We talked in our last segment about the fact that of the ten entrants in this year’s Belmont Stakes, only War of Will ran in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He did not win the Derby, but he did win the Preakness, and now he’s trying to take two of the three Triple Crown races by winning the Belmont. This made us remember a few horses who had done something similar, but we don’t trust our memory. So we dug into the archives, and we went through the results charts of the Triple Crown races.
We looked at all the Derby, Preakness and Belmont results going back to 1990, looking for horses who
A) ran in the Derby, but did not win it
B) Came back to win the Preakness
C) then went on to run in the Belmont Stakes.
There were more of these horses than we remembered, but it was still not all that common. Here are the names of the horses we found, the year of their Triple Crown campaign, how they fared in the Belmont Stakes, and their win odds in the race:
Hansel / 1991 / Won /4.1-1
Pine Bluff / 1992 / 3rd Place/ 3.8-1
Prairie Bayou / 1993 / 13th Place / 2.7-1 (favorite)
Tabasco Cat / 1994 / Won / 3.4-1
Louis Quatorze / 1996 / 4th Place /6.1-1
Point Given / 2001 / Won /1.35-1 (favorite)
Afleet Alex / 2005 / Won / 1.15-1 (favorite)
Curlin / 2007 / 2nd Place / 1.1-1 (favorite)
Shackleford / 2011 / 5th Place / 6.3-1
Oxbow / 2013 / 2nd Place / 10.1-1
Exaggerator / 2016 / 11th Place / 1.45-1 (favorite)
This is a good-sized group for the sake of comparison. We have 11 runners who fit the profile of War of Will, and four of them won the Belmont, at average win odds of 3.1-1. This is a 36% win rate, which is not bad, but neither is it a slam dunk, statistically. Horses in this spot lose more frequently than they win. So we’re going to do a deeper dive into the past year’s results, and take a look at the individual results of the seven horses in the above table that did not win the Belmont Stakes.
1992: Pine Bluff: finished third, ¾ length behind eventual 3-year-old champion A.P. Indy.
1993 Prairie Bayou. Eased and finished last.
1996 Louis Quatorze: finished 4th, five lengths behind Editor’s Note.
2007 Curlin: Finished second, a head behind filly Rags to Riches.
2011 Shackleford: finished 5th, 7 ½ lengths behind Ruler on Ice.
2013 Oxbow: finished second, 3 lengths behind Palace Malice.
It’s obvious that the Belmont efforts of Pine Bluff, Curlin, and Oxbow were good ones. We don’t think there is a handicapper alive who would fault Pine Bluff for finishing within a length of A.P. Indy, who was named the 1992 3-year-old champion and who is now in the Racing Hall of Fame. But what of the four horses who did not run well?
Now, to War of Will, who again is the only horse in this year’s Belmont who will have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown. The question, and again, this is the key to handicapping this year’s Belmont Stakes, is whether he is going to be this year’s version of Point Given, or whether he is going to be this year’s Shackleford. Which way will he go?
We’ll reveal the answer in our Belmont Stakes handicapping entry tomorrow morning.