Preakness Often Easiest Stop on Triple Crown Trail

A peek into history reveals some of the strongest Triple Crown contenders have found their easiest jewel in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

Perhaps the typically smaller fields entered in the Preakness, coupled with its shorter distance (1 3/16 miles), change in competition, and consistency of the Pimlico track, have contributed to the impressive margins of the winners...or maybe its just coincidence.

Nevertheless, the 21st century has seen two horses win the Preakness by more than nine lengths while turning in less spectacular performances in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

In the 2004 Preakness, Smarty Jones made his move on Lion Heart in the far turn. Moving to the inside, he passed the leader with ease while nearing the quarter pole. Smarty Jones crossed the wire first by a remarkable 11 1/2 lengths, which bested the previous Preakness record of 10 lengths set by Survivor in the first running of the race in 1873.

While Smarty Jones' Derby win came with less ease by 2 3/4 lengths, he missed the Belmont by a length to Birdstone.

The year before Smarty Jones' Preakness feat, Funny Cide came through with an impressive 9 1/2 victory in the race. The son of Distorted Humor  had previously won the Derby by 1 3/4 lengths, and subsequently ran third in the Belmont.

Two others on the list of Preakness winners by wide margins are Triple Crown hero Count Fleet (1943) and Buddhist (1889). Each captured the middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown by eight lengths.

Count Fleet first took the Derby by three lengths--still a significant win, but not comparable to his annihilation of the Preakness field. Count Fleet is an exception to the other impressive Preakness finishers in that he destroyed his Belmont rivals by an even more unbelievable margin of 25 lengths.

Buddhist, on the other hand, would find his only Triple Crown race victory in the Preakness, as he did not run in the Derby or the Belmont.

Other notable runners to post substantial Preakness victory margins are Hansel (1991), Little Current (1974), Bold (1951), and Dauber (1938) by seven lengths; and Forward Pass (1968), Omaha (1935), and Duke of Magenta (1878) by six lengths.

With the exception of Little Current, who matched his Preakness victory with a seven-length Belmont win, all the aforementioned group found their best race in the Triple Crown's second leg. In the case of Bold, the Preakness was his only classic attempt. A Triple Crown winner, Omaha captured the Derby and Belmont both by 1 1/2 lengths.

This year, Barbaro won the Derby by 6 1/2 lengths.