Much of the focus on the Triple Crown Trail is on whether or not a horse is being prepared for the Derby in "the right way". Ask five people what that right way is and you might get five different answers. A quick scan over the preparations of the last few Derby winners shows us the reason why. Not many of them had identical preparation. Some of the Derby winners had widely varied spring campaigns.
One of the biggest faux pas that fans and trainers held fast to was the notion that no horse could win the Derby with less than 3 prep races. I wrote on the subject last year when it was revealed that Street Sense would only have two preps. What was true then is still true now, only now it has more solid statistical evidence behind it.
Having two prep races has never been the problem. Since 1996 there have been 34 Derby starters with two preps or less. The compiled a record of 34-1-4-1. On the face of it the data doesn't look that good, but there was only an average of 2.8 starters per year with less than 3 preps and overall 6 of them ran in the money. 6 of the 12 runnings had a horse with only two preps finish in the frame. So it is certainly possible to do well in the Derby off of just two preps.
But here is an interesting side note or subsection of the stat. Of those 34 horses with 2 preps or less 17 of them had just one prep around two turns. Those 17 starters went 17-0-0-0 in the Derby. Not one of them even hit the superfecta in the Derby. That means the other half of the two prep horses, those who had both preps around two turns, went 17-1-4-1 in the Derby. A much better record and possibly even a positive indicator. A third of the horses with two preps around two turns hit the frame in the Derby and 30% of then hit the exacta.
To me that looks like valuable information. It may also be applied during this year's running. With all the uncertainly over War Pass and his first start in allowance company it is possible that he may have to change plans. The original plan called for War Pass to have 3 preps. The first around one turn in allowance company and the next two in stakes races around two turns. If however he does not manage to find an allowance soon Zito will have a decision to make. Hopefully he chooses to give War Pass two preps around two turns because the record isn't great for horses doing anything different.