(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire/Alex Evers)
The hero heading into— and out of— the Kentucky Derby returns as expected to Old Hilltop at Pimlico for the 140th Preakness Stakes. Shiver me timbers, could we expect a Triple Crown run this year? Run back just two weeks after running farther than he ever has before at a totally new track and at a distance only slightly shorter… the question remains, can Chrome shine again? Several Derby runners and a swath of promising new guns will head in to challenge, with just 3 runners in the past 10 years winning both the Derby and the Preakness, and only 2 of those 3 were able to run in the Belmont.
$1.5 million Preakness Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 3/16 miles on dirt at Pimlico Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, May 17 at 6:18pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Dynamic Impact - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - Stretching out from the 9-furlong Illinois Derby (III) which he won in gritty fashion over Midnight Hawk, the Tiznow colt is well-rested coming into this race and has won a pair of back-to-back races by a neck or less. The distance ought to appeal to him as an improver, and he’ll likely aim to sit off the front runners.
2) General a Rod - Javier Castellano, Mike Maker - The Roman Ruler colt ran as good as anyone else in the Derby, being steadied and blocked repeatedly to finish 11th, beaten about 8 lengths. Before that race, he had never finished off the board and this will be his 2nd start under new trainer Mike Maker for new owners Skychai & Starlight Racing. He could be placed nearly anywhere and gets Castellano up after running most of his races on or near the lead. He could move up now that he is contending against fewer horses and has a chance to run a real race. Question is if he can outrun Chrome, as the two will likely run near each other.
3) California Chrome - Victor Espinoza, Art Sherman - The Lucky Pulpit colt is riding a huge high coming into the Preakness after serving up an undefeated three-year-old season thus far. His Derby wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t have to be and it appears Chrome will get another similar setup with a lot of early speed funneling into this race. The inner post aids Chrome, who will likely run a very similar trip as he did in the Derby.
4) Ring Weekend - Alan Garcia, Graham Motion - It wasn’t that long ago that I was singing this Tapit colt’s praises, and he still calls for some as a G2 winner who can sit off that lead. The notion that Our Caravan, who got away too soon for Ring to catch last out, lost the Peter Pan (II) a good ways doesn’t flatter him as he hops off a fever that sidelined him.
5) Bayern - Rosie Napravnik, Bob Baffert - Another horse I really liked in the months leading up to the Derby, the son of Offlee Wild has yet to finish off the board in 4 starts including a DQ’d-to-2nd win in the Derby Trial (III). The blinkers come off in hopes that Bayern will be able to target horses in passing. Baffert has won many a Preakness and brings a quality horse to the gun fight, but Bayern’s weakening in the stretch has brought questions as to whether he go beyond one-turn races. Likely to run on or near the lead and has talent regardless.
6) Ria Antonia - Calvin Borel, Tom Amoss - A Breeders’ Cup winner by disqualification and a non-winner in her 3 races this year, the Rockport Harbor filly switches trainers again to Tom Amoss from Bob Baffert in an effort to show up in the colts’ race rather than face fillies in the Black-Eyed Susan. She was staggering last out, finishing 6th way back in the Kentucky Oaks. Figures nor removal of the blinkers nor any real tactical advantages seem like they will do the trick here versus what she faced in her last race. The real “girl power” stories of the Preakness lie in stalls 5 and 7.
7) Kid Cruz - Julien Pimental, Linda Rice - The scratch of this Lemon Drop Kid colt from the Wood Memorial all but guaranteed my confidence in Wicked Strong, so the addition of him in the Preakness feels all kinds of interesting as a once $50k claimer turned stakes winner, having won 3 of 5 starts. Out of everyone in the field, I think Kid Cruz is the biggest threat to Chrome by running style alone and he has a win over the track from the Federico Tesio. Include, include, include.
8) Social Inclusion - Luis Contreras, Manuel Azpurua - A phenomenal allowance winner at Gulfstream before being 3rd stretching out in stakes company for the first time in the Wood Memorial, the Pioneerof the Nile colt is one of the many talented colts who got shafted from Derby participation and comes here fresh. While the Preakness falls to the “fastest,” I question S.I.’s fitness at this stage and if he even wants to go beyond 8 furlongs, as he had a pretty playful lead in the Wood but fell to pieces in the stretch to lose by more than 3 lengths. He should be considered on talent, but buyer be wary.
9) Pablo Del Monte - Jeffrey Sanchez, Wesley Ward - A non-winner this year in 3 tries, the Giant’s Causeway colt ran a good 3rd in the Blue Grass (I) before passing on a late Derby entry when enough horses in front of him scratched out. Like many Ward trainees, he was a romping winner as a juvenile and really hasn’t sharpened up beyond that. Kind of a weird horse for this race, generally a toss.
10) Ride On Curlin - Joel Rosario, Billy McGowan - Rosario replaces Borel on this promising Curlin colt, who leaps from a rallying 7th in the Derby to the Preakness. Often getting his best gear late, the race could set up for him and he ran a much better race in the Derby than what was suggested, as he began picking off opponents as soon as he was in the clear. But again— seconditis? Keep him pegged either way.
Top 3 Picks in Order (with acceptable win odds)
1) Kid Cruz (12-1)
2) California Chrome (4-5)
3) Bayern (4-1)
Nothing against Chrome, but I can’t recommend him at a piddling 3-5 morning line, though don’t get me wrong I WANT TO BE IN ATTENDANCE FOR A TRIPLE CROWN RUN WHEN I GO TO THE BELMONT! However, from a bettor’s vantage point, it’s Kid Cruz all the way with a lot of potentially distance-challenged early speed types to set the tempo. If it goes like the Derby did with softer fractions, which it might, Chrome gets it. If there’s a chink in the armor or if things go quickly, it falls to Kid Cruz in a photo. I listed Bayern for third because I think Baffert may have something up his sleeve, and will likely change tactics for the colt coming into a longer race with no blinkers.
Value Pick: Kid Cruz is listed at 20-1 on the morning line. I would like 12-1 or better.