As the Black-Eyed Susans bloom and the racing world shifts to Baltimore, a different vibe comes upon this year’s Preakness Stakes. Horse racing has been in the public eye these past two weeks – just moments after a historic disqualification of Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby the world has been abuzz about what will happen next. Controversy surrounded the sport, this time for good headlines, while everyone carried an opinion. No longer was horse racing talked about by its loyal fans – now everyone, from the paperboy to the janitor had something to say. As the sun sets on the Twin Spires and the mist rolls in at Old Hilltop, its time to move on to the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown, just without a Triple Crown.
With the disqualification of Maximum Security, the Kentucky Derby “winner” has chosen not to be here; meanwhile the winner Country House left the race with an illness and will be resting up for a return to the races in a few months. Without a Derby winner, the racing world seems to be lacking something – a star. No star power in the Preakness, yet a wide open field of 13, headlined by (of course) a Baffert in Improbable, is what is on tap for the oldest of the three crowns. We get to see some local talent and some lesser talent here, many of which could become the future of the older division going forth.
Let’s run down the field:
1 – War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse)
All eyes were on War of Will coming out of the Derby – or at least Gary & Mary West’s eyes. War of Will was the one most hampered by Maximum Security two weeks ago, dropping three lengths and down from third to eighth that day. He comes back on two weeks rest, once again drawing the rail, and looks to prove he can run with the rest. When he isn’t hampered, he has been sharp, but he seems to find trouble. He is full of talent but will it be enough to get him to the winners circle here.
2 – Bourbon War (Irad Ortiz, Jr. Mark Hennig)
The first of our new shooters – Bourbon War was originally targeting the Kentucky Derby but not enough points lands him here. He had a sharp late run against a pretty quick pace in the Fountain of Youth but was spinning his wheels when Maximum Security walked the dog on the front end in the Florida Derby. He should get a hot pace on Saturday and is one to watch out for.
3 – Warrior’s Charge (Javier Castellano, Brad Cox)
The Oaklawn invader, Warrior’s Charge is making a huge step up after consecutive wins against lesser. This will be his first step up into stakes company, but his figures and workouts show he fits well here. He is sure to add a lot of pace into this field and may be the one to break on top. His previous races at Oaklawn make him a strong contender here and is one of the few that have been improving each of his last three races. A must use on the tickets.
4 – Improbable (Mike Smith, Bob Baffert)
Is it really a Triple Crown race without Baffert and Mike Smith? Improbable gets his fourth jockey on the year in as many starts, still looking for the first 2019 win. The lone G1 winner in this field, he has been getting better each start, but always seems to face tough company. Previously ridden more as a closer, Mike Smith should bring more stalking speed to this son of City Zip, which based on his pedigree may be what he needs.
5 – Owendale (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox)
Another Brad Cox trainee, Owendale stepped away from the Fair Grounds after his 8th place effort in the Risen Star and instead went to the Lexington at Keeneland, winning in easy closing fashion. His running style should help him here, but his inconsistency is something of a worry.
6 – Market King (Jon Court, D. Wayne Lukas)
After a solid third place finish in the Rebel behind Omaha Beach and Game Winner, Lukas wheeled him right back around for the Blue Grass, but the short turnaround proved too much. He gets rest here and should be forwardly placed, but this looks like too much of an ask.
7 – Alwaysmining (Daniel Centeno, Kelly Rubley)
What a story it would be for the local horse to win the Preakness. Maryland bred, trained, and raced, Alwaysmining has made just one trip out of his home state to race, and that was in his first career start (back in June) at Churchill Downs. Since then, he has been crushing the competition at Laurel Park, culminating in the six race win streak he is on. His win in the Federico Tesio put him here, and he has looked nothing but sharp all year. His figures show him on the improve and puts him right where he needs to be to win. Tactical speed on top is always dangerous, and that is exactly what he has. Going to be a major threat throughout.
8 – Signalman (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Kenneth McPeek)
On the outside looking in come Derby time, Signalman has run with the best of them throughout his career, most recently with a third place finish in the Blue Grass. His closing style bodes well for him here and he comes in off a lot of rest. The biggest question is if he can handle the distance; much of him says he is best sprinting to a mile at best.
9 – Bodexpress (John Velazquez, Gustavo Delgado)
Another that was hampered in the Derby by Maximum Security, Bodexpress drew in and looked to have a lot of run, but just wheeled down late with nothing to show. He had a tough trip last out but should improve here. His speed puts him in this race, and with Johnny V stepping aboard, he must have a chance, but breaking the maiden in a Triple Crown races is tough, let alone any G1 race.
10 – Everfast (Joel Rosario, Dale Romans)
An interesting entrant here in what is a wide open Preakness, Everfast is coming in off of very terrible form, having not won since his first start at Ellis Park last August. His speed figures are where they should be for a contender, but his on track performance leaves a lot of questions. If he runs like his Holy Bull, he hits the board, anything else and he will be dead last. Hard to gauge him, but he will probably be best going much shorter.
11 – Laughing Fox (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steven Asmussen)
Winner of the inaugural Oaklawn Invitational last out, Laughing Fox has been getting better with each run as he has spend the spring in Arkansas. He didn’t take to the track well once heavy competition like Omaha Beach, Game Winner, and Improbable came to town, but he was able to close in and sneak away with a win while the rest played in Louisville. His closing kick is one to get him home, and he is in good form now. He has improved in his last three and should be a live longshot.
