Derby Wins from the Wood, Santa Anita and Illinois

In today’s 3 Major Derby preps there is a long history of Kentucky Derby winners that used them as their final stepping stone before proceeding to Churchill Downs. Each race has its own current trend but keep in mind that each of these races has now been running for over 50 years. So it’s really pretty simple; Over time any trend is bound to change and for the two big ones, 2012 has a very strong chance of turning things around. 

Santa Anita Derby

Inaugurated in 1935, it was 1940 when Gallahadion became the very first Santa Anita Derby entry to wear the Roses in May. Since then 14 other horses followed suit making the Santa Anita Derby a very important Kentucky Derby prep. The highlights of the trail from California to Kentucky include three noteworthy moments.

The first is that in 1978 the great Affirmed, eventual Triple Crown winner and still our last, used the Santa Anita Derby as his final prep before continuing perfection on to Kentucky, Baltimore and New York.

1988 and ’89 was not the first time that back to back Kentucky Derby winners were also the Santa Anita Derby winners – Determine and Swaps in ’54 & ’55 – but there are a couple of things that make ’88 and ’89 stand out. In ’88 Winning Colors became the first ever Filly to win the Kentucky Derby after racing in the Santa Anita Derby. The very next year Sunday Silence would go onto to win both making him the very last horse to accomplish the feat. That’s right it’s been 23 years since a Santa Anita Derby winner has won the on the first Saturday in May.

But it’s definitely not that last time a Santa Anita Derby entry scored in the Kentucky Derby. The final noteworthy moment was in ’97 and ’98 when Bob Baffert made it known that he was the real deal. Although Silver Charm and Real Quiet both ran 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby, their triumphs in the Ky Derby made Bob Baffert the only trainer to have ever scored back to back wins from the Santa Anita Derby.

Year – Kentucky Derby Winner – Santa Anita Derby Finish

  • 2005 Giacomo 4th                                             1999 Charismatic 4th
  • 1998 Real Quiet 2nd                                          1997 Silver Charm 2nd
  • 1989 Sunday Silence 1st                                    1988 Winning Colors 1st
  • 1986 Ferdinand 3rd                                            1982 Gate Del Sol unplaced
  • 1978 Affirmed 1st  – Triple Crown Winner     1969 Majestic Prince 1st
  • 1965 Lucky Deboniar 1st                                    1955 Swaps 1st
  • 1954 Determine 1st                                              1952 Hill Gail 1st
  • 1940 Gallahadion unplaced

Wood Memorial 

Probably because the Wood dates back further than the Santa Anita Derby, the Classic NY Prep has totaled 20 Kentucky Derby winners since it’s inauguration in 1925. When talking about the curse of the Wood that is now in play one should not dismiss this: More than half of the 11 Triple Crown winners, a total of 6, prepped in the Wood.

Also don’t forget the time when the Wood Memorial was THE PREP. It all started with the grandest Kentucky Derby winner of all time, the Legendary Secretariat in 1973. A 3rd place finish in the Wood was the only set back on the Kentucky Derby trail but that was corrected his next time out when history began at Churchill Downs.

Next in 1975 was Foolish Pleasure who won the Wood and the Kentucky Derby, a trend that repeated itself twice more with Bold Forbes and Seattle Slew in ’76 and ’77. Beginning with 1973 and ending with Pleasant Colony in 1981 a total of 6 Wood Memorial horses won the Kentucky Derby – 6 in 9 years, Impressive.

Fusaichi Pegasus remains the last horse to have both in 2000 and Funnycide is the last entry that went on to capture the glory in Louisville, KY. So the prep is in somewhat of a drought but I expect that to be cleared up relatively soon. I’m partial to the Wood because it brought me two Kentucky Derby Winners, Go for Fin in ’94 and Funnycide in ’03, so I continue to keep an eye out for the next Wood Memorial horse that will pay off.

Year – Derby winner – Wood Memorial Finish

  • 2003 Funnycide 2nd                                              2001 Monarchos 2nd
  • 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus 1st                                   1994 Go for Gin 2nd
  • 1981 Pleasant Colony 1st                                       1980 Genuine Risk 3rd
  • 1977 Seattle Slew 1st – Triple Crown Winner    1976 Bold Forbes 1st
  • 1975 Foolish Pleasure 1st                                       1973 Secretariat 3rd – Triple Crown Winner
  • 1961 Carry Back 2nd                                               1951 Count Turf unplaced
  • 1950 Middleground 2nd                                        1946 Assault 1st – Triple Crown Winner
  • 1945 Hoop Jr. 1st                                                    1943 Count Fleet 1st – Triple Crown Winner
  • 1939 Johnstown 1st                                                1935 Omaha 3rd – Triple Crown Winner
  • 1931 Twenty Grand 1st                                          1930 Gallant Fox 1st – Triple Crown Winner

Illinois Derby

Of the three this prep is very unique because even though it has raced a total of 54 times an important decision on the races date was finally made after 2000. Prior the race was run between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Beginning in 2001, the Illinois Derby was moved to four weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby and became a major Triple Crown prep race. So when considering this Prep’s relationship to the Kentucky Derby we’re only looking at 11 years that have been open for a horse to wear the roses after competing in the Illinois Derby.

The only 1- War Emblem in 2002. His win in the Illinois Derby is proof that sometimes it’s all about peaking at just the right time. The relative unknown scored in the Kentucky Derby for Bob Baffert at odds of 21-1 before coming back to win the second leg of the Triple Crown and Preakness Stakes. It may be harder to score the big one from this prep but it’s bound to happen again.

I hope this Derby Prep to Derby Success adds a little bit more prestige and history to the confusing maze on the Kentucky Derby Trail. More importantly, I hope that it proves that these 3 major preps today are overdue for another Kentucky Derby winner very soon.

Written by: Little Brink

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