Horse Racing: How Do 2 Year Old Colt Champions Comeback as 3 Year Olds?

That question entered my mind over the past week or so, when I thought about what chances 2012 two year old colt champion Shanghai Bobby had of a) competing/winning any or all of Horse Racing‘s 2013 Triple Crown races and b) what kind of career he would have after the Triple Crown series?

So (since I have no life whatsoever), I went searching in my mind (and on the internet) thru recent history to find the answer and…. readers?… The answer to that question is….not good….at all. 

I went back as far as to when I first started following the sport (as a pre-teen) in 1979.

Out of the past 33 two year old champions only a handful (3 or 4?) made a real impact on the track following their respective championship year.

That being said, several made huge impacts when reaching the breeding shed. But for now, let’s just look at how they faired post-two year old season:

 

1979: Rockhill Native
This Our Native gelding won 6 of 9 races at two including the Sapling Stakes, Futurity Stakes (both Grade: 1’s) and the Grade: 2 Cowdin. He won 4 of 6 races leading up to the Kentucky Derby including the Blue Grass Stakes, but finished 5th in the Derby, then bowed a tendon while finishing 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and was immediately retired.

 

1980: Lord Avie
Won 5 of 10 races at two including the Champagne Stakes and Young America Stakes at Meadowlands. At three, he won the Hutcheson Stakes but finished 3rd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, then bounced back to win the Florida Derby.

He missed the entire Triple Crown series due to suspensory ligament injury. He did return later in the year to win an Allowance race, finish 2nd in the Haskell and 3rd in the Travers but after Travers the ligament injury flared up again and he was retired in September.

Syndicated for $10 million and had a very successful career as a stallion. ($35 million in progeny earnings)

 

1981: Deputy Minister
Won 8 of 9 races in his first year including the Laurel Futurity and Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands.

He finished 5th and 9th in Allowance races to start his three year old year, then twisted his ankle in his third start (the Bahamas Stakes at Hialeah Park) and didn’t race again until well after the Triple Crown series (October, 1982) 

From that point on, he would win 3 of his next 10 races.

He would, however, go on to be one of the best sires this correspondent has ever seen. Among his offspring include Open Mind, Go For Wand, Dehere, Awesome Again and Touch Gold.

 

1982: Roving Boy
Won last 5 of his 7 starts at age two including Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk Stakes and Hollywood Futurity.

However, in late January 1983 he suffered a cannon-bone fracture in his left front leg that kept him out of racing for 10 months. Upon his return to the track, Roving Boy won the Alibhai Handicap at Santa Anita Park but after crossing the finish line he broke both hind legs.

Doctors tried hard to save him, but inevitably the colt had to be euthanized shortly after.

 

1983: Devil’s Bag
This regally bred colt (Halo-Ballade, which made him a full brother to both multiple stakes winning mare Glorious Song and super sire Saint Ballado) was hailed as the second coming and, as a young and impressionable teen, I went for it hook, line and sinker especially after TIME magazine published an article that was entitled: “Devil’s Bag, the next Secretariat”

Blessed with good looks, the breeding and an enormous amount of speed he won all 5 races at two including the Champagne Stakes and Laurel Futurity.

But just didn’t come back the same way as a three year old. He did win his three year old debut (a prep race for the Flamingo Stakes) by seven lengths.  But in the Flamingo Stakes itself, he entered the stretch with the lead but was quickly inhaled by his competitors and finished fourth

In April of 1984, Devil’s Bag returned with a 15 length victory in the seven-furlong Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland and then won his next start on April 28 at Churchill Downs in the one-mile Derby Trial Stakes and all was thought to be well.

But on May 1, Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens announced that Devil’s Bag would not run in the Derby but that he might start in the Preakness Stakes…. just six days after that, a small fracture in his right front knee was discovered and the $36 million syndicated colt was immediately retired. 

 

Devil's Bag

Devil’s Bag

1984: Chief’s Crown
Won 6 of 9 races at two including Saratoga Special Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, Cowdin Stakes, Norfolk Stakes and BC Juvenile. (Sounds familiar? Shanghai Bobby had a similar schedule).

This good looking colt by super sire Danzig then won his three year old debut (the Swale Stakes), then Flamingo Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes.

He disappointed (if that’s what you want to call it) in all three Triple Crown races as he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby, 2nd in Preakness and 3rd in Belmont.

His career was not a complete failure albeit, he did manage to win the Travers, the Marlboro Cup (both Grade: 1’s) before finishing fourth in the Breeders Cup Classic.

