A muddled picture for Preakness?

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Some horses truly don’t handle a wet surface and poor track conditions offer a handy excuse for any Kentucky Derby starter that does not run well. Six Derby starters are set to go to the gate in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. Some finished well up the track in Louisville.

Since 1931-after which the Preakness was never again run prior to the Derby-only 15 Preakness winners bounced back in Baltimore after being out of the money in Louisville. Of the 15, only two faced an off track at Churchill on Derby day. Of the six Derby starters slated to run in the Preakness as of Tuesday, only the winner, Orb, was on the board. Mylute (fifth in the Derby), Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th) will all try to duplicate what isn’t impossible but certainly not common.

History also hints that when present, superior talent or a change of rider may be more of a factor in explaining success than a dry track next time out.

Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky endured a troubled trip in 2010 over a challenging surface at Churchill and finished sixth. Trainer Bob Baffert tabbed Martin Garcia for the ride on Lookin At Lucky in 2010, replacing Garrett Gomez, who had the mount for the Derby.

Tabasco Cat followed up his sixth in the Derby with victories in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1994. Pat Day was aboard for all three jewels that year. Yet Day won twice at Pimlico on horses that had a different rider in the gate for the Derby-Tank’s Prospect in 1985 (Gary Stevens) and Louis Quatorze in 1996 (Chris Antley).

Of the 15 Preakness winners since 1931 that failed to hit the board in the Derby, three others had new riders for the Preakness: Miguel Rivera in 1974 on Little Current, Angel Cordero Jr. in 1984 on Gate Dancer, and Chris McCarron in 1992 on Pine Bluff.

Muddy conditions were no hurdle for Derby winners Assault, Citation, Tim Tam, Sunday Silence and Smarty Jones, who all went on to capture other classics that year. The worst Preakness finish by a Derby winner who ran in the mud at Churchill was Super Saver in 2010. He finished a well-beaten eighth behind Lookin At Lucky at Pimlico.

The only other off-track winner at the Derby to finish out of the money at Pimlico was Jet Pilot, who just missed, with a fourth in the 1947 Preakness.

And none of the worst Derby finishes by a Preakness winner were turned in over a muddy oval at Churchill-Snow Chief’s 11th in 1986 with Alex Solis in the irons, Hansel’s 10th in 1991 in Louisville with Jerry Bailey up, and Louis Quatorze’s 16th with Day as noted above.

Regardless, there never seems to be a shortage of Derby entries whose connections are itching for a better result, anxious for another shot, and perhaps hoping to offer a toast of “Here’s mud in your eye” after a win in Baltimore.

Preakness winners since 1931 who failed to hit the board in the Derby
Year, Winner (Derby finish)
2011, Shackleford (fourth)
2010, Lookin At Lucky (fifth)
2001, Point Given (fifth)
1996 Louis Quatorze (sixth)
1994, Tabasco Cat (sixth)
1992, Pine Bluff (fifth)
1991, Hansell (10th)
1986, Snow Chief (11th)
1985, Tank’s Prospect (seventh)
1984, Gate Dancer (fifth)
1975, Master Derby fourth)
1974, Little Current fifth)
1970, Personality (eighth)
1959, Royal Orbit (fourth)
1957, Bold Ruler (fourth)

Preakness finish of Derby winners on off track at Churchill since 1931
Year, Derby winner (Preakness finish)
2010, Super Saver (eighth)
2009, Mine That Bird (second)
2004, Smarty Jones (WON)
1994, Go For Gin (second)
1989, Sunday Silence (WON)
1958, Tim Tam (WON)
1948, Citation (WON)
1947, Jet Pilot (fourth)
1946, Assault (WON)
1945, Hoop, Jr. (second)