Derby Trends: The 6 Week Layoff

Needles: 1st Florida & Kentucky Derby Winner

In the final race before the Kentucky Derby, last weekend we saw winners and a few contenders show their stuff one last time before making a bid at the run for the roses.  While the trail to the Kentucky Derby can be full of surprises, a trend that won’t favor thier chances was just put into play last Saturday March 26.  Kentucky Derby 137 will be run on May 7, 2011 which means these horses are faced with the challenge of ending a trend that hasn’t produced a winner in over 54 years.

Let me introduce you to Needles.  Bred and raced in Florida, Needles began his 3 yr old campaign by winning the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park Race Track before moving on to win the Florida Derby.  Following the big win, with the Kentucky Derby 6 weeks away, his connections chose to wait before going after the biggest of them all……the 1956 Kentucky Derby.  Needles was a popular horse and entered the 82nd KYD as the odds on betting favorite.  Ridden by David Erb, the colt broke slowly falling all the way to 16th before storming home, overtaking the lead in the stretch and going away to win.  Needles was a special horse and a trend stopper himself as he became the first ever Florida Derby winner to wear the roses on Kentucky Derby Day.  Though he ended one trend he started another.  Since Needles no horse has sat out 6 weeks before coming back to win the elusive Kentucky Derby.

Let’s fast forward to this year’s derby trail.  Last weekend we saw a Louisiana Derby stretch duel that featured two legitimate derby contenders in Pants on Fire who finished 1st and Mucho Macho Man who challenged, was out dueled and finished 3rd.  We also were introduced to two other new faces.  At Turfway Park, Animal Kingdom dominated the Spiral Stakes and in New Mexico, Twice the Appeal upset Astrology in the Sunland Derby.  As of this week, with the exception of Astrology whose connections are still undecided on his next race, all of these horses will not run again until the first Saturday in May.

We’ve seen derby trends come and go but will this trend end at 54 years or continue on?  Speaking of trends coming to end, 2011 isn’t the first year that Needles was so widely mentioned.  To put the six-week layoff into perspective, until Barbaro in 2006, a horse had not won the Derby after a layoff of at least five weeks since Needles.  In 2008, Big Brown repeated Barbaro’s path, by taking the Florida Dery, sitting out 5 weeks, then moving on to Churchill Downs and derby glory.  So since 2 horses in the last 5 years have solved the 5 week layoff, will one of these solve the six-week layoff in 2011?

I’ve come to learn that one of the best qualities of the Kentucky Derby is its rich history and traditions.  With such a storied interest there can be a lot of fun in turning back to a winners trail to see how they did it.  However, even when tracking trends, analyzing history, stats, and charts there will still be numberous questions come derby day.  But, there is one thing I know for sure and you can count on it every year.  Remember: Don’t ever be surprised because there is no commonplace on the road to Kentucky Derby victory.

Written by: Little Brink


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