Friday, May 15, 2009

Preakness Analysis

Well the second leg of the Triple Crown is here and I must say this race is shaping up to be a lot more interesting than the Derby, which was really ruined by the amount of scratches from key contenders.

Below is a breakdown of the field and my pick....

Big Drama

This talented colt is 7-5-1-1 in his career and the only loss on his record outside of his first start was a DQ when he set a track record at Gulfstream Park. This is an extremely talented horse that has a winner’s mindset. He is one of the elite sprinters who decided to give the Preakness a go after not being convinced by the Derby winner. He’d be a logical horse for the upset except for the fact that he has never run around two turns. That alone is enough to look elsewhere but the horse has a lot of speed and class and if he replicates his one turn form here he could be very dangerous. Will be looking to wire the field. Eligible for a share.

Mine That Bird

This is the little horse that could. After going 0 for 2 to start his 3yo campaign he shocked the world in the Derby, becoming the second biggest upset in the history of the run for the roses. Because of his prior form he didn’t scare off much here. A lot of Derby contenders have made the trek to Pimlico for the rubber match and it speaks to his standing within the industry that a filly has now decided to enter against him. He does have some things going for him though. For one, the Sunland Derby has become one of the most successful preps in recent memory. Steve Crist of the Daily Racing Form penned it the “Keyest Key Race Ever” because the has produced a Derby winner (Mine That Bird), G2 Lexington winner (Advice), G3 Lonestar Derby winner (Mythical Power) and Texas Stallion Stakes winner (Valid Stripes) There is also rain in the forecast for the next three days meaning he may get the sloppy conditions he thrived on at Churchill. Additionally there is a lot of speed in this race. Between Big Drama, Rachel Alexandra, Papa Clem and Pioneer of the Nile he should get an honest pace to close on. It’s hard to like a 50-1 winner in a race where he will go off between 4 and 6 to 1 though. He might have turned the corner in Derby and he will get a race that will unfold similarly, but I need to see twice before being entirely convinced. Contender.

Musket Man

This horse is one of the toughest in the division. He’s won over 4 different tracks and if you take out Mine That Bird in the Derby, he runs second by a nose two weeks ago. He doesn’t shy from a fight and is one of those horses that you can count on to show up. He has a winners mentality and will give you everything he’s got. He also fired a bullet in his work for this race being the fastest of 23 on the work tab that morning. He’s probably primed for another credible effort, but the problem is he needs to step up considerably to win here. He’s never been overly fast in any of his starts, and I can’t see his typical mid to high 90’s figure winning this race if any of the other contenders really step up their game. He’s eligible to give anyone a run for their money, but I’m not sure he will do anything more than run a respectable race underneath the winner. Eligible for a share.

Luv Gov

D Wayne Lukas has never been afraid to enter a long shot in a race and the Derby result probably gave him more confidence than ever. Nick Zito once said to a reporter about Lukas, “he’d saddle you for the Derby if they’d let him” and its hard disagree looking at the entry of this horse. Luv Guv has made 10 starts in his career and it took all ten to break his maiden. He finally got over the hump on the Derby under card and apparently Lukas thinks that win will make him turn the corner. For the eternally optimistic, the horse is bred to run all day and is trained by a guy who’s saddled his fair share of upset winners, but at the end of the day he’s never beaten a horse that’s actually won a race and these aren’t just any kind of winners he’s up against. Prefer others.

Friesan Fire

The betting favorite in the Derby comes back to Pimlico to make amends for what was a poor showing at Churchill. He did have a horrendous trip and did sustain a minor injury in the running (another horse stepped on him, i.e. grabbed a quarter) but I get the feeling that not having his preferred trip was the real culprit more than anything else. In most of his races he’s sat second early stalking the pace before making his move. When taking the bumps and bruises he received in Derby into account and the fact that he was in behind horse bottled up, it’s somewhat understandable he basically threw in the towel. This horse has a ton of upside here in this spot though. He is one of the fastest horses in the race (third highest speed figure of the group behind Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra) and is a proven entity over an off track. If he gets the ideal trip he is very eligible to run off here. He is a horse that you have to confidently draw a line through the last start and I’m not sure I can with any real confidence. I’m hesitant to wager on a horse that will need everything to go right. Eligible to upset at a short price.


I would love to see this horse in a gimmick wagers against the likes of Luv Guv and Flying Private. That’s the only way I think you could approach a horse like this from a betting perspective, beyond deep cover in the superfecta. Terrain was a minor stakes winner as a 2yo but hasn’t won since last August. His form leads one to think he was a precocious type that has since regressed. This year he’s run a distant 3rd to Fresian Fire in track conditions that will be similar to those on Saturday and he ran off the board in the G1 Bluegrass. It’s hard to see that being an effective form line here, but Mine That Bird didn’t seem too logical either. His career best effort would still be questionable to hit the board here and this might not be the spot to rely on significant improvement. Prefer others.