 

1985: Tasso
Won the Del-Mar Futurity, The Breeders Futurity and the Breeders Cup Juvenile at two while posting a record of 5 wins in 7 starts.

He won his first start at three (the Manassa Mauler Stakes at Aqueduct). He actually bypassed the entire Triple Crown series and won just 3 of his next 16 races.

 

1986: Capote
Won 3 of 4 races as a two year old, including the BC Juvenile. But he did not win a race in 6 starts at age three with one of those being a 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby….ouch.

 

1987: Forty Niner
Won 5 of 6 races at two including the Breeders’ Futurity, Champagne Stakes and Futurity Stakes.

At three, he had pretty serious case of “seconditis” because after winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Lafayette Stakes, he finished 2nd in the Hutcheson Stakes, FloridaDerby, Lexington Stakes and Kentucky Derby

After all that, He finished 7th in the Preakness but bounced back well later in the year to record wins in the Haskell Invitational Stakes, Travers Stakes and NYRA Mile Handicap before ending his career with a 4th place result in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

 

1988: Easy Goer.

At two, he won 5 of 6 races including the Champagne Stakes (but he did lose the BC Juvenile to Is It True)

At three, He won the Gotham Stakes, Wood Memorial, but lost close decisons to Sunday Silence in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He bounced back and won the Belmont Stakes.

He also won the Whitney Handicap, Travers Stakes, Woodward Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup before losing another tough one to Sunday Silence in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with one of the most horrific rides I’ve ever witnessed (Pat Day).

He is absolutely one of the 3 or 4 horses who built on his two year old success and only God knows what he could have done had he had “good” ankles.

 

1989: Rhythm
Won 3 of 5 races in 1989 including the BC Juvenile but his three year old campaign was a nightmare.

He finished 7th in the Hutcheson, 10th in the Fountain of Youth and 5th in the Gotham Stakes.

He bypassed the Triple Crown races in 1990 completely (he wasn’t at that level)

He did, however, win the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, but promptly went 0 for his next 7 and was retired midway thru his four year old season.

 

1990: Fly So Free
Won 4 of 6 races at two including the Champagne Stakes and BC Juvenile. He started off 1991 in good fashion as he won the Hutcheson Stakes, Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby at GulfstreamPark.

But it was downhill from there when he finished 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland before finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby.

He would only win 3 more graded stakes races over his next 22 races.

 

1991: Arazi
European shipper won 7 of 8 races at two including an electrifying move on the far turn to win BC Juvenile.

He needed knee surgery in between his 2 and 3 year old season and never really came back the same.

He won a stakes races back in Europe to start his three year old season, but he was a shell of his old self while finishing 8th in the Kentucky Derby.

From there, he was beaten twice more back in Europe, then came back to the US to finish 11th in the BC Mile.

1992: Gilded Time
Won all four starts at two including the Sapling, The Arlington-Washington Futurity and BC Juvenile.

He was scheduled to make his three year old debut in the San Rafael Stakes in February, but in January (1993), he bruised his left front foot during a workout at his home base at Santa Anita Park.

The injury did not heal satisfactorily and in March his handler’s announced that because of the injury he would not be able to run in the Kentucky Derby and would be out of racing indefinitely.

He did not race again until November 6 (1993) when he ran third (to Cardmania) in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His next start, which was also the last of his career, came in December in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park where he finished sixth.

 

1993: Dehere
I took to this colt like a duck to water when I saw him. He was another who possessed a devastating late run and won 5 of 7 races including the Hopeful and Champange Stakes at two. He was beaten (finished 8th) in the BC Juvenile though.

He finished 2nd in his first start as a three year old in (an Allowance race), then won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at GulfstreamPark with his patented late run. Unfortunately he   fractured his right hind cannon bone during training after that race that ended his racing career.

 

1994: Timber Country
Won 4 of 7 races including the Champagne Stakes and BC Juvenile at two.

He is yet another who goes downhill from there and I remember this colt (like all the others) well.

He finished 3rd in the San Rafael Stakes, 2nd in San Felipe Stakes, 4th in Santa Anita Derby and 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.

He won the Preakness Stakes and, thinking he finally turned the corner in his three year old year, was made the favorite to win the third and final leg of the Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes.

But the big, good looking colt had to be withdrawn from the Belmont Stakes the day before the race as a result of a high fever from a virus that saw his temperature nearing 103 degrees.

