Non-Derby Starters Face A Sizeable Test

As the countdown to the Kentucky Derby closes in every year the more talk there is about the so-called Derby Trends that a select few entries will be facing. The Preakness Stakes on the other hand doesn’t hold nearly as many. But since handicapping trends can be an intriguing element to consider, lets dig in. Now that the field is set, the post positions drawn and the Morning Line Odds deposited, let’s analyze a Preakness Trend that has had a very tough run as of late.

Non-Derby Entries

Only 3 of the last 28 winners skipped the Kentucky Derby. Although two of them have come in the last eight years, it’s recommended to first consider exactly who these two are – Rachel Alexandra in ’09 and Bernadini in ’05. What’s fascinating about these two Preakness Champions is that you might as well throw them out because of how great they went on to be. In fact, both horses ended thier Preakness victory year by winning an Eclipse Award.   

This leaves Red Bullet in 2000 as the only horse to have skipped the Derby before going on to win the Preakness Stakes. By this it leaves a tough road ahead for 5 of our 11 Preakness entries – Tiger Walk, Teeth of the Dog, Pretension, Zetterholm and Cozzetti. Every edition of the Preakness Stakes includes a variety of horses whose connections chose to bypass the Derby and with that comes several different reasons. Most often the reason has everything to do with not being able to qualify. This year all of our Non-Derby entries fall into that category.

The Kentucky Derby has shown us year in and year out that trends are only going to last so long before they’re solved. In the 2012 Preakness Stakes however, this trend is facing a sizeable test. You can’t dismiss any of the five Non-Derby starters but because none of them have yet to finish better than 3rd in a graded stakes race, it makes sense to look at the other six horses in the field that did race at Churchill Downs last time out.

The horse that has been given the best chance according to the Morning Line Odds is Teeth of the Dog at 15-1. Trained by Michael Matz this late-blooming colt has only just recently come onto the Graded Stakes scene. Following his first career win in a MSW race at Gulfstream on 2/4, Matz sent his colt north for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Although only a win could get him in, his Kentucky Derby hopes were dashed after a 4th place finish. An advantage is that Joe Bravo, the rider in the last two mounts, is scheduled to return so expect for him to have a good feel on how to settle him in and make a run at pulling off an upset.

Of the remaining four expect Cozzetti to get the most action at the betting window. Trained by Dale Romans, last year’s winner with Shackleford, Cozzetti is definitely in good hands. His biggest advantage is that he was on the Derby Trail before he became one of the unfortunate casualties of the Graded Stakes earnings bubble. His attempt to qualify began in his two-year old campaign when he finished a disappointing 8th in the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. His attempt to make it to the first Saturday in May, however, didn’t stop there. He rebounded with a 3rd place finish in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby before moving on to the G1 Arkansas Derby where he finished 4th behind three eventual Kentucky Derby starters. Cozzetti may not be considered the best chance of the non-derby entries on the morning line, 30-1, but his recent results against top class allows me to consider him as being the most likely contender of the bunch.

After giving the Kentucky Derby Preps a whirl with poor performances in the G3 Gotham – 5th – and the G3 Illinois Derby – 9th – Pretension got right back on track with a win his next time out. Because it was in the Cananero II here at Pimlico, he might be in just the right spot at just the right time. The Cananero II was raced on Derby Day so he is also entering after a 2 week layoff. Javier Santiago is listed to be back in the saddle for trainer Christopher Grove.

Tiger Walk enters his 4th consecutive graded stakes race after finishing no worse than 4th in the previous 3. Because he ran gamely enough to finish fairly well in the G3 Withers, G3 Gotham and G1 Wood Memorial you should definitely understand why this race would be too tough to pass up. Zetterhorn on the hand is making his Graded Stakes debut so he will have a lot to prove in order to continue his 3 race win streak against a class of horses well beyond what he has raced against so far.

Trends are always exciting to see come to end, especially when it’s done in a very convincing or thrilling fashion. I’ll Have Another gets a lot of credit for breaking a trend of his own – first Santa Anita Derby winner to win the Big One since Sunday Silence in 1989. There again is the proof that all trends eventually end but in my opinion this one is too deep for the 2012 Preakness Stakes Non-Derby Entries. Because that’s how I see it, it will leave just one negative if it does happen – I won’t have it. Either way, good luck to all of our Non-Derby starters and their connections

Written by: Little Brink

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