It has definitely been one of the most eventful Preakness weeks in recent memory, and all for something off the track. Yet, with all of the distractions surrounding this race, the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown stands with a field that, while small, is very competitive. We don’t have too many names from the Derby, just a handful, but we have many top quality horses entering the Triple Crown field, including another Bob Baffert in Concert Tour. Meanwhile, Chad Brown takes two bullets at winning another Preakness with entrants Crowded Trade and Risk Taking. And then there is the Coach, D. Wayne Lukas – who most recently won it nearly ten years ago with Oxbow – tries to win this race again with a son of American Pharoah, Ram. Or perhaps the very quirky Japanese import, France Go de Ina, will be the one to come out on top.
Race 1 – Sir Barton
10:30am ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 1/16 mi Dirt
(1) The King Cheek | (3) Market Cap | (4) Hozier
As good as Hozier may be class wise, I can’t fathom betting a horse odds on that lost by 19 lengths last out. Instead, going with the speed to the inside, which was key on Friday, with The King Cheek. I scratch out the two bad beats at Aqueduct – it is clear that this sone of Laoban is a bleeder; now staying on Lasix and coming out of a win, this speedy horse should excel with the move up in distance. Market Cap could be a good price on the return to racing and adding of Lasix; maybe not the class of some of the better horses but could be good on the return. Have to include Hozier in any bets, but definitely not one that I’d recommend betting to win.
Race 3 – Chick Lang (G3)
11:41am ET | $200,000 | Three Year Olds | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(2) Mighty Mischief | (4) Jaxon Traveler | (3) Hemp
This is going to be a very quick race – two speedy horses ship in from Oaklawn to try and take this gate to wire. I am going to go with the larger price of the two, Mighty Mischief, who steps into stakes company for the first time; I prefer the jockey here in Ricardo Santana, Jr. who should be much more aggressive to get the lead over Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Jaxon Traveler. As for him, I’ll use him next, as the Bachelor Stakes winner has a lot of sprinting promise. This pair of Steven Asmussen runners both look primed for big things. If for some reason the pace ends up being too much, Hemp would be the one to get the play as a nice stalker who might be fresh enough to pass our tired leaders late and take home this race.
Race 6 – Gallorette (G3)
1:28pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Mean Mary | (3) Flight Lady | (2) Great Island
Another race with a heavy favorite, the Gallorette has a horse in Mean Mary that is almost impossible to get past. I won’t be betting against her in her seasonal debut. Probable lock to win. To make some money, I will be putting the European import Flighty Lady underneath – a Group One placed horse in France who was a solid winner in debut last out at Aqueduct for Chad Brown; and another Chad Brown in Great Island, who looks to be in good form coming into this race and may improve now being taken off Lasix.
Race 8 – James W. Murphy
2:45pm ET | $100,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 mi Turf
(1) Indian Lake | (5) Extrasexybigdaddee | (7) Charles Chrome
Going to take a big stab at a price on the inside with Indian Lake, the son of Daredevil out of a Stormy Atlantic mare. Love how this pedigree responds to the turf and think this horse, who has been doing well in last two, will take a step up on the surface switch. Perhaps it’s a stab that won’t work, but I’m not sold on this field being competitive with many horses coming out of bad performance of trying turf to see what they got. I’m going to then play with one of the two Michael Trombetta runners with Extrasexybigdaddee, who faced much tougher and was somewhat competitive early last out; gets a much easier field and has a chance to upset this field with Jose Ortiz aboard. Then will continue to play against this heavy favorite here, taking the son of California Chrome on seasonal debut with Charles Chrome – showed a lot of promise as a 2yo and now gets to return off a layoff and finding a spot that should work well for his come from behind running style.
Race 9 – Skipat
3:25pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up F&M | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(6) Dontletsweetfoolya | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
Lacey Gaudet looks to steal one with this Maryland-based sprinter; the daughter of Stay Thirsty reeled off five straight sprint victories before faltering in the Barbara Fritchie last out. That was much tougher of a spot than what she will see today, and with a fair bit less pace pressure on the front end. Getting Lasix back and dropping to six furlongs puts her in a real good spot – very live. Then the new addition to the Brad Cox family, French Empire, finds her way in against mostly younger as she moves into stakes company. She found her best stuff sprinting at Oaklawn in live races and looks to improve on the trainers switch. Finally the undefeated Chub Wagon is very tough to get by here – only thing against him is that this is a step up, but he has been dominant each out and will be really tough to beat if he gets a clear easy lead; don’t love the price, but this is one you cannot leave off any ticket.
