Eleven horses complete the fourteen available slots for the second leg of the Triple Crown, with many saving steam for the arduous Belmont Stakes (I) in June while others will try to upset Derby winner I’ll Have Another and his punchy rival, Bodemeister. The chestnut champ has the record and strategy to win, but many have considered blaze-faced Bode to be the best horse overall. Adding to the pile, Creative Cause ran arguably the best race in the Kentucky Derby and there’s little room to suggest Went the Day Well won’t be a threat.
It all boils down to who you like… Shackleford led throughout last year’s Preakness to defeat a closing outside horse in Animal Kingdom. Rachel Alexandra also set a furious pace to win in 2009. Will Team Bode have its day or can the Cookie Monster roll right by again?
$1 million Preakness Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 3/16 miles on dirt at Pimlico. Post Time: Saturday, May 18 at 6:18pm EST
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Tiger Walk - Kent Desormeaux, Ignacio Correras - A horse with some “tinkering” problems this year, the Tale of the Cat colt managed to hit the board once in the Withers (III), and has had a bad habit of becoming distracted or just not properly engaged when it counts. He swaps riders with Dullahan out, picking up Desormeaux and the tricky rail slot. Works have been pleasing at Pimlico, and this horse is raring to go. Experience is a big dead weight against him.
2) Teeth of the Dog - Joe Bravo, Michael Matz - The Bluegrass Cat colt has been a focal point of mine lately, mustering a strong third in the Wood Memorial (I) at long odds. His owner insisted upon a ship to the Preakness over the Peter Pan Stakes (II) last weekend, and trainer Matz is lukewarm about his chances. While I dislike Matz’s opinion of his odds, this puppy has some bite behind his bark with improving speed figures every race and he is an ace at routing. Breezes have been good at Fair Hill and he’s never been off the board in 4 starts.
3) Pretension - Javier Santiago, Chris Grove - The hometown horse, the Bluegrass Cat colt beat a small field to win the Canonero II Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico, but a field that included the talented My Adonis. It was his best race this year after some very jumbled finishes in the Gotham (III) and Illinois Derby (III). The track win is nice, but he’ll have some big class hurdles. Bodemeister will probably want to haggle with him setting the pace.
4) Zetterholm - Junior Alvarado, Rick Dutrow - Silver Train babies have been doing super lately (ahem, Silver Max!), and this colt is no exception since switching over to the Dutrow barn. Winner of 3 of 4 starts this year, he won the mile-long Patsyprospect Stakes easily enough and has been training to stretch out. I like Dutrow horses… in New York. I also like newcomers… but not in G1 classics.
5) Went the Day Well - John Velazquez, Graham Motion - The Proud Citizen colt won the Spiral (III) easily enough, and then suffered a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby (I) but still mustered enough in the stretch to finish a very promising 4th. Cool connections and a rapidly rising improving cycle put WTDW at the top of the list. Can he keep on improving and get a decent trip? Probably, but I like this horse at a farther distance…
6) Creative Cause - Joel Rosario, Mike Harrington - Trakus figures catapult the Giant’s Causeway colt to winning the Kentucky Derby last out, where he was a grinding 5th. He appears to have recovered well from that race, but will need proper positioning and a far superior trip to win. I’d also like him more if the blinkers went back on…
7) Bodemeister - Mike Smith, Bob Baffert - The superstar of the Kentucky Derby may have run 2nd, but he was 1st in many minds. The Empire Maker colt will likely try to contain his speed a bit once again, but seems fresh as ever at Pimlico where he should by all means have another decent shot at beating I’ll Have Another. You’d be foolish to leave him out of the mix with a :59 3/5 bullet, especially considering the best horses beaten in the Derby often spring back to win the Preakness!
8) Daddy Nose Best - Julien Leparoux, Steve Asmussen - The 10th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and winner of the Sunland Derby (III) springs back for redemption, this time trading jocks for Union Rags rider Julien Leparoux. Slow, short-spurt works and word of mouth place DNB at the bottom of the pile; he’s just not ready to give his best and I would be shocked to see him finish up front should that trend continue through Saturday.
9) I’ll Have Another - Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill - The Flower Alley colt will seek to extend his incredible win streak to 4. He was a strong and happy winner of the Kentucky Derby, but usually enjoys a long layoff between his races so this will be his first big test on such short notice. Pimlico has been kind to IHA’s residency while prepping for the race, so he’ll have everything tailored to fit. He’ll need to catch Bodemeister once again, and he’ll have to do it from that leering outer post that has troubled so many Preakness starters.
10) Optimizer - Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas - Trading jocks once again, the English Channel colt finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby and has really only fired impressively once this year in a close 2nd in the Rebel Stakes (II). Works have been decent enough, but this is a puzzling horse to say the least.
11) Cozzetti - Jose Lezcano, Dale Romans - The coquettish Cozzene colt has some of the best speed figs of the newcomers, and Dale Romans is confident that he will run a big one— Romans also suggested that before his slow rallying 4th in the Arkansas (I), but I will rest my case. A :58 4/5 bullet at Churchill makes this gray all the more appealing. The outside and class test (best start of the year was a 3rd in the paltry Tampa Bay) are his biggest foes.
Top Picks in Order:
2) I’ll Have Another
3) Went the Day Well
4) Teeth of the Dog
Value Pick(s): Went the Day Well