Papa Clem

This horse is underrated much like Musket Man. He always puts in a good effort and what he lacks in pure brilliance he makes up for in determination. He finished fourth in the Derby after getting jostled around during the stretch drive by Pionnerof The Nile. The shorter trip in the Preakness will suit him and his early speed will certainly get him in the race. The worry with a horse like Clem is his lack of dominance. He is a winner, but he’s never flashed the undeniable brilliance that it will no doubt take here “IF” Rachel or Fresian Fire run to their best. If those two falter or fail to run to their standards this guy is every bit eligible to overcome Pioneer or Musket Man, who narrowly edged him out in the Derby. Wild card. Eligible for a share.

General Quarters

The feel good story of the derby never caught a break in the actual running two weeks ago. He encountered trouble early and never really got into his rhythm before finishing a well-beaten 10th. This horse interestingly enough has shown a great ability to run a good race after a clunker. He encountered severe trouble in the Tampa Bay Derby and followed that up with a dominant win in the G1 Bluegrass. He ran a little short in an ungraded stake a Tampa before turning the table on Musket Man next out in the G3 Sam F Davis. You never quite know what you’ll get with him and a clean trip is the first concern. Ideally he likes to stalk the pace and make a sustained bid. That type of trip will suit him well here. The question is whether he is fast enough early to get that trip and is his best still enough to do more than hit the board. He’s a tough horse and I hope he runs well. Eligible for a minor share.

Pioneerof The Nile

The Derby runner up comes back as the main horse to beat. He is as consistent as they come and will not shy from a battle. He does have one clear chink in his armor; he is not very fast. His Beyer of 95 in the Derby was his career average, not a regression. He has never posted a triple digit figure, which leads one to believe he may be outgunned any time a brilliant performance is put up by another horse. His style is built around grinding his opponents down rather than quickening and making a big move, so every race is interesting late. With that said, he’s beaten all but three in the field before and one of those he hasn’t (Big Drama) is a sprinter making his first start around two turns. If you are inclined to consider Mine That Bird a fluke then you probably also see this race as a match race between him and Rachel Alexandra. If it becomes a dogfight you’d have to like your chances with Pinoeer. If its a matter of brilliance, not so much. Major Contender.

Flying Private

The last place finisher in the Derby returns here for another try. He didn’t make much sense at Churchill and after his run there it’s hard to make a case for him here. Again, the colt is trained by one of the best in D Wayne Lukas but I think even he would admit this horse is in over his head. He is still eligible for a N1X and that’s probably where he should be on Saturday, not in against the cream of the crop. He would need to run huge to hit the back end of a superfecta. Prefer others.

Take The Points

Pletcher pulls another of his talented colts off the bench to represent him here in the Preakness. There are reasons to be optimistic about this colt. In the Santa Anita Derby he ran only two lengths off Pinoeerof The Nile. The race before that he ran a decent albeit well beaten second to the buzz saw that was The Pamplemouse. The key thing in those races was he was doing it on synthetics, not his preferred surface. His return to dirt here should help and his career best Beyer is actually better than Pioneerof The Nile. That’s not to say he will beat Pinoeer here, but this horse could very well run a respectable race here. I don’t favor him for the win, but anywhere underneath he is dangerous. Eligible for a share.

Tone It Down

This colt enters off a third place finish in the local prep, the Fredrico Tesio. The best thing you can say is he is familiar with the track and the surroundings. Beyond that he has real class issues here. The Tesio was his best performance of his career but that was against lesser and wasn’t a particularly fast effort. He'll have a big race jock aboard him here in Kent Desormeaux and his pedigree is made for this distance, but even that isn’t enough for him to factor here. Prefer others.

Rachel Alexandra

This filly has thoroughly captured the imagination of the racing public and has the chance Saturday to capture the hearts of the casual fans tuning in. There are actually people starting to whisper that this may be this best filly since Ruffian. High praise indeed. First thing first; if she runs to the same level she has in her last three outings she wins this race by about 3-4 lengths. She is by far the most brilliant horse in this field. The only horse in the race that has a speed figure in the same area code as Rachel is Mine That Bird. The rest would need to improve some 10-15 points. Despite all this she is no lock. She’s never run against a field of this quality. She’s untested in dogfight (because she’s simply too good for the other 3yo fillies) and we don’t know how she’ll fare chasing fast fractions against boys who wont crumble or concede turning for home. On top of that, you have to consider she is coming of a monstrous effort two weeks ago. She is certainly a bounce candidate. For these reasons alone I find this race very unattractive from a bettors standpoint. You generally try to take a stand against horses with question marks and Rachel is littered with them. On the other hand she is by far the best horse in the field and could possibly win this by daylight. She might not be the next Ruffian, but she’ll need to be special to win this Saturday. The Pick.

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