Race 10 – Jim McKay Turf Sprint
4:05pm ET | $100,000 | 3YO and Up | 5 Furlongs Turf
(1) Boldor | (2) The Connector | (5) Hollis
One of my favorite races year in and year out, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint is a brilliant sprint race that pits some of the speediest turf sprints against one another. This race comes my best bet in the day with Boldor for Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr. While not with a lot of turf experience, this son of Munnings has been very impressive this spring, with a strong victory at the distance at Delta Downs in the Sam’s Town, and then followed up with a win in the King Cotton and a much better than expected 5th in the Hot Springs behind C Z Rocket, Whitmore, and Flagstaff. He then got sent to Keeneland for a very tough allowance, finishing a strong second – I think he follows up these performances with a dominant win here. Underneath, watch out for the Keeneland winner The Connector for Mark Hoffman – strong winner last out and has a lot of good runs at this level and distance; huge perk seeing Jose Ortiz aboard. And don’t doubt Hollis, who might be the speed of the speed here; if he can get the lead, very strong chance he takes them all the way.
Race 11 – Maryland Sprint (G3)
4:41pm ET | $150,000 | 3YO and Up | 6 Furlongs Dirt
(3) Mucho | (8) Special Reserve | (11) Seven Nation Army
This rendition of the Maryland Sprint is loaded with speed – so much so that it is really tough to warrant a play on a front runner. Instead, I land on the former Bill Mott trainee, Mucho, who has shown glimmers of prowess closing in on a fast pace at this level. Should get a better ride this time out with Jose Ortiz and might be one of the few fresh horses running late. Meanwhile his brother Irad has a very live mount in the Mike Maker trained Special Reserve, coming out of the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland against a very tough Flagstaff. The cutback in distance and class break should help. And don’t leave Ron Moquett off your ticket as Seven Nation Army ships in from Oaklawn in good form and last time he shipped out of Moquett’s Kentucky-Arkansas circle, he was a winner of the David M. Vance Sprint at Remington Park. Major threat.
Race 12 – Dinner Party (G2)
5:38pm ET | $250,000 | 3YO and Up | 1 1/16 mi Turf
(5) Sacred Life | (8) French Empire | (5) Chub Wagon
I hate to go with the heavy favorite here in the Dinner Party Stakes, but this race sets up well for the Chad Brown trainee who finished third last out in the Maker’s Mark Mile. Sacred Life should be able to sit behind the early pace and round down the leaders on a turf course that has tended to favor well with late runners in these longer races. He outclasses all here and will be a tough competitor to beat. As prices to bolster underneath, I’ll be using the improving Midnight Tea Time, who looked good in victory last out at Keeneland, and the young Kuramata, who makes his fourth career start here.
Race 13 – Preakness (G1)
6:47pm ET | $1,000,000 | Three Year Olds | 1 3/16 mi Dirt
1- Ram (Ricardo Santana, Jr./D. Wayne Lukas): The six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas is looking to win a Triple Crown race in five straight decades with a new shooter and son of American Pharoah. The Coach wouldn’t be sending this horse here without at least chance at victory. Although it took eight chances for him to break his maiden, Ram followed up his victory with a second, coasting home at Churchill Downs at the beginning of the month to win easily. The allowance race victory looked professional and showed a lot of promise for this one. He may need a few more starts at this class before becoming competitive, but nothing would surprise me here. His pedigree suggests he will relish this distance, and is one of the few horses in the field to score high points on the pedigree (only Medina Spirit comes close). Worth a long look at a big price to at least hit the exotics.
2- Keepmeinmind (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro): The Kentucky Derby did not bode well for this son of Laoban. Besides being a deep closer, his slow break and wide position proved too much to overcome; however, he did move up well from 19th to 7th by the end of the race, passing a mix of tired runners and those trying to move forward. Still, that effort combined with his previous performances do not lend much to a chance here.
