2014 Preakness Stakes

Ranking the Biggest Disappointments in Preakness History

Brendan O'MearaFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Ranking the Biggest Disappointments in Preakness History

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    Orb, the 2013 Derby winner, failed to deliver in the Preakness Stakes.
    Orb, the 2013 Derby winner, failed to deliver in the Preakness Stakes.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The Preakness Stakes has played host to some of the most impressive equine performances in the history of the sport. Everything from dueling stretch drives to eye-popping dominance, the Preakness almost always delivers.

    Yet there are some performances that fall flat, athletically and emotionally. It's especially true when the Derby winner creates a huge buzz only to run flatter than day-old, open soda pop. 

    The races on this list were disappointing on their failure to deliver on the hype. You don't need to look too far in the rear view to find a bouquet of disappointments in Baltimore.

    There could easily be another set of slides equally disappointing, but here's some to oil your engine. Behold, the most disappointing Preakness Stakes in history based on the gap between pre-Preakness expectation and performance.

    Let's get right into it...

No. 8: Johnstown, 1939

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    Orb follows a long line of Preakness disappointments.
    Orb follows a long line of Preakness disappointments.Justin Heiman/Getty Images

    No replay or photographs were available for Johnstown in 1939. Johnstown won the Kentucky Derby by a record eight lengths. Only four horses have ever won the Derby by that many: Johnstown, Whirlaway, Assault and Old Rosebud.

    Trained by the Hall of Famer "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons, Johnstown entered the Preakness with a chance to keep the Triple Crown alive. But he lost. He ran into a muddy track and finished off the board.

    After such an emphatic win in Kentucky, for Johnstown to then lose the Preakness to Challedon makes him one of the earliest Preakness letdowns.

No. 7: Riva Ridge, 1972

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    Bee Bee Bee defeating Riva Ridge in the Preakness.
    Bee Bee Bee defeating Riva Ridge in the Preakness.Uncredited/Associated Press

    Riva Ridge was the star of Meadow Stable before Secretariat came along. Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, but failed to link the two with a win in the Preakness.

    Like Johnstown several generations before him, Riva Ridge caught a muddy track and lost in the Preakness. In Riva Ridge's case it was Bee Bee Bee

    Riva Ridge carried with him hype and hope the likes of which were only surpassed by his stablemate Secretariat. Even Secretariat's two-year-old year created so much buzz that he was eventually awarded the Horse of the Year award. He lived it up to it (but he wasn't as invincible as some may think).

    Riva Ridge was a brilliant horse that could have won the Triple Crown, but got unlucky on an off-track in the Preakness.

No. 6: Swale, 1984

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    Swale was an all-time great athlete. The great Laffit Pincay rode him to wins in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. But his Preakness was, to stay on theme, disappointing.

    He finished seventh in the Preakness behind the winner Gate Dancer that day. It's hard to say whether it was his rigorous training that compromised him, or if he simply had a bad day, but that Preakness is tough to explain. It could have been a sign of things to come.

    Yes, Swale then won the Belmont Stakes three weeks later, but just a week following the Belmont, Swale collapsed and died of a heart attack after his morning bath.

No. 5: Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000

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    Fusaichi Pegasus, affectionately referred to as FuPeg, came into the Preakness Stakes in 2000 as a heavy favorite. The way he had won his Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby left little doubt that he would win the Triple Crown.

    What FuPeg ran into was a new shooter in Red Bullet who just ran away from them all down the lane. 

    FuPeg, under Kent Desormeaux, began his late charge around the far turn but couldn't level out the way Red Bullet did, while finishing second. It wasn't even close.

No. 4: Ferdinand, 1986

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    Ferdinand winning the 1986 Kentucky Derby.
    Ferdinand winning the 1986 Kentucky Derby.John Swart/Associated Press

    Snow Chief was the favorite heading into the 1986 Kentucky Derby, and Ferdinand defeated him. A rematch took place in Baltimore with all eyes on Ferdinand to see if he could keep the Triple Crown alive. The problem was Snow Chief came back and ran like the horse everybody knew.

    Snow Chief went to the front in the Preakness and drew clear of the field. 

    Ferdinand had a dream trip to catch Snow Chief. He had the rail wide open and rode it the whole way. Snow Chief proved too much, and Ferdinand couldn't muster a strong enough kick to catch the Chief.

    Ferdinand would go on, a year later, to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

No. 3: Orb, 2013

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    What made Orb's off-the-board finish in the Preakness Stakes so disappointing wasn't just how he ran (though that was true), but the hype surrounding him heading into the Preakness. After winning the Derby, Orb was anointed the 12th Triple Crown winner. It was his. He won. Why bother running?

    Orb never had any run. He flattened out. Joel Rosario, Orb's jockey, went to the whip with a quarter-mile to go and had zero rally. He was spent to finish fourth.

    Orb never won another race after the Derby, and maybe that's more disappointing than failing in the Preakness.

No. 2: Monarchos, 2001

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    Dig around to 51:54 for the start of the race in the above video. Monarchos, two weeks prior to the Preakness, ran the second-fastest Kentucky Derby ever and only the second sub-two-minute Derby in the history of the race. Monarchos also beat the heavily favored Point Given, who didn't quite run up to his talent in the Derby.

    Monarchos struggled in the Preakness and finished a distant sixth. For a horse that, in terms of history, was only defeated by Secretariat in over a hundred years of racing in the Derby, to run so flat at Pimlico makes him one of the great Preakness flops ever.

    Point Given was the monster of 2001. If Monarchos ran a disappointing Preakness, Point Given ran an equally disappointing Derby. The real Point Given showed up at the Preakness then went on to win the Belmont Stakes too.

No. 1: Barbaro, 2006

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    The great Barbaro met his tragic end in the Preakness.
    The great Barbaro met his tragic end in the Preakness.Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Barbaro's Preakness wasn't so much disappointing as it was...sad. 

    Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby by 6 1/2 lengths, the largest margin of victory since Assault won by eight lengths in 1946. Barbaro won the Derby with such ease that he became one of the scarier Triple Crown threats in recent memory.

    He looked uncomfortable heading into the Preakness. He broke through the gate before the start. Then, 200 yards into the race, Barbaro broke down. 

    Barbaro began a long and brave journey that had its ups and, ultimately, its fatal downs before he was euthanized on January 29, 2007. 

    The Preakness was won by Bernardini, but it will always be remembered as the race Barbaro's life was on the clock.

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