Every year, one of the more intriguing storylines headed into the Preakness Stakes is the tale of the “new shooters”, horses who did not run in the Kentucky Derby two weeks prior to the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown. In theory these fresh faces should have an advantage on the horses coming back in just fourteen days, however history would suggest otherwise.
Dating back to 2001, there have only been four horses who have won the Preakness Stakes after not competing in the Kentucky Derby two weeks prior. Of the four horses (Bernardini in 2006, Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Cloud Computing in 2017 and Swiss Skydiver in 2020), two of them happened to be fillies who had run in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs prior to their subsequent start in Baltimore. Now, this is not to say that horses entering the Preakness without competing in the Derby cannot have a level of success at Pimlico, it just stresses the fact that this is not typically a move that results in Preakness glory.
The main reason the fresh faces have not won the Preakness Stakes more often is rather simple – they are not as talented as the horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby. Often, if a horse has enough points to be eligible to compete on the first Saturday in May in Louisville, they do. When a horse is left on the outside looking in because they have not accrued enough points to qualify for the Derby, they typically point toward the Preakness as a “consolation prize” of sorts. There are exceptions to the rule, but the horses trying the Preakness that did not run in the Derby did not go this route by choice – they did it because they had no other choice.
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Based on the projected field for Saturday’s Preakness (the official field will be drawn late Tuesday afternoon), there are three horses scheduled to run that had their last start in the Kentucky Derby: Medina Spirit, Midnight Bourbon and Keepmeinmind. The new shooters expected to be entered for Saturday’s race include Concert Tour, Crowded Trade, Risk Taking, Rombauer, France Go de Ina, Ram, and Unbridled Honor. If the past twenty years is any indication, the 2021 Preakness Stakes winner is more-likely-than-not going to be one of the three competitors who ran just two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.