2011 Preakness Stakes Analysis

May 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on 2011 Preakness Stakes Analysis
Filed under: Handicapping, Horse Racing, Triple Crown 

Some recent Kentucky Derby winners, like Barbaro, Street Sense, and Big Brown, left me thinking that maybe this was the year we would see another Triple Crown winner. While other recent Kentucky Derby winners, like Giacomo and Mine That Bird, left me wondering if they would ever win another race. I can’t put 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in either category – he doesn’t feel like a fluke winner, but I’m also not sure how good he really is. Given the apparent weakness of this crop of three-year-olds, he may not have to be very good to keep winning races.

While Animal Kingdom is a good-looking horse, and looked good winning the Kentucky Derby, questions remain.  The slow-early, fast-late pace was highly unusual for a Kentucky Derby and it’s unclear whether he won despite that or because of it. In addition, the uninspiring final time of the race produced a well below average Beyer Speed Figure. While he enters the Preakness as the legitimate favorite, he will have to win again on Saturday to gain any real credibility.

Only four other runners from the Kentucky Derby are heading to Pimlico – Mucho Macho Man (3rd), Shackleford (4th), Dialed In (8th) and Midnight Interlude (16th) – and none of those had any excuses in the Kentucky Derby that would justify moving them up in the Preakness.  Of those four, it’s ironically the worst Derby performer that interests me the most in the Preakness. Like last year’s Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky, Midnight Interlude is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Martin Garcia. Unraced as a two-year-old, Midnight Interlude was a steadily improving three-year-old coming in to the Derby and was sent off as the fifth choice in the betting. Although he showed nothing in the Derby stretch, I’m willing to forgive that and hope he can run a race similar to his Santa Anita Derby win.  If he can sit off the early speed here, and finish as well as he did at Santa Anita, he could be a factor.

As for the new shooters, I’ll remind you of what I said last year:

As for the horses that didn’t race in the Derby, keep in mind that they didn’t skip it voluntarily – they weren’t good enough to make the 20 horse Derby field.  Read that again – they didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby because there were 20 horses that were more accomplished than them.  They haven’t gotten any better over the past two weeks.

That said, there are a couple of horses that skipped the Kentucky Derby that I will give a chance of stepping up in the Preakness Stakes. 

Sway Away comes into the Preakness off a fourth place finish in the Arkansas Derby, arguably the top Kentucky Derby prep this season – winner Archarcharch would have been one of the Derby favorites had he not drawn the unfavorable one hole in the starting gate; second place finisher Nehro came back to run second in the Kentucky Derby; third place finisher Dance City joins the field here; and fifth place finisher Alternation won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park last weekend. Sway Away made a strong move around the turn to take the lead at the top of the stretch and held on until the sixteenth pole before tiring to fourth.  By 2005 Preakness winner Alfeet Alex, Sway Away has yet to win a route race, but trainer Jeff Bonde has put three six furlong workouts into him since the Arkansas Derby and that conditioning may help him in the stretch on Saturday.

Astrology didn’t win either of his two races this year, and has never run particularly fast, but he has always been competitive and has never finished out of the money in seven career starts. In addition to being trained by Steve Asmussen, who won the 2007 Preakness with Curlin and the 2009 Preakness with Rachel Alexandra, Astrology has similar breeding to 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini (by A.P. Indy out of a Quiet American mare) and therefore should be well suited to the Preakness distance.

The Preakness pace should be much more contentious than we saw in the Kentucky Derby, with Shackleford, Flashpoint, Dance City, Norman Asbjornson and some others having a preference for running at the front of the pack.  I expect this to compromise their chances and allow midpack runners, like those mentioned above, to take the advantage in the stretch.

Thoroughbred Report Preakness Stakes Picks:

11-Animal Kingdom
7-Midnight Interlude
6-Sway Away

2010 Preakness Stakes Recap

May 16, 2010 by · Comments Off on 2010 Preakness Stakes Recap
Filed under: Horse Racing, Triple Crown 

Make it 32 years without a Triple Crown winner.

Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver put in a good effort for as long as he could, but just didn’t have enough this time.  Outsprinted at the start by First Dude, jockey Calvin Borel found a comfortable spot in the two path just behind First Dude and was content to track that one for the first six furlongs.  However, as the field started to bunch leaving the final turn, and Super Saver moved up to engage the leader, he simply ran out of gas.  Clearly, Super Saver needed more time to recover after the Kentucky Derby, but when you’re the Derby winner you go on to the Preakness, ready or not.  Trainer Todd Pletcher said after the race, “Coming off a huge effort in the Derby, the two weeks was too short.”

The two week layoff wasn’t too short for Lookin at Lucky.  Sent off as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, he endured a troubled trip and did well to finish sixth.  This time, it was Lookin at Lucky who benefited from the perfect trip.  Breaking well under new jockey Martin Garcia, who quickly guided him to the two path to save ground around the first turn, Lookin at Lucky raced in sixth down the backstretch, angled out for clear running room and moved up four wide around the final turn to draw even with the leaders (First Dude and Caracortado) entering the stretch and outfinished a dead game First Dude to win by three-quarters of a length.  Lookin at Lucky’s final time of 1:55.47 was only two-fifths of a second slower than Rachel Alexandra’s winning time last year and earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

First Dude ran an awesome race.  Breaking from post position eleven, he quickly took the lead and made all the pace, setting fast fractions of :22.91, :46.47 and 1:11.22.  When collared by Lookin at Lucky at the top of the stretch, First Dude never backed down.  Lookin at Lucky took a short lead in midstretch, but First Dude battled back, and may have even stuck a nose back in front, before yielding late to lose by only three-quarters of a length.

Also running big races were the third and fourth place finishers, Jackson Bend and Yawanna Twist.  Jackson Bend ran in tandem with Super Saver for the first six furlongs chasing pacesetter First Dude through rapid fractions.  Whereas Super Saver faded to eighth, Jackson Bend continued to fight on, getting within a head of First Dude and only losing the race itself by less than a length.  Yawanna Twist was steadied a couple of times early, but was in good position in the stretch and actually moved into third ahead of Jackson Bend when that one was caught in traffic, but could not sustain his bid to the wire and ended up a length behind Jackson Bend.

Finally, what can be said about Dublin?  The starting gate opens and everyone takes off down the stretch, except for Dublin, who, for some reason, makes a sharp turn to the right, scattering the outriders stationed along the rail, before correcting course and joining the race.  That little stunt left Dublin in last, five lengths behind Aikenite running in eleventh, and a full eighteen lengths behind the leaders.  Dublin stayed in last, and hugged the rail to save ground, for the first six furlongs before swinging out five wide into the stretch and closed well to lose by only six lengths.  Much like with Ice Box in the Kentucky Derby, it’s easy to wonder if a better trip might have resulted in a visit to the winner’s circle for Dublin.

Poll: Who will win the 2010 Preakness Stakes?

May 10, 2010 by · Comments Off on Poll: Who will win the 2010 Preakness Stakes?
Filed under: poll, Triple Crown 

Who will win the 2010 Preakness Stakes?

  • Lookin At Lucky (33%, 14 Votes)
  • Super Saver (14%, 6 Votes)
  • Dublin (12%, 5 Votes)
  • Pleasant Prince (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Caracortado (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Jackson Bend (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Schoolyard Dreams (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Paddy O'Prado (5%, 2 Votes)
  • Aikenite (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Northern Giant (2%, 1 Votes)
  • First Dude (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Yawanna Twist (2%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 43

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