A roar went up as the horses were loaded into the starting gate for the 132nd Preakness Stakes and, standing in section TT at the end of the grandstand, I had a moment of concern that the cheering was so loud that the noise would cause the horses to bolt. However, as loud as it was at the start of the race, that sound paled in comparison to the deafening roar of approval from the record crowd of 121,263 not much more than a minute later as the horses raced down the stretch to the finish line.
At first the roar was for seeing Street Sense take control in the stretch and to seemingly capture the second leg of the Triple Crown. Then the roar grew as we saw a determined Curlin begin to reel in the Kentucky Derby winner and, as they approached the finish line, first draw even and then in the final stride get a head in front as they crossed the wire.
It was an exciting race and a stirring finish. The final time of 1:53 2/5 equalled the Preakness Stakes record set by Tank’s Prospect in 1985 and matched by Louis Quatorze in 1996. (What about Secretariat, you ask? His official time is recorded as 1:54 2/5, although that time is disputed. Daily Racing Form clockers in the press box and a review of the videotape support a winning time of 1:53 2/5 – the same as Curlin and the other two co-holders of the record). Both Curlin and runner-up Street Sense received 111 Beyer Speed Figures. Street Sense earned a 110 for his win in the Kentucky Derby.
How the race was run
As expected, Xchanger and Flying First Class were burned out battling for the early lead and finished at the back of the pack.
Hard Spun was perfectly placed three lengths behind the front-runners through the first half mile. When jockey Mario Pino felt C P West gaining ground to his outside he chose to make his move then rather than risk being trapped inside behind the tiring leaders and the impending moves from the closers. Hard Spun easily took command into the far turn and led the field to the top of the stretch. While he was no match for the top two finishers, Hard Spun did stay on well to finish third, only four lengths behind.
There has been some criticism of Pino’s ride and, in fact, owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones have decided to switch to Garrett Gomez for the Belmont Stakes. I don’t think the criticism is justified. Pino was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. If he doesn’t move, he gets trapped on the rail behind the rapidly decelerating leaders with the rest of the field moving past him on the outside and he probably finishes worse than third. And gets criticised even more for not moving soon enough. A jockey’s life is a hard life for sure. The truth is that Hard Spun was no match for the top two and finished as well as could be expected.
Street Sense ran as close to a perfect race as you can and still not win. Once again he dropped back early, rated patiently for three-quarters of a mile, then made a bold move between horses coming out of the final turn and drew away to a clear lead in midstretch. Unfortunately, according to jockey Calvin Borel, he “got to gawking 40 yards from home and he just got outrun.” I believe that’s cajun-speak for “he stopped paying attention to what he was doing and let the other horse catch him”. Despite the mental lapse at the end, it was a strong follow-up performance to his Kentucky Derby win.
If anything, Curlin “out-Street Sensed” Street Sense. I expected Curlin to sit fourth or fifth, get the first move on Hard Spun in the stretch and have to fight off a hard closing Street Sense. Courtesy of a stumble out of the gate, Curlin ended up at the back of the pack just a couple of lengths ahead of Street Sense. While Curlin remained unhurried through six furlongs, it was Street Sense who made the first move on Hard Spun and took the lead in the stretch and it was a hard-charging Curlin that was running best of all at the end to run down Street Sense at the wire.
Anyone else run well?
I was most disappointed in Circular Quay who I expected to show a closing kick more in line with his resounding victory in the Louisiana Derby. Instead we got the same lackluster finish as in the Kentucky Derby. Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I bet on him.
The rest of the field showed little or nothing.
Yes, Street Sense got ‘lucky’ in the Kentucky Derby when the rail path magically opened to allow him to save ground and pass the huge Derby field without incident. As fortunate as he was, the fact remains that he was able to make a strong six furlong run from the back of the pack, overcoming a nineteen length deficit to the leaders, and beat the best three-year-olds in the country. For a three-year-old crop that has rarely posted Beyer Speed Figures (BSF) over 100, the 110 BSF earned by Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby clearly labels him as much superior to the rest of this year’s class.
While I was very impressed with the race run by Hard Spun in the Derby, I am going to bet against him today. I am expecting there to be more pressure for the early lead this time and feel that will leave him weary in the stretch.
Lightly-raced Curlin picked up quite a bit of seasoning in the Kentucky Derby. A slightly slow start left him farther back in the field than he had ever experienced. Despite this, he showed good composure and was able to pass most of the field to get up for third. Curlin should benefit from a perfect setup in the Preakness, just behind the early leaders, and be poised to take the lead at the top of the stretch. If he moves forward off his Derby experience, he will be the horse to catch down the stretch.
Coming into the Kentucky Derby off an eight week layoff, Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay dropped to the back of the pack, made a strong middle move and, despite losing a few lengths on the turn, was able to finish well enough to come in sixth – only a length and a quarter out of third place. He should move forward in this second race off the layoff and be a major factor in the stretch.
As for the non-Derby runners, I don’t give them much of a chance. I expect Flying First Class and Xchanger to contest the early lead and to be burned out in the process. C P West and Mint Slewlep have yet to show the ability to win a Grade 3 race, let alone a Grade 1, and have no chance to win.
That leaves Todd Pletcher trainee King of the Roxy, a multiple graded stakes winner that has yet to win beyond a mile. He was able to take the lead in the stretch of the nine furlong Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his last start, but he was not able to hold off Tiago in deep stretch. Although I expect him to get a good midpack position in the Preakness, I don’t see how he will be any match for serious closers like Street Sense and Circular Quay.
Thoroughbred Report Preakness Wager
The triple should consist of Street Sense, Curlin and Circular Quay – not necessarily in that order.
$5 Exacta Box 3-4-8 = $30
$5 Exacta 8 / 3,4 (Street Sense over Curlin and Circular Quay) = $10
$10 Exacta 8-3 = $10
$5 Triple Box 3-4-8 = $30
$5 Triple 8 / 3,4 / 3,4 = $10
$10 Triple 8-3-4 = $10
Total Wager: $100
132nd Preakness Stakes
Saturday May 19th, 2007
Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, MD
Probable Post: 6:15pm
|1||MINT SLEWLEP||Robert Bailes||Alan Garcia||30-1|
|2||XCHANGER||Mark Shuman||Ramon Dominguez||15-1|
|3||CIRCULAR QUAY||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||8-1|
|4||CURLIN||Steve Asmussen||Robby Albarado||7-2|
|5||KINGOFTHEROXY||Todd Pletcher||Garrett Gomez||12-1|
|6||FLYING FIRST CLASS||D. Wayne Lukas||Mark Guidry||20-1|
|7||HARD SPUN||Larry Jones||Mario Pino||5-2|
|8||STREET SENSE||Carl Nafzger||Calvin Borel||7-5|
|9||C P WEST||Nick Zito||Edgar Prado||20-1|