12 – Anothertwistafate (Jose Ortiz, Blaine Wright)
Questions are abound for this son of Scat Daddy – is his ready for conventional dirt or is he just an all-weather freak. His three wins came on the Tapeta at Golden Gate, all by open lengths. He has been lacking his late kick in his last two runner up efforts on dirt in the Sunland Derby and the Lexington, keeping him out of the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The race should shape up for his stalking trip and the post should help him stay clean early on, but he now needs to figure out a way to come out on top away from the friendly confines of GGF.
13 – Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel, Michael Trombetta)
The Pasco winner had a tough time running behind Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby and Vekoma in the Blue Grass. Both times Win Win Win put in great efforts but was unable to come away with a winning performance. He had a tough trip on a sloppy track last out in the Derby and should improve here. On his best day, he is a beast, but he may just be better around one turn. Hard to tell what he is best at and just doesn’t seem to be the type that can win here.
My Top Selections in the Preakness:
- (7) Alwaysmining
- (3) Warrior’s Charge
- (1) War of Will
Now here are my selections for all the stakes races this weekend:
- Skipat Stakes – Friday, Race 7 – 6 Furlongs Dirt
- (3) Chalon – makes her 5yo debut here; she is always sharp off a layoff and a tough one to leave off any ticket.
- (7) Maybe Wicked
- (5) Adios Annie
- Miss Preakness Stakes G3 – Friday, Race 8 – 6 Furlongs Dirt
- (11) Fighting Mad – Baffert doesn’t send anyone to Maryland without a guarantee to win; will be a short price, but she looks to be the best. (would be a fitting name for a winner for Gary & Mary West)
- (12) Midnight Fantasy
- (2) Covfefe
- Hilltop Stakes – Friday, Race 9 – 1 Mile Turf
- (5) Dogtag – I go with the US based Chad Brown runner, who I think will take better to returning off the layoff than his French shipper; a very weak field otherwise here.
- (6) Makeme Dream
- (9) Introduced
- Pimlico Special G3 – Friday, Race 10 – 1 1/4 Miles Dirt
- (2) Rally Cry – second off a layoff is an angle I love to play with Pletcher, especially in Graded Stakes. He had a good run in the Charles Town Classic, but needed some base under him; he has it here and looks to be sharp.
- (11) Flameaway
- (13) You’re to Blame
- Black-Eyed Susan G2 – Friday, Race 11 – 1 1/8 Miles Dirt
- (6) Always Shopping – one of the few in here that has improved in each of her starts, she has been getting better with each run; her running style should favor the way the race has shaped up and she looks to be in form – tough to beat.
- (7) Brill
- (3) Ulele
- Jim McKay Turf Sprint – Friday, Race 12 – 5 Furlongs Turf
- (8) Pure Sensation – should improve nicely in his second start off the long layoff; has been one of the most consistent turf sprinters in recent years and is the class here.
- (3) Bound for Nowhere
- (5) New York’s Finest
- Allaire DuPont Distaff – Friday, Race 13 – 1 1/8 Miles Dirt
- (3) Gio Game – eligible to improve here in her second start of the season, this daughter of Gio Ponti looked to come back strong after what was a solid and overperforming last year. She still needs her first stakes win, but gets a cutback in class and a really nicely shaping race.
- (1) Timeless Curls
- (4) Mylady Curlin
- Sir Barton Stakes – Saturday, Race 3 – 1 1/16 Miles Dirt
- (4) Top Line Growth – ran away with the race last out in his first start; looks to get a lone lead and take it all the way.
- (2) Pretty Good Year
- (3) King for a Day
- James W. Murphy Stakes – Saturday, Race 5 – 1 Mile Turf
- (2) Current – the return to turf is exactly what he needs; he has some of the best figures in this group and Javier has been hot.
- (1) Shootin the Breeze
- (9) Tybalt
- Maryland Sprint – Saturday, Race 6 – 6 Furlongs Dirt
- (6) Wentz – the speedy son of Super Saver has been improving with each start, including a solid, comeback win last out at Keeneland; looks to grab the lead and take this race all the way – Rosario is one of the best sprint jockeys.
- (1) New York Central
- (4) Lewisfield
- Searching Stakes – Saturday, Race 7 – 1 1/2 Miles Turf
- (3) Osare – she looked fantastic at 3 and looks to show that again in her 4yo debut; Jonathan Thomas is great off a long layoff and this horse looks the best going the long route of ground.
- (5) Ickymasho
- (6) Vevina
- The Very One Stakes – Saturday, Race 9 – 5 Furlongs Turf
- (3) Jo Jo Air – this is a very weak field; no reason why the class of the field can’t win.
- (4) Souper Echo
- (1) Not in Jeopardy
- Gallorette Stakes – Saturday, Race 10 – 1 1/16 Miles Turf
- (9) Barkaa – in her first start for Chad Brown, the French filly didn’t have enough time to get accustomed to racing in the US, but looked good in her debut before tiring; she now has had plenty of time to acclimate and if she is on her game, she is going to be tough.
- (8) Viva Vegas
- (5) Mitchell Road
- Chick Lang Stakes – Saturday, Race 11 – 6 Furlongs Dirt
- (7) Pyron – has done nothing wrong in two careers starts and looks to be improving; can run on anything and has the tactical pounce you want to see.
- (2) Still Dreaming
- (8) Preamble
- Dixie Stakes – Saturday, Race 12 – 1 1/16 Miles Turf
- (7) Real Story – the American Derby winner is right back in form in 2019, rolling off two runner up efforts from the front end; he is eligible to improve in his third start of the season and finds a spot that should be light on pace.
- (5) Have At It
- (12) Catholic Boy
Categories: Horse Racing
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