He never raced again.

 

1995: Maria’s Mon
Won 4 for 5 races including the Futurity Stakes and Champagne Stakes at BelmontPark at two.

He missed the next 9 months and returned to finish 2nd in an Allowance race in New York and then 6th in the Jim Dandy Stakes.

Maria’s Mon suffered a broken ankle after the Jim Dandy and was retired.  .

He was just coming into his own as a sire after he sired two Kentucky Derby winners in Monarchos (2001) and Super Saver (2010), and in turn his stud fee was raised to $60,000 in 2007. Even with the inflated fee he still covered an eye popping 132 mares in his last season. Maria’s Mon died of severe laminitis at the young age of 14.

 

1996: Boston Harbor
Won 6 of 7 races as a two year old including the BC Juvenile. His only start at three came as a 4th place finish in the Santa Catalina Stakes, suffered a catastrophic leg injury and was retired.

 

1997: Favorite Trick
was an incredible 8 for 8 and posted 7 stakes wins (Bashford Manor, Hopeful, Saratoga Special and BC Juvenile amongst others) at the age of two and sparked talk about being named Horse of the Year as a two year old (which happened only one time before….Secretariat in 1972)

But was yet another who just didn’t comeback the same way at three. He won the Swale Stakes to begin his second season, but finished 3rd in the Arkansas Derby and 8th in the Kentucky Derby. He did win the Jim Dandy Stakes later on in the year but was retired soon after.

 

1998: Answer Lively
Won 4 of 7 races at two including the BC Juvenile to win the award as best two year old colt.

However, his three year old season was a complete disaster. He went 0 for 7 including finishing 10th in the KentuckyDerby…..ouch again.

 

1999: Anees
Won a maiden race, came third in the Norfolk Stakes in California and then pulled off a monster upset (30-1) in the BC Juvenile.

Another who had a disastrous three year old season while making just three starts. He finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes, 4th in the Santa Anita Derby and 14th in the Kentucky Derby and was retired.

Unfortunately, retirement wasn’t much better for him. After a freak paddock accident on March 31, 2003, Anees fractured his left front pastern and underwent emergency surgery. The operation left him in a body sling with a full cast on his left pastern that went all the way up to the shoulder. The extensive efforts to save him proved fruitless and Anees had to be euthanized a week later.

 

2000: Macho Uno
Won 3 of 4 races at two including the BC Juvenile.

But he won just 3 of 10 in the next two years of his career. He completely bypassed the Triple Crown series…because he flat wasn’t good enough.

 

2001: Johannesburg
was 6 for 6 in Europe at two, then shipped to the US and won the Breeders Cup Juvenile in his only US start.

He finished 2nd in his first start as a three in Europe, came back to the US and finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby. This world traveler then returned to Europe and  ran 9th at Royal Ascot in a race that proved to be his last.

 

2002: Vindication
was purchased for $2.15 million at the 2001 Keeneland September yearling sale…big, absolutely gorgeous, almost all black colt by Seatlle Slew won all 4 races at two years of age including the Juvenile, but severely injured a front leg and never raced again.

Called “one of the hottest stallion prospects in the country”, Vindication covered 78 mares in the 2007 season but was put down after suffering from a stomach rupture.

 

Vindication

Vindication

2003: Action This Day
Won 2 of 3 races at two including the Juvenile.

Came back horribly at three when he finished 4th in his three year old debut (the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita), then promptly went 0 for 6 the rest of the year with one of the races being a 6th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

 

2004: Declan’s Moon
Won all 4 races at two including the Hollywood Futurity and Del Mar Futurity but was not entered in the BC Juvenile.

He won his first race at three; the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita which would turn out to be his last Stakes win.

Over the next three (injury plagued) years, he only won 1 out of 13 races and it was an Allowance race.

 

2005: Stevie Wonderboy
Owned by talk show host Merv Griffin, he won 3 of 5 at two and showed an explosive late move to win BC Juvenile.

His first and only race at three came in a 2nd place finish in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita.

On February 7, 2006, it was announced that he had suffered a hairline fracture in his ankle. The next day, a screw was inserted in to his leg to correct the fracture and his immediate future was put on hold.

Midway thru his three year old season (July 2007) it was announced that Stevie Wonderboy was “not himself” and had to be retired.

 

2006: Street Sense
is the only horse in 33 years to win the BC Juvenile, two year old colt champion and the Kentucky Derby the following year. At three, he also won the Tampa Bay Derby, Jim Dandy Stakes and Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Like Easy Goer, you can say he was successful at three years old.

