BALTIMORE -- The curse of Apollo doesn't pertain to the Preakness.
It is an often-cited fact that no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without having raced at age 2 since Apollo in 1882. In the Preakness, however, three horses in the last 17 years -- Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini (2006), and Curlin (2007) -- have captured the middle jewel of the Triple Crown without having raced as a juvenile.
Do two weeks really make that much of a difference?
The Preakness has a significantly smaller field than the 20-horse cavalry charge often seen in the Derby. In addition, the Preakness is run at 1 3/16 miles, a sixteenth shorter than the Derby.
"Things can possibly work out a little fairer for a horse that lacks experience," trainer Chad Brown said.
Brown trains Cloud Computing, one of three horses scheduled to run in Saturday's 142nd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico who didn't race at age 2. Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier also didn't debut until age 3.
In the last 20 years, 20 horses have run in the Preakness who didn't run at 2. Curlin won the 2007 Preakness after finishing third, with trouble, to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby. Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness -- the race in which Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was injured -- after winning the four-horse Withers at Aqueduct in late April. Bodemeister (2012) and Rock Hard Ten (2004) had no starts as juveniles and finished second in the Preakness.
Cloud Computing has a profile similar to Red Bullet's. Both had done enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, but their connections passed. Red Bullet won the Gotham in his third start and was second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial. Trainer Joe Orseno said Red Bullet didn't bounce back quickly enough from those races to run in the Derby. He defeated Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus by 3 3/4 lengths in the Preakness.
Cloud Computing was among the first group of 2-year-olds Brown received last year. After five workouts at Saratoga in June, he was found to have a small ankle chip that was surgically removed. Cloud Computing returned to training in November at Palm Meadows but ultimately shipped to New York to begin his career.
Cloud Computing won his debut sprinting, then finished second in the Gotham and third in the Wood Memorial. He had enough points to qualify for the Derby but was held out to await the Preakness. Brown said the 20-horse field "certainly" played a role in the decision to skip the Derby.
"At least you don't have to worry about sending a horse like Cloud Computing, who's already up against it developmental-wise, and then draw [post] 20 or the 1," Brown said. "Not to say I'm not going to be disappointed if he draws the 14. Then again, I'm in my own backyard, I don't have to go too far. It's a lot safer."
Conquest Mo Money was in the barn of Mark Casse as a 2-year-old. After Conquest Mo Money had three breezes at Keeneland and one at Belmont Park last summer, Casse said the horse had ankle issues that forced him to back off. Conquest Mo Money was part of the dispersal sale of the Conquest Stables of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell. He was purchased for $8,000 by Tom and Sandra McKenna's Judge Lanier Racing and turned over to trainer Miguel Hernandez.
Hernandez began training the horse in late November and said it wasn't until he breezed the colt from the gate that Conquest Mo Money showed him anything significant.
"From that day, I think I have a stakes horse, but who knows how far he's going to go and how good he was?" Hernandez said.
Conquest Mo Money, a New York-bred son of Uncle Mo, won his first three starts, all at Sunland in a 51-day span. He finished second in the Sunland Derby and second in the Arkansas Derby, races run three weeks apart. It was the close proximity of his races that prompted his connections to skip the Derby. Conquest Mo Money also wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown -- which his connections said was simply an oversight -- and it would have cost $200,000 to supplement him before the Derby. It cost $150,000 to supplement to the Preakness.
"He was running three weeks apart and then working and running," Hernandez said. "If he continues that way, I'll have no horse. Right now, who knows? Maybe I can win, maybe I run last, but I gave him the time to recover."
Multiplier didn't debut until Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds. After working twice last June, Multiplier was given time off due to "a small bit of an issue," trainer Brendan Walsh said. "He was a horse we were never in a rush with anyway," Walsh added.
That Walsh started him out in a two-turn race at a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds was an indication that he thought the horse was a true distance runner.
"I never run any horse two turns first out," said Walsh, who noted that the only one-turn option at Fair Grounds was six furlongs.
Multiplier broke slowly in his debut and finished third. He then had to go wide in the stretch when beaten a neck by Souper Tapit on Feb. 18. Multiplier won a maiden race at Fair Grounds on March 18 and then ran down Hedge Fund to win the Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 22.
"He's improved every run, and he's still on the improve," Walsh said. "Hopefully, he can run improve again and run a good race in the Preakness."