Preakness Stakes-The 141st running of the Preakness stakes is carded as race 13 this Saturday at Pimlico Racecourse, approximate scheduled post time is 6:45 PM. The field consists of 11 entrants who are vying for the 2nd Jewel of the Triple Crown with Nyquist trying to give an encore performance from American Pharoah’s Triple Crown achievement last year. The weather forecast is projecting unseasonably cool temperatures with a dry partly sunny Friday, but Saturday is calling for a 70% chance of steady rain which will affect the track condition, likely sloppy.
Horse racing has been a dying game for years; attendance is down, newspapers rarely cover it. With casinos popping up everywhere, especially at racetracks most patrons don’t even know there is racing anymore. With all that doom and gloom, we got a much needed shot in the arm in 2015 with American Pharoah not only sweeping the Triple Crown, but winning the Breeder’s Cup Classic which had never been done. To put in perspective, the last baseball Triple Crown winner was Miguel Cabrera accomplishing the feat in 2012 where he led the league in homeruns, runs batted in, and average. He would have also needed to lead the league in stolen bases to duplicate what American Pharoah did.
Friends, family, & co-workers all know horse racing is in my blood, I must have had 100+ conversations about American Pharoah and racing in general since Belmont day last year. Clients come into my office and see horse pictures everywhere and typicially say, “American Pharoah this, Triple Crown that”. Everyone wants a hero, whether it’s Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzy, or even Baltimore’s most reverend son, Cal Ripken; racing is no different but up until last year we just haven’t had the face since the 70’s.
I do have a news flash though which I will take some flak for, American Pharoah while a very nice horse, isn’t a great horse. He was just a good horse in a very bad crop: he lost twice in his career, got loose leads in races devoid of speed, all while facing lackluster competition, history is showing a year later that none of the horses that he beat have done anything. I continue to see these horses show up and fail time and time again, unfortunately that litmus test is proving Pharoah to be mortal. Don Cherry, considered a hockey expert once deemed Doug Gilmour the greatest player in the league, yet that was during the time Super Mario was dominating the league. I guess what I am trying to say, American Pharoah might have opened the door, but a real champion has went through the gate and he has his sights set on duplicating Pharoah’s feat, his name is Nyquist, aptly named after Detroit hockey winger Gustav Nyquist.
First off, never liked this horse and as a gambler I have bet against him keep waiting for his pedigree limitations to show up, physical problems (which he has) to surface, something….all he has done is run his record to a perfect 8 for 8 against what I think history will show a pretty good group of 3 year olds. He captured the Derby in 2:01.31 which was the fastest time since 2003 (American Pharoah won in 2:03.02 which translates to about 8 lengths slower), he was cool as cucumber in the Derby post parade showing professionalism way beyond his age….simply put, it’s time to get on the train.
Favorites fare very well in Baltimore, by the numbers:
The Preakness plays to speed. In the last 29 running’s, 18 of those 29 winners were sitting 1-4 at the first call.
Derby runners have come back to win the Preakness 39 of the last 46 editions.
The race’s history has had 72 favorites win in the 140 running’s, that is a 51% clip.
Only 4 of the last 29 races were won wire to wire
Since 1997, 10 of the past 19 Derby winners have doubled up in the Preakness; Furthermore, 14 of the last 19 Derby winners have been no worse than 2nd.
Should you be wagering on Friday, it is an absolute stellar card including numerous stakes. In race 5, I like Tale of Life who has found new life on dirt, should take another step forward. In race 8, local 10 yr old hero Ben’s Cat looks for his 7th career Pimlico turf win, but he runs into Rocket Heat who is an absolute blazer having just won Derby day against a much deeper field then this, I think he will deny Ben’s Cat. Race 9 is a deep field of accomplished distaffers, I am going to take a stab with Savings Account, she is a grey filly that ships well and has ran 2 big races this year. Lastly, in the feature 11th Race which is the Black Eyed Susan Stakes which drew a full field, I like Kinsley Kisses, she is a Pletcher trainee that is trying 2 turns for the first time, but the blood says it shouldn’t be a problem, I expect her to be on or near the lead.
#3 Nyquist– What is not to like? Horse has tactical speed to put himself in the race, can go to the lead, rate, basically whatever the connections choose to do. This is only his 4th race of the year so he’s fresh and ready for this race. Rider, trainer, and owner all did this in 2012 with I’ll Have Another, so they have the experience edge of knowing what worked then and what they need to change, takes a lot of the pressure off. I like that there are numerous new shooters in here, I do feel some of these horse will go on to bigger and better things so it adds to the intrigue. If looking for a reason to be against him, his Achilles heel might be his worst race of his career was when he ran back in 19 days, today’s test is 14 days, but keep in mind he still won that day. I personally feel we are going to witness greatness. Many foe Exaggerator’s trainer has raced against Nyquist in all 8 of his career starts, 4 with Exaggerator & 4 with Swipe (who is a pretty nice horse as well), he hasn’t beat him yet, no reason to think that number won’t get to 9, the obvious choice, impossible to pick against.
