Bodemeister battling history on Saturday

On Saturday, Bob Baffert will send morning-line favorite and Kentucky Derby runner-up, Bodemeister, to post. But don’t think that means Bodemeister is a cinch to win the Preakness.

In the last 50 years, only two Kentucky Derby runners-up have won the Preakness: Summer Squall in 1990 and Prairie Bayou in 1993. Since Prairie Bayou in 1993, of the 10 Derby runners-up to start in the Preakness, only two managed a second-place finish. In 2009, Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat brought the Kentucky Derby runner-up, Pionnerof the Nile, to the Preakness and finished 11th as the second choice in the race.

Bob Baffert in Triple Crown Races
Since Start of 2003

As was the case in the Derby, Bodemeister’s front-end speed should put him on the lead. Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, there have been only three wire-to-wire Preakness winners, the last being Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Since 1978, 22 horses have led at the ¼, ½ and ¾ mile pole. Three have won, four have finished second and two third. Nine out of 22 certainly is not a bad “In-The-Money” percentage, but clearly the shorter distance of the Preakness hasn’t helped speed horses win at a greater percentage. Look no further than last year when pacesetter Flashpoint finished last.

Baffert has won nine Triple Crown race wins, which is tied for fifth all-time. Five of Baffert’s nine wins have come at Pimlico. But in his last 17 Triple Crown starters, he has just one win (Lookin at Lucky in the 2010 Preakness). This is a far cry from 1994-2002, when the Triple Crown was dominated by Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas, who won 18 of 25 Triple Crown races.

So while Bodemeister looks good on paper, history suggests looking elsewhere for the winner.