After I tweeted yesterday that the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner (Chief’s Crown, 1984) also won the Saratoga Special Stakes but that the last Saratoga Special winner (1983) to win the Derby was Swale in 1984, a self-described “all around sports nut” by the name of Burton DeWitt asked me on Twitter, “Has anyone run in and lost the SS before winning the Derby since then?”
When I told him I’d check later, he said he had 15 minutes to do it himself. And this is what he tweeted to me after his research: “Nope. Derby winners in BC era have made more stakes starts 2YO summer at Santa Fe & Canterbury (1 each) than Saratoga (0).”
Then he tweeted to the Twitter community at large, “In fact, no future Derby winner ran against winners at Saratoga in Breeders’ Cup era. All races were MSWs.”
And indeed he is correct. The only Derby winners to race at the Spa as 2-year-olds since 1984 are:
1. 1988 Derby winner Winning Colors, who won a Saratoga maiden special.
2. 1993 Derby winner Sea Hero, fifth and second in Saratoga maiden specials.
3. 2008 Derby winner Big Brown, winner of a Saratoga maiden special.
4. 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, second in a Saratoga maiden special.
In contrast, during the 15 years from 1970 to Swale in 1984, five Derby winners won stakes races at Saratoga:
1. 1973 Derby winner Secretariat won the Sanford and Hopeful.
2. 1975 Derby winner Foolish Pleasure won the Hopeful.
3. 1976 Derby winner Bold Forbes won the Saratoga Special.
4. 1978 Derby winner Affirmed won the Sanford and Hopeful.
5. 1984 Derby winner Swale won the Saratoga Special and was third in the Hopeful.
Part of the reason for this is the specialization of 2-year-old racing, with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (knowingly or unknowingly) a target for some breeders and the Derby the goal for others. My column in the Wednesday edition of Thoroughbred Times TODAY (out tonight) addresses this topic in more detail.