3- Medina Spirit (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert): It has been an eventful week for the Kentucky Derby winner. Say what you want about what happened this week, but nothing should be taken away from his wire-to-wire victory. Medina Spirit enters trying to win back-to-back and put himself in a spot for a Triple Crown in the Belmont. But to do that, he needs to get past nine rivals that will all be gunning for him. The big problem last out was that no one really went to challenge him early on a very speed favoring course, giving John Velazquez an easy lead and ability to take them all the way. This time, I don’t expect that to be the case, and will be playing against the Derby winner here.
4- Crowded Trade (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown): Skipping the Derby might have been good for the third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial. He had an awful trip last out that made him put in far more effort than he really should have. I expect him to get much better this time around. However, I don’t see much in his pedigree to put him in the mix to win here and likely will be running up the track down the stretch. Chance to catch the exotics, but that is about that.
5- Midnight Bourbon (Irad Ortiz, Jr./Steven Asmussen): Last out is not how you win a horse race. Midnight Bourbon did not have a great start and was pushed well off his preferred spot. Rather than being able to be close to the lead, he chased all the way around, ultimately ending up too far back to make a difference. I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz, Jr. gives him a much more aggressive ride out of the gate and gets him towards the front, where he does his best running. His pedigree suggests that he will do better at much longer, which that combined with his performances may make the case that this is too short of a race for him. Still, very live here if he can get near the front early.
6- Rombauer (Flavien Prat/Michael McCarthy): One of the new shooters here, Rombauer has been getting a lot of talk entering this race. He ran about even last out against Essential Quality and Highly Motivated, before being given a rest up to this race. His best race came two back in the El Camino Real Derby, a winner over the all-weather at Golden Gate Fields. His past running lines suggest he may be better on turf and that this doesn’t fit well for him. A lot of money will go his way, but I just don’t see it.
7- France Go de Ina (Joel Rosario/Hideyuki Mori): Not quite sure what to make of the Japanese import. He was excellent in Japan, taking two strong wins out at Hanshin Racecourse to end last year. However, his debut this year in the UAE Derby left so much to be desired. He never looked right and just had no chance throughout. This week, he has had a few eventful cases of dumping the rider and just doesn’t seem like he wants to be here. But, he has a lot of talent and if he can find a way to keep calm and push forward, will be a horse worth a look for the exotics.
8- Unbridled Honor (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher): One of the horses to watch here! A very strong runner who charged home and nearly got to King Fury in the slop last out. Getting back to dry dirt should help improve his closing kick and put him on the path to an exotics spot. He has ideal pedigree that has a lot of upside at this distance and race style, and his back form shows he fits right here. With an anticipated fast pace, this race gives him a huge shot at an upset. Must use.
9- Risk Taking (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown): Scratch last out and you have a solid horse that would’ve been one of the favorites. He bobbled at the start in the Wood Memorial and had no chance after that. He is very dependent on a strong break and that may be his downfall, but Risk Taking has all the things you like to see. His Withers win was impressive, especially winning the way he did with very little going his way. Not sure how he will respond with a tougher class, but Chad Brown has a huge chance to take another Preakness with the same silks that won him his first.
10- Concert Tour (Mike Smith/Bob Baffert): In most years, Concert Tour would be the favorite here. The Rebel winner faltered last out in a duel late, missing out on winning the Arkansas Derby. Some time off seems to do him well as he has been sharp in his recent workouts as he comes back ready to run in the Preakness. Each start he seems to get more impressive and there is little to not like about him. Does Mike Smith capture another Triple Crown race? Very likely with this one. Hard to say no – all depends on if he comes back in form.
My play ends up on a horse I loved in the Kentucky Derby, (5) Midnight Bourbon. The break cost him all chance last out, but he showed prowess and, with a more aggressive ride, could’ve tested Medina Spirit. I was impressed with how he finished up the race and looked good in the company. He didn’t end up exerting much, unlike the winner, and looks to be mostly fresh. I look for Irad to give a much more aggressive ride, take the race near the front, and try to make every poll a winning one. Both (8) Unbridled Honor and (10) Concert Tour are ones to watch – new shooters here – and either could’ve had favoritism most years. Underneath there is a slew of horses with chance with my favorites of Ram for Lukas and France Go de Ina, who should improve here. Lots to like about this field – and should be a race to make some money too!