 

2007: War Pass
was 4 of 4 at two including the BC Juvenile, but is yet another who tanked in his three year old season.

He won an Allowance race, finished 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby and 2nd in the Wood Memorial Stakes which in turn would be his last race as he injured a knee shortly after and was retired.

 

2008: Midshipman
Won 3 of 4 at two including the BC Juvenile. He then missed almost a year (injury) after and only came back to win 2 of his last 4 races. None of which were at the stakes level.

 

2009: Lookin At Lucky
Talented and good looking, he won 5 of 6 races at the age of two.

At three, he won four graded stakes races including the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational Stakes.

Add him to the “successful” list along with Easy Goer and Street Sense

 

Lookin' at Lucky, shown here winning the Preakness Stakes, was one of only a few horses to blossom as a 3 year old.

Lookin’ at Lucky, shown here winning the Preakness Stakes, was one of only a few horses to blossom as a 3 year old.

  

2010: Uncle Mo
Won all three races at two in spectacular fashion including the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He won his first race at three, the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park, before the wheels came off…. He finished 3rd in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct before developing a digestive disease. After missing almost five months, he would win just one of his next three races, the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park and was retired.

 

2011: Hansen
Won all three starts at two, (two of them by very wide margins) including the BC Juvenile.

But he finished 2nd in the Holy Bull Stakes his first time out at three. Then only won 2 of his next five (the Gotham Stakes and Iowa Derby) while finishing 9th in the Kentucky Derby.

He then got injured and was retired in September of his three year old year

 

2012: Shanghai Bobby
Went 5 for 5 including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old, but lost in his first race as a three year old in the Holy Bull Stakes at GulfstreamPark. Will he be able to buck the obvious downward trend?

 

So, as you can see history doesn’t bode well for Shanghai Bobby. Albeit, he’s won at a mile and a sixteenth already, there are many who question his ability to get a distance of ground. (Like say 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May).

That much remains to be seen but keep in mind over the past 33 (years or) two year old male champions, only Street Sense went on to win the Kentucky Derby….that, readers, is a staggering stat from where I sit.

 

Thanks for reading

  • http://flucerostonewall@hotmail.com Freddy lucero

    they need rest & Luck

    • Gerard

      Agreed…..thats why you are going to see several horses in this years Derby who will be coming in with 2 and (no more than) 3 starts.

  • http://www.thoroedge.wordpress.com Bill

    Luck, yes – more rest, no. Two recent huge failures (Hansen and Uncle Mo) each only ran 3 times at 2 – how much more rest do you want?

    Easy Goer, Street Sense, Lookin at Lucky – your successes – all ran twice as often as those two.

    Treat them like delicate hothouse flowers and that’s what you get; fragile pieces of china. Nice piece, well researched. I wrote about this curse back when everyone was calling Uncle Mo the next Seattle Slew, while I figured he was more like the next War Pass:

    http://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/uncle-mo-why-winning-the-bc-juvenile-is-a-bad-thing/

    It seems very anti-instinctual, but the less you train and race these developing youngsters, the less dense you make their bones and the less structurally sound you make their ligaments/tendons. This isnt me talking, it’s science – Google Nunamaker Shin Study at the New Bolton Center, circa late 90′s.

    • http://isportsweb.com/members/apadula/ Gerard Apadula

      Overall, I really and truly believe its a case by case situation…..some horse (Charismatic) need hard work and a lot of races…..while say….Lookin’ at Lucky seemed to run better with his races spaced apart.

      I do think it’s odd that years ago, horses went into the Kentucky Deby with sometimes as many as 10-12 races under their belts where nowadays (some) enter with 4….

      Thanks for the reply BIll….. :-)

  • http://www.derbydeals.com Kentucky Derby Tickets

    Nice write up and a solid argument. Hard to buck trends that go back that far, but the bottom line is that it is still up to the individual and past indicators don’t necessarily impact the present. As said, luck plays a huge part, especially in a 20 horse race! As far as rest goes, shouldn’t that be on a horse by horse basis and not an across the board assumption?

    • Gerard

      William….yes sir, it should….the future, and the past for that matter, is/was/always will be a case by case scenario.

      All I was trying to point out was that the history of the two YO champions is not good.

      …and of course none of really truly know what the future holds…..if I did…I’d be pretty wealthy. :)

      Thanks for the reply