04/28/2009 1:39PM

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.