When trying to identify the winner of the Preakness Stakes, the first look should be at the horses exiting the Kentucky Derby.
In the last 20 years, 16 winners of the Preakness Stakes last raced in the Kentucky Derby. The only four exceptions were Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini (2006), the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009), and Cloud Computing (2017). Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks in 2009, was privately purchased after that victory by Stonestreet stables, and returned to beat the boys in the Preakness.
With Derby winner Country House and Maximum Security, disqualified after crossing under the wire first in the Derby, passing the Preakness, the two primary contenders appear to be Improbable (finished fifth and moved up to fourth via disqualification) and War of Will (finished eighth and moved up to seventh via DQ).
Improbable may end up being the slight favorite at post time as he gets a rider switch to Mike Smith and his trainer Bob Baffert has won the Preakness seven times previously. Improbable was on his toes and a handful to saddle amongst the commotion that is the Derby, but he really did not have a bad trip in the race and made no late impact despite having a clear shot at the leaders through the stretch.
War of Will drew the unfavorable inside post in the 19-horse Derby field. Unable to make the lead, he was traveling well just behind the early leaders but was forced to steady off heels when Maximum Security veered out on the far turn.
He recovered to vie for command at the top of the stretch, but tired in the last 100 yards to finish out of the money.
It is important to remember that War of Will slipped coming out of the gate in the March 23 Louisiana Derby, did not fire that day, and came out of the race lame. He recovered in time to make the Derby, but not having a good stiff race in his final Derby prep may have been the main reason he came up short at Churchill Downs.
The early pace in the Preakness should be legit with late entries Market King and Warrior’s Charge likely to join California shipper Anothertwistafate and Maryland based Alwaysmining on or pressing the pace.
Bodexpress, Signalman, and Owendale figure to join War of Will and Improbable in the next flight, while Bourbon War, Laughing Fox, and Win Win Win will likely try to make the last run.
How do we see the race? In order of preference:
• War of Will: His tactical speed, his ability to handle a wet or dry track (as of press time there is just a 10 percent chance of rain at Pimlico on Saturday), and the fact he may have needed his race in the Derby make him the one to beat in the Preakness.
• Bourbon War: I was disappointed he did not have enough points to get into the Derby, but instead of trying to cram an extra qualifying race into his schedule. Trainer Mark Hennig simply pointed instead to the Preakness.
Bourbon War has shown the ability to work his way through traffic, and he had no shot in the Florida Derby when Maximum Security was allowed to set a very slow pace. He should be flying late.
• Improbable: I am not sure where this Baffert trainee is mentally after throwing a fit in the starting gate prior to the Arkansas Derby and getting worked up on the walkover to the saddling paddock in the huge crowd at the Derby. Smith could be the soothing influence he needs and the Smith/Baffert jockey/trainer combo needs no introduction when it comes to winning classic races.
• Anothertwistafate: He tried to get into the Derby field but was denied when he finished behind Owendale in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. He has been stuck down inside in his last two starts when beaten.
If he can find a clear path either on or pressing the pace, this Golden Gate shipper could surprise. An outside post would help his chances.
• Alwaysmining: This Maryland-based runner has been toying with lesser at Laurel, but he did show he does not need the lead winning the Frederic Tesio Stakes, earning a fees-paid berth into this race. I like the way he relaxed early and quickened when asked last time.
I will key War of Will over Bourbon War, Improbable, Anothertwistafate and Alwaysmining in the exotic bets in what should be a great wagering race.
The Kentucky stewards handed jockey Luis Saez a 15-day suspension for his ride aboard Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, saying he “failed to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course.”
Maximum Security veered out without warning around the far turn in the Derby. Jockey Saez immediately corrected his mount by pulling on Maximum Security’s left rein, which helped the horse to move back toward the inside.
The 15-day suspension is much longer than the typical three to five day suspensions for similar riding infractions. Given that the Kentucky stewards failed to post the inquiry sign in the Derby, failed to speak with jockey Tyler Gafflione (rider of War of Will, the horse most impacted by Maximum Security), failed to inform the public there was also an objection lodged by jockey Jon Court aboard Long Range Toddy, failed to take questions from the media after issuing a statement hours after the Kentucky Derby was completed, and refused to meet with Maximum Security’s owners Gary and Mary West to review films of the foul in a timely manner, I guess it is no surprise that Saez got 15 days.
The Kentucky stewards dropped the ball again. Saez is appealing the ruling, but he doesn’t figure to get any more satisfaction than his owner.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita, Friday Race 5, Psycho Dar (No. 8). This gelding tired after making a good mid-race move while parked wide over the deep Santa Anita dirt in April 14 return. He should be fit now, can handle turf, and should offer a fair price.
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