It's countdown to the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and the big question is whether we will have a dual classic winner.
Giacomo, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner, and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex figure to be the two favorites.
Excluding the 11 Triple Crown winners, 11 horses won both the Derby and Belmont and 17 completed the Preakness/Belmont double. To be fair, the first seven Preakness/Belmont winners (from Cloverbrook in 1877 to Pillory in 1922) did not contest the Run for the Roses, and thus did not have a chance to sweep the Triple Crown.
Four of the Derby/Belmont winners finished second in the Preakness, and the first time it happened, in 1931, the Preakness preceded the Derby by a week. Twenty Grand, a Greentree homebred, was bested by Mate in the Pimlico classic, then won the Derby, with Mate third, and took the Belmont by 10 lengths. Twenty Grand, who won such stakes as the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup later in the year, was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.
The next two Derby/Belmont winners to run second in the Preakness were 1950s stars Middleground and Needles. By that time, the Derby was firmly entrenched on the first Saturday in May.
Middleground, a King Ranch homebred, beat Hill Prince in the 1950 Derby, then trailed five lengths behind him in the Preakness. Hill Prince was the odds-on favorite in the Belmont, but was no match for Middleground. Hill Prince, however, got the better of his rival in championship balloting that year. Winner of such other races as the American Derby and Jockey Club Gold Cup that year, Hill Prince was voted Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.
Needles was the favorite in all three 1956 classics. Owned by D & H Stable, he won the Derby over Citation's son Fabius, lost to him in the Preakness, then won the Belmont by a neck over Career Boy, with Fabius third. It marked the last race of the year for Needles, but he still was named champion 3-year-old male.
The last of the Derby/Belmont winners who ran second in the Preakness was Chateaugay in 1963. The son of 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps provided future Hall of Fame rider Braulio Baeza with his sole Derby win. Chateaugay lost the Preakness to Candy Spots before beating that rival in the Belmont. A Darby Dan Farm homebred, Chateaugay was champion 3-year-old male.
The Preakness/Belmont winners have a history just as compelling as their Derby/Belmont counterparts. Four of the Preakness/Belmont winners finished second in the Derby.
Bimelech was the first to capture the middle and final jewel of the Triple Crown after coming up short in the Derby. Second as the heavy favorite to Gallahadion in the 1940 Run for the Roses, Bimelech took the measure of the Derby winner in both the Preakness and Belmont as the favorite. A homebred for Col. E.R. Bradley, Bimelech was named champion 3-year-old male.
The next three Preakness/Belmont winners who ran second in the Derby--Capot, Native Dancer, and Nashua--also were voted champion 3-year-old male. In 1949, Capot, a Greentree homebred, scored his two classic wins with Derby winner Ponder in the beaten fields.
Alfred G. Vanderbilt's homebred Native Dancer, who went off the odds-on favorite in all three 1953 classics, lost the Derby by a head to Dark Star for his sole career loss, then was hard pressed to hold off Jamie K. by a neck in both the Preakness and Belmont. As a good as he was that year, the son of 1945 Preakness winner Polynesian finished second in Horse of the Year balloting to Tom Fool, who boasted an unbeaten season.
Two years after Native Dancer, Nashua emerged as the top 3-year-old. He finished second as the favorite to Swaps in the Run for the Roses, then won the next two classics as the odds-on favorite in the absence of Swaps. Not unexpected, he was named Horse of the Year.
For the record, the most recent Derby/Belmont winner, Thunder Gulch
(in 1995), sired the last Preakness/Belmont winner Point Given
(in 2001). Thunder Gulch finished third in the Preakness, and Point Given was fifth in the Derby.
Following is a list of all Derby/Belmont winners and Preakness/Belmont winners (excluding Triple Crown winners):
Derby/Belmont, Year, (Preakness finish)
Zev 1923 (12th)
Twenty Grand 1931 (2nd)
Johnstown 1939 (5th)
Shut Out 1942 (5th)
Middleground 1950 (2nd)
Needles 1956 (2nd)
Chateaugay 1963 (2nd)
Riva Ridge 1972 (4th)
Bold Forbes 1976 (3rd)
Swale 1984 (6th)
Thunder Gulch 1995 (3rd)
Preakness/Belmont, Year, (Derby finish)
Cloverbrook 1877 (Did Not Run)
Duke Of Magenta 1878 (DNR)
Grenada 1880 (DNR)
Saunterer 1881 (DNR)
Belmar 1895 (DNR)
Man o' War 1920 (DNR)
Pillory 1922 (DNR)
Bimelech 1940 (2nd)
Capot 1949 (2nd)
Native Dancer 1953 (2nd)
Nashua 1955 (2nd)
Damascus 1967 (3rd)
Little Current 1974 (5th)
Risen Star 1988 (3rd)
Hansel 1991 (10th)
Tabasco Cat 1994 (6th)
Point Given 2001 (5th)