Derby Winner Losing To A Stablemate? It’s Happened Before

Once uncommon, Kentucky Derby (G1) winners have run against stablemates more often in the Preakness Stakes (G1) in recent years.  It is likely to happen again Saturday when Bob Baffert trainees Medina Spirit and Concert Tour are scheduled to face each other at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

Zedan Racing’s Medina Spirit quickly grabbed the lead in the Derby on May 1 and held on to finish first by a half-length in an exciting four-horse finish. Concert Tour was at Churchill Downs that day, too, but he was in his stall, a few hundred yards from the finish line. Baffert and owner Gary West had decided not to enter him in the race after he had finished a disappointing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 10.

If Medina Spirit and Concert Tour are in the Preakness starting gate, it will be the seventh time since 1970, the second year in a row, and the third time in seven runnings that the Derby winner has to face a stablemate in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Just once, in 1995, did the stablemate prevail in Baltimore and short-circuit a potential Triple Crown: Timber Country, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, beat Lukas’ Derby winner Thunder Gulch.

Baffert has been involved in the two most recent clashes. American Pharoah took another step toward the Triple Crown in 2015 beating Dortmund and six others in the Preakness. Dortmund had finished third in the Derby. In the pandemic-delayed Preakness last October,

Derby winner Authentic was second by a neck to the filly Swiss Skydiver, well ahead of his stablemate Thousand Words, who was eighth. Thousand Words was scratched from the Derby after he acted up while being saddled in the paddock.

Baffert said he often runs two or three horses in races in California and doesn’t think twice about having stablemates in major stakes.

“I just give everybody a chance, and that’s the way it goes,” Baffert said. “Gary West, with Concert Tour, he left it up to me. They send me these horses, and I’m giving them the best chance to win. They’re both doing really well, so why not? They both might cook each other up on the lead or whatever. You never know what’s going to happen. But they’re both doing well, and I want to give them the opportunity to run.

“Sometimes you hate to run two horses. But I’m trying to win the race and give the owners an opportunity. But Medina has a lot of Silver Charm (his first Derby and Preakness winner in 1997) in him. He’s a fighter. So you don’t know what’s going to happen. I think the draw and the break are critical. I’ve gone up there with speed horses and they miss the break. A lot can go wrong at Pimlico, and it’s a deeper kind of track, too.”

In 1998, Baffert was considering running Indian Charlie back against his Derby winner Real Quiet, but decided not to because he didn’t like the way Indian Charlie looked to him that week.

Todd Pletcher, whose election to the Hall of Fame was announced on May 5, saddled his 2010 Derby winner Super Saver and Aikenite in the Preakness. Aikenite had not competed in the Derby. Super Saver ended up eighth, two spots ahead of Aikenite.

Lukas brought two horses to the 1999 Preakness, Charismatic, his 31-1 Derby winner, and Cat Thief, who was third at Churchill Downs at 7-1. Charismatic won again, this time at 8-1, and Cat Thief was seventh at 5-1.

Thunder Gulch was 24-1 in the wagering when he won the 1995 Derby, while the 3-1 favorite Timber Country was third, some 2½ lengths back. Two weeks later in the Preakness, Timber Country won the Preakness as the 9-5 favorite and Thunder Gulch was third as the 7-2 third choice.

Lukas, who will saddle Ram in the Preakness Saturday, said this week that his mission is to run his horses where they belong, giving owners an equal chance at success, and cited the 1995 Preakness.

“As a trainer you get to look at them individually,” he said. “Thunder Gulch wins the Kentucky Derby. He comes in here and I should have been all over trying to get him to the Triple Crown. He wins the Belmont, as it turned out. We could have made history. Nobody had won it in (20) years at that time. Yet we go in here and our own horse beats him.”

Lukas said he has never second-guessed his decision to run Timber Country and Thunder Gulch at Pimlico.

“No, I didn’t regret winning the Preakness in any way, shape or form,” he said. “And I don’t regret it now. I’d do the same thing again.”

The afternoon before the Belmont Stakes, Timber Country, the 6-5 morning line favorite, was scratched from the race because he had spiked a fever. Thunder Gulch won the Belmont, giving Lukas his fifth-consecutive victory in a Triple Crown race, and sweep of that year’s series, but with different horses.

Lukas extended his unprecedented streak in the Triple Crown to six-straight with Grindstone’s narrow win in the Derby. A few days later he was found to have a career-ending leg injury. Lukas’ stable was very deep and he saddled three horses in the Preakness, but his top finisher was third-place Editor’s Note, who later won the Belmont.

The first of the Derby winners versus stablemates in the Preakness in the last 50 years was in 1976, Trainer Laz Barrera won the Kentucky Derby with Bold Forbes upsetting the 2-5 favorite Honest Pleasure. In the Preakness, Barrera saddled the entry of Bold Forbes and Illinois Derby (G3) winner Life’s Hope. Elocutionist prevailed at 10-1 after Bold Forbes and Honest Pleasure engaged in a speed duel. Bold Forbes finished third, Honest Pleasure was fifth and Life’s Hope, a closer who did not benefit from the fast pace, was last of the six.

Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes, who is handling the Preakness runners this week, said there is no hesitation about having Concert Tour face Medina Spirit.

“Sure, we want a Triple Crown every time,” he said. “But Concert Tour didn’t get his chance in the Derby, so this is his chance to shine. You’ve got to give them all a fair shot. The best horse will win.”

The post Derby Winner Losing To A Stablemate? It’s Happened Before appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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