Preakness-Belmont Double Would Place War of Will in Elite Company

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With a Belmont Stakes win, War of Will would join Nashua, above left with Spendthrift Farm owner Leslie Combs II, and Afleet Alex, above right after winning the 2005 Belmont Stakes, (Photos by Skeats Meadors and Anne Eberhardt/BloodHorse)

In just over two weeks, War of Will will try to join one of racing’s most exclusive clubs: horses to start but fall short in the Kentucky Derby only to bounce back and win the final two classics.

War of Will
War of Will (Eclipse Sportswire)

OK, there's much more interest and prestige in sweeping all three classics, but a whopping 13 horses have done that. Only 11 horses have lost the Derby then won the other two Triple Crown races. Statistical kidding aside, it's a rare horse who can win two classic races.

War of Will will attempt to become just the 12th horse to fall short in the Derby and win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He would end a 14-year drought in this category going back to Afleet Alex. And the number of horses to finish off the board in the Derby — War of Will placed seventh in Louisville — to then come back and win the Preakness and Belmont numbers only four.

Granted, the club expands by seven if you count horses who didn't race in the Derby but won the Preakness and Belmont — that group includes Man o' War.

The list of horses to lose the Derby and win the other two legs of the Triple Crown is an impressive one. All but Tabasco Cat earned champion 3-year-old male honors. Tabasco Cat lost out to Holy Bull — who won five Grade 1 races that year, two of those top-level wins coming against older horses — to take divisional honors as well as Horse of the Year.

Of the 11, four earned Horse of the Year honors in their 3-year-old seasons: Capot, Nashua, Damascus, and Point Given. (Native Dancer was Horse of the Year at 2 and 4 but lost to Tom Fool at 3.)

And of that group of 11, five are in the Hall of Fame: Bimelech, Native Dancer, Nashua, Damascus, and Point Given.

While there certainly are more “what if?” racing stories involving the horses to win the Derby and Preakness only to come up short in the Belmont, the Preakness-Belmont horses certainly generate their share as well. What if Point Given had been rated off the pace more at Churchill Downs? What if Money Broker hadn't swerved into Native Dancer in the first turn of the Derby?

Considering Maximum Security was disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby for interfering with War of Will, should the son of War Front secure a Belmont victory, his “what if?” story would certainly add an especially interesting chapter.

Preakness-Belmont Winners to Start In, But Not Win Derby

Year

Horse

Derby Finish

1940

 Bimelech

2nd

1949

 Capot

2nd

1953

 Native Dancer

2nd

1955

Nashua

2nd

1967

Damascus

3rd

1974

Little Current

5th

1988

Risen Star

3rd

1991

Hansel

10th

1994

Tabasco Cat

6th

2001

Point Given

5th

2005

Afleet Alex

3rd

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