#5 Exaggerator– Take nothing away from his Derby effort as he railed past 18 horses, really thought the bulky field might have been an equalizer against Nyquist. Unfortunately, shows up here which is a slightly shorter trip and a race that typically plays to speed so if he maintains his same running style tactics he likely is going to have too much to do. Trainer says horse’s best attribute is he bounces back very quickly so the two week turnaround won’t be a problem. Connections rain dance appears to have worked as his career best effort was in the slop at Santa Anita so wet track players will hope the skies open up as forecasted, despite the positives he has been beaten the 4 times he has hooked Nyquist. I do think this horse is going the right direction and sure if a duel ensues he would be the logical horse to pull the upset, the main threat.
#11 Stradivari- There is always a wildcard or two in the field that you just don’t know how good they are, this guy fired a 100 Beyer in a 1X @ Keeneland a little over a month ago winning by 14 lengths, I bet him that day, sure it wasn’t a very deep field but for a young improving horse he passed his next test. His bullet workout a week ago says he has rebounded well and if he can pass the class test, no reason he can’t be right there at the wire. The bad news is the outside draw likely will get him hung wide especially with some solid speed drawn inside, but do like the fact he already has a wet track win on his resume.
#1 Cherry Wine- This isn’t a track or race you want to play stone closers and that is exactly what this guy’s game is all about, but here’s another runner who splashed through the puddles at Churchill last fall to win his maiden breaker by 9 lengths. The rail draw doesn’t hurt him as he’ll just look to save ground, settle and start weaving through the faders. Roman’s won this race with Shackleford and he was able to lure Lanerie away from a Churchill where he likely would have won 3-4 on the card. I certainly don’t think he’ll in the win photo, but a very good horse to include in Trifecta & Superfecta plays.
Betability: Minimal, if you are a chalk player or bridge jumper, the short risk vs. reward price might not be worth it, especially with an off-track: the other side of the coin are you really going to try to beat maybe the next great one?
5 unit Exacta #3 with #5
1 unit Trifecta wheel #3 with #1, #5, #7, #8, #11 with #1, #5, #7, #8, #11
1 unit Superfecta wheel #3 with #1, #5, #7, #8, #11 with #1, #5, #7, #8, #11 with #1, #5, #10
1 unit Superfecta wheel #3 with #1, #5, #7, #8, #11 with ALL with #1, #5, #10
1 unit Exacta Box saver #1, #3, #5, #11
Graded Analysis with fair value win odds
#3 Nyquist- 2 to 5, Maybe the off track and the Exaggerator buzz will add to the price, will need a catastrophe to happen to not get unsaddled in the winner’s circle.
#5 Exaggerator 5 to 1, I have a sneaky feeling Kent is likely going to try to keep him closer to the pace which will be a mistake, let him run his race and he’ll be a solid 2nd.
#11 Stradivari- 12 to 1, all-star connections bring the true unknown into the race, but this is the deep end of the pool and not sure he has enough foundation for this big of a leap.
#1 Cherry Wine- 25 to 1, Looks like he is on the improve and wouldn’t be totally surprised if he was able to run third, but more likely reward will be 4th or 5th.
#7 Collected 20 to 1, It wouldn’t be a Triple Crown race without an Uncle Bob entrant, Last Lexington winner to double up was Charismatic in 1999, not a springboard race to this event.
#8 Loaban- 40 to 1, Only maiden in the field, but did win a few battles in his last two so wouldn’t shock me if he stayed around for minor spoils.
#2 Uncle Lino- 35 to 1, California horses have been very dominant over the past few years, this guy is a B stringer but might be good enough to beat some 1st stringers from the East Coast.
#10 Fellowship- 50 to 1, Didn’t like his Pat Day mile on the Derby undercard at all, had every right to run on and flopped, his running style suggests he clunk up and pass a few of these.
#4 Awesome Gem- 50 to 1, Tesio winner needed to be put up to get his automatic bid into the race, I respect trainer Goldberg but just don’t see how he makes any noise.
#9 Abiding Star- 50 to 1, Racing style says he will try to go get every pole, I do see him getting maybe the 1st two poles, but will be hard to see him getting the rest.
#6 Lani- 100 to 1, Japanese came all this way to the Derby so figured might as well stay around for the Preakness, enjoy the party favors because that is all you will get.
-Professional handicapper at www.equineinvestor.com