11/29/2010 2:25PM

Late-Season, 2-Year-Old Stakes and the Kentucky Derby


Only time will tell if the winners of last Saturday's Remsen and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes will be promient 3-year-old next year, although, barring injury, it is fair to wonder how Remsen winner To Honor and Serve can help be anything but.

Still, there is a strong sense that late-season two-turn 2-year-old stakes such as the Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club, and even Breeders' Cup Juvenile do indeed offer an early glimpse of the following year's Kentucky Derby picture.

In an attempt to determine if there is any validity behind this belief, particularly in the way trainers handle their horses in today's game, I went back and looked at the last five runnings if the BC Juvenile, the Remsen, and Kentucky Jockey Club where we also had subsequent 3-year-old data available. In other words, I looked at the 2005 through 2009 runnings of these races. I focused on what the winners and runner ups did as 3-year-olds in a Kentucky Derby/Triple Crown context, and the results were interesting.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile - Of the 10 horses who finished first or second in our five race sample, four came back to start in the Kentucky Derby. They were Lookin At Lucky, sixth after a disastrous trip in this year's Derby; Pyro, eighth in the 2008 Derby; Street Sense, winner of the 2007 Derby; and Circular Quay, 6th in the 2007 Derby.

Three of these four subsequently started in a remaining Triple Crown event, but they combined for a total of only three such starts, and they were all in the Preakness. Lookin At Lucky, of course, won; Street Sense was a narrowly beaten second; and Circular Quay finished fifth.

WATCH REPLAY: 2010 Breeder's Cup Juvenile - Uncle Mo >>

Kentucky Jockey Club - Like the Juvenile, four of the winners and runner ups from this race came back to race in the Derby. They were Super Saver, winner of this year's Derby; Anak Nakal, seventh in the 2008 Derby; Any Given Saturday, eighth in the 2007 Derby; and Private Vow, 15th in the 2006 Derby.

Only two of these four started in a subsequent Triple Crown race, and they managed but one start each. Super Saver finished eighth in this year's Preakness, and Anak Nakal finished third in the Belmont Stakes.

WATCH REPLAY: 2010 Kentucky Jockey Club - Santiva >>

Remsen - Six of the 10 first and second place finishers from the 2005 through 2009 runnings of this race came back and started in the Derby. They were Atomic Rain, 16th in the 2009 Derby; Court Vision, 13th in the 2008 Derby; Nobiz Like Showbiz, 10th in the 2007 Derby; Zanjero, 12th in 2007; Bluegrass Cat, second in the 2006 Derby; and Flashy Bull, 14th in 2006.

Bluegrass Cat was the only one of this group to race in another Triple Crown race, and in his one such start, he finished second in the Belmont.

WATCH REPLAY: 2010 Remsen - To Honor and Serve >>

Like anything else, what all of this means depends on how you want to interpret it. But there were four things that jumped out at me:

My first impression is that 47% of the 30 horses who finished first and second in these three races over this five year period coming back to start in the Derby seems like a very healthy number. As a group, the first two finishers in the BC Juvenile were of higher quality than their Kentucky Jockey Club and Remsen counterparts, and by a considerable margin. I think the fact that the Remsen being a sixteenth of a mile longer than the 1 1-16 mile Juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club had something to do with it producing more Derby starters than the other two races. And finally, it is surprising to me that of the 30 horses in this sample, not a single one managed to start in all three legs of the Triple Crown.