Whenever a horse has made his most recent start on a muddy track, handicappers have to judge whether his performance was a true gauge of his ability or whether it was significantly affected by the racing surface. This is an issue of special relevance in the 138th Preakness, because many of the entrants raced over a sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby, with three of them losing by 20 lengths or more. Can such horses be expected to run much better on a fast track at Pimlico?

In the post-war era, the Kentucky Derby has been run 10 times on a track officially labeled sloppy, muddy or slow. In five of those years, the winner of the Derby went on to capture the Preakness. In two of the other years, the Preakness was won by a horse who didn’t start in the Derby. The Derby losers who triumphed at Pimlico were Lookin at Lucky, sixth in the 2010 Derby; Tabasco Cat, 6th in the 1994 Derby; and Faultless, third in the 1947 Derby.

Looking at Lucky had a disastrous trip from post position one and his defeat can’t be blamed on the sloppy going. Faultless lost the Derby in a tight photo finish; he handled the mud well. Tabasco Cat lost the Derby by 9 1/2 lengths with an uneventful trip. He is the only horse since 1945 who might reasonably claim mud as an excuse before going on to win the Preakness.

The results from years when the Derby was won on an off track:

Year Derby winner Preakness winner (Derby finish)
2010 Super Saver Lookin at Lucky (6th)
2009 Mine That Bird Rachel Alexandra (DNS)
2004 Smarty Jones Smarty Jones
1994 Go for Gin Tabasco Cat (6th)
1989 Sunday Silence Sunday Silence
1958 Tim Tam Tim Tam
1948 Citation Citation
1947 Jet Pilot Faultless (3rd)
1946 Assault Assault
1945 Hoop Jr Polynesian (DNS)