut short, but there is no doubting he was a legit horse.
2004: Lion Heart – Pulled off a Grade 3 win at Monmouth Park followed by a Grade 1 win in the Haskell Stakes. Ran once more in the Travers but was injured and retired after that. Would have to call him successful.
2005: Closing Argument – Ran only once after the Kentucky Derby finishing ninth in the Preakness Stakes. Have to label him as incomplete because of the injury.
2006: Bluegrass Cat – Ran three more times after the Derby and was very successful as he finished second in the Belmont Stakes, won the Haskell Stakes, and finished second in the Travers Stakes.
2007: Hard Spun – Ran six times after the Kentucky Derby, and won a Grade 2 and Grade 1 Stakes. Also hit the board in the Preakness, Haskell, and Breeders Cup Classic. Success!
2008: Eight Belles – Tragically died just moments after the Kentucky Derby so we’ll never know.
2009: Pioneerof the Nile – Ran just once more in the Preakness finishing off the board and was retired. Incomplete/injured.
2010: Ice Box – Ran eight times after the Kentucky Derby and only hit the board one time in an allowance race at Saratoga. Brutal disappointment.
2011: Nehro – Was able to win just one race after the Kentucky Derby which was an allowance win at Fair Grounds. He did finish a close second in the Pimlico Special, but for the most part wasn’t the same after the Kentucky Derby.
2012: Bodemeister – Ran just once after the Derby, and it was a brutal second place finish in the Preakness Stakes. Injured and never ran again.
2013: Golden Soul – He’s ran an eye popping 21 times since finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, and has won only two of those starts. His two wins came in allowance races at Churchill Downs. Against stakes company he’s never been close since his run in the Derby.
2014: Commanding Curve – Has had nine starts since the Kentucky Derby and has won once in an allowance race at Churchill Downs. He’s been non-competitive in all of his stakes starts.
2015: Firing Line – Just now had his first workout since being pulled up in the Preakness Stakes. Right now we have to put him on the injured/incomplete category but this could change.
So when breaking these down into three categories it looks like this: Of the 16 horses we’ve looked at only five (Aptitude, Empire Maker, Lion Heart, Bluegrass Cat, and Hard Spun) went on to have careers that I consider to be successful. Five horses (Closing Argument, Eight Belles, Pioneerof the Nile, Bodemeister, and Firing Line) had careers that were shortened by injury making it hard to tell what may have happened with them after the Kentucky Derby. Finally, six horses (Invisible Ink, Proud Citizen, Ice Box, Nehro, Golden Soul, and Commanding Curve) went on to do very little past the Kentucky Derby.
Which category will Exaggerator fall into is now the big question. If you look at the five horses from the list that had successful careers, you’ll notice that four out of five of them were graded stakes winners BEFORE the Kentucky Derby. Also you’ll notice of the six horses that did not have successful careers after the Kentucky Derby, only two of them came into the race as a graded stakes winner. Those facts make Exaggerator’s chances of falling in the “successful” category a whole lot better. Of course there is always the dreadful “injured” category that one can never predict. Let’s just hope he can manage to not fall into that spot.
Perhaps the biggest findings out of this research though was this: In the 2000’s, no horse that has finished second in the Kentucky Derby has went on to win the Preakness Stakes. You have to go back to 1993 (Prairie Bayou) before you can find a Kentucky Derby second place finisher that has went on to win the Preakness. History is not on the side of Exaggerator in this weekend’s race. Furthermore, out of the sixteen horses we’ve mentioned only one went on to win the Belmont Stakes. So while there is a better than average possibility from a historical standpoint that Exaggerator will have a successful post Kentucky Derby career, there is a historically, well below average possibility he will have success in either of the two remaining Triple Crown races.
Certainly we are talking about recent history here, and history always is rewritten or changed with time. Do all these facts lead to a certain loss for Exaggerator in the Preakness? Not necessarily. However it isn’t the type of thing you want to be reading before betting on him in what possibly will be a not so great price. There is no doubt he’s the biggest challenger to Nyquist this weekend, but the late running colt has been beaten by Nyquist four times in four tries. History looks to be pointing towards that number growing to five on Saturday.
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