04/28/2009 2:39PM

Disconnect With History


The defection of Square Eddie completes an almost thorough disconnect between the results of last year's major 2-year-old racing and the lineup for Saturday's Derby.

Turn back the calendar exactly six months. It's Oct. 28, three days after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where a colt named Pioneerof the Nile finished 5th at 32-1, having run a distant third to Square Eddie three weeks earlier in the Breeders' Futurity. Who would have thought that Pioneerof the Nile, who went on to win the Hollywood Futurity in December, would end up being the most accomplished 2-year-old to end up lining up for the Derby?

Until today, that would have been Square Eddie, who won the G1 Breeders' Futurity and was second in the BC Juvenile. Now, Pioneerof the Nile is one of only three Derby entrants who won a graded stakes race as a 2-year-old last year. The others weren't exactly the stars of the crop: Desert Party, who won the six-furlong G2 Sanford back on July 24, and West Side Bernie, winner of a weak G3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile and 0-for-5 since.

Among the missing are the winners of last year's six other Grade 1 races -- the Hopeful, Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk, Champagne, Breeders' Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. There were 26 graded stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings last year, and only 3 of the 22 unique winners have made it to the Derby. You could construct a parallel-universe 19-horse Derby field of the absentees:

With Quality Road (Florida Derby) and Square Eddie out, there are exactly three Grade 1 winners in this Derby: Pioneerof the Nile (Hollywood Futurity, SA Derby), General Quarters (Blue Grass) and I Want Revenge (Wood). Of those four Grade 1 races they have won, only the Wood was run on dirt.

This is the second straight year, but only the fourth in the last 25 years, where the Derby field will not include the winner of either the BC Juvenile or one of the big three Grade 1 juvenile races that precedes it -- the Breeders' Futurity, Champagne and Norfolk:



--I culled the data above from (Awkward Segue Alert! DRF Plug Alert!) the 2009 American Racing Manual, fresh off the press and now on sale  for $40.

The Manual, the official encyclopedia of the sport and something I personally turn to several times a week, is an invaluable addition to your racing bookshelf -- and I really would say that even if someone else published it.

Evan Gewirtz More than 1 year ago
Steve, Please post the Oaks/Derby double pool for 2008.
Jeff A More than 1 year ago
I will be rooting for WinStar's horses to finish sound ... and finish 18-19-20. >> “You know where all the knock is coming from, you know people who characterize it as ‘polycrap’? It’s always the bettors. Now at the end of the day, are they more concerned about their hip pocket or more concerned about the horse?” WinStar Farm co-owner Bill Casner on the backlash against synthetic surfaces
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Win Willy out of The Derby also? They're dropping like flies...I've never seen so many late defections for a big race like the Derby before...not that Win Willy had much of a chance to win anyway, and his running style would hardly change the complextion of the race, however, declaring from the race just prior to the entries being submitted, don't know if his spot in the gate will be filled(there is no AE list for the Derby)...Thank goodness that ESPN has ceased to televise the ridiculous PP draw, it was an embarrasment to the industry just for some cheap publicity. I'll never forget the year they blew it, when Chris Lincoln(I believe) called the wrong number on the pill and minutes later, the whole process went down in flames, and the race had to be redrawn. Priceless.
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
What races are making up the MATRIX? clearly the Oaks is one of them is that a .50cent play or a $1 dollar play?
beerbelly More than 1 year ago
Explains why the handicap division is in disarray. If none of those juveniles had raced till three & not pursued Derby dreams the 2010 edition of the handicap division would have been sensational. Eighty percent of the Derby field will never run another meaningful race. Check the progression of FORMIDABLE in the Westschester Mile (Grade 3) opening day at Belmont. Ran his first race as a 3YO in September of '08. Took a master horseman three races to figure out this colt. Race 4 MSW at GP 6F won for fun 101 BSF. Next race NW1* GP 7F drew away handily. Jump to G2 at a mile, set the pace & lost by 2 lenghts to Smooth Air. April 25: A signature Jerkens 5 furlong workout (58.60 - fastest of 24) four days before the race. A well-managed lightly raced four year old. Almost an extinct species.
ml/nj More than 1 year ago
I still look at my 1970 ARM from time to time!
Steve Davidowitz More than 1 year ago
Suggerst some of the responders also check the American Racing Manual for the large number of (Cash Call) Hollywood Futurity performers who went on to run in Triple Crown races the following year. The list will include a high percentage of horses who did quite well. Just going back to 1990 during THE DIRT ERA. 1990: Best Pal; '91: A.P. Indy, Dance Floor, Casual Lies; '93 Brocco; '94 Thunder Gulch; '97 Real Quiet; '98 Prime Timber; '99: Captain Steve, High Yield; 2000: Point Given; 2003 Lion Heart; 2003: Giacomo; 2005 Brother Derek; And in the synthetic era: 2007: Colonel John; 2008: Powerof the Nile, who goes in the 2009 Derby. ALSO: If you check on the nine furlong Remsen, A G-2 on Aqueduct's traditional dirt track, you will see similar positive results for 2 yr olds that outperform the Grade-1 's cited by Steve C as a predictive tool for 'Triple Crown form.' As I see it, it is not the accent on 2 yr old racing, it is the accent on preparing for the overely rich, heavily promoted Breeders' Cup Juvenile races that prematurely may be stunting the growth of 2 year old Classics prospects. As for the ARM, I have to take persoanl pride that it is the Encyclopedia of racing that it was when I was first discovered the game while in college in 1960. In 1999, Steve C commissioned me to bring it back to life and it now is stronger than ever under Editor Paula Welch Prather, who took over from me in 2004. Happy Derby everyone/All the Best/Steve Davidowitz
matt More than 1 year ago
At this time of year I often search for opinions on the Derby. Somewhat to back up what I think and somewhat to get a new opinion, maybe I'm missing something that someone else has caught. This year I went to the blogs and found an interesting post on betamerica.wordpress.com which details the opening weekend at Churchill. I updated the stats through the 8th race on Wednesday and found some interesting data. This is for the win spot only. Oaklawn Park shippers are 7 for 60 (12%), which is reasonable, but what was interesting were Fair Grounds and Gulfstream shippers. Fair Grounds shippers are 10 for 28 (36% and they were 7 for 12 opening weekend) and Gulfstream park shippers are 1 for 25. Is this relevant and if so does it lower Dunkirk and raise Friesan Fire?
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Do well as the owner of a two-year-old - and next year, kisses your chances farewell. By the way, with so many evenly-matched horses, has anyone considered the possibility of a Derby triple or quadruple dead-heat? I detest Derby faves. Always have. Didn't matter who they were. But now, somehow, this year - because of a Pool One future bet on I Want Revenge (54-1) - I'm in the Racing Twilight Zone, rooting for a (probable) Derby Fave. Not all is lost. Somehow, IEAH ("Isn't Everything A Hassle?") didn't end up persuading their fellow connections that Dutrow Jr. would be an improvement over Mullins.
LumsFan More than 1 year ago
Makes a case for two year olds not racing I'd say--and Lukas with 3 entries in the Oaks? or is it Jokes? Let's see, there might be a filly in Alaska that could make it down in time :-)