This Saturday we have the second jewel of the Triple Crown the 136th running of The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, Maryland, as the 3-year-olds will go a 1 3/16 miles on the dirt, slop or mud depending on the weather.
All eyes will be on the Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and there is hope in a lot of places he will be able to repeat his big run at Churchill Downs and capture leg two of the Triple Crown. That would create some tremendous excitement for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11.
As of Monday morning there are still 16 horses looking to find a spot in a field limited to 14. The two on the fence are Isn’t He Perfect and Saratoga Red.
Let’s take a look at the potential contenders.
ANIMAL KINGDOM: Winner of the Kentucky Derby, his first ever race on the dirt. Won three of five starts with two seconds and can always be depended on for his late run. Has top connections being trained by Graham Motion and ridden by J R Velazquez. Will be the deserving favorite.
Ran the last half mile of the race, despite a slow early pace, in :471/5, the second fastest closing time in the history of the Derby behind the great Secretariat. The question remains, did he freak in his first try on the dirt or is this a future superstar getting better with each race? He did race green in deep stretch drifting in and out but that final time is just so impressive.
A must use first and second against a group of 3-year-olds that have never come near his last race.
DIALED IN: The tepid favorite in the Derby made a belated late run. He needed the race, coming off a six week layoff, and just may go better in the Preakness. His connections sure hope he does because he could win the richest purse in North American history – $6.1 million. He’ll get $5.5 million bonus along with his purse winnings for the race.
NEHRO: Will he go or not go is the question? If it were up to me I would hold him out for the Belmont, but his owner Zayat loves the way he is going and may want to roll the dice. This 3-year-old colt has run three races in six weeks. If he runs I will use him in the back spots on my exotics.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE: A big question mark. Never ran a step in the Derby. The horse he was life and death to beat in the Santa Anita Derby, Comma To the Top, finished last in the Derby. I will pass.
MUCHO MACHO MAN: A very hard hitter. Ran a top race in the Derby and has had a tough campaign. May need a little rest.
SHACKELFORD: The key to the pace at the Preakness. If he can clear early and get a little breather he will be very tough down the lane to reel in. If he gets hooked early the set will be there for the closers. This track sometimes can favor speed so we will need to keep an eye open on how the earlier races are going. Track condition will play a huge roll.
ASTROLOGY: The other three-year-old colt in this race trained by Steve Asmussen (Nehro is the other). This will be his third start this year – usually the one a horse will do his best off the layoff. Has good tracking speed and will get the distance. Jockey Mike Smith, no stranger to big races, got to know him last time out in the Jerome. We will use.
KING CONGIE: Ridden by jockey Robbie Albarado who lost the ride on Animal Kingdom after a fall at Churchill Downs that broke his nose. Do you think he would like to win this race? Well, yes! This one is a hunch player’s dream horse. We will use for that reason only.
FLASHPOINT: Adds a little zip to the pace but he could not outbreak Shackelford in the Florida Derby and will be up the track. Pass.
MR. COMMONS: Has a top of upside but may be best suited for the grass. Great trainer in John Shirreffs (Zenyatta) and has been burning up the training track. Will be used on the back end of the exotics.
NORMAN ASBJORNSON: An automatic toss for me. Just not fast enough and I don’t like his name. If he wins it would be a huge surprise!
DANCE CITY: The key to this entire race. If he puts pressure on Shackelford (and I believe he can) look for those big closers to be coming in a pack late. This guy trained by Todd Pletcher, who would love to get some redemption here, has been training with a purpose. Son of the very speedy City Zip ran third behind Archarcharch and Nehro in the Arkansas Derby.
Was 4½ lengths in front of Alternation, who just won the Peter Pan Stakes beating a good field. Has big speed and improving with every race. Getting jockey Ramon Dominguez on the ride says they are very serious. A must use, especially if the speed has been holding in the early races.
SWAY AWAY: Exits the Arkansas Derby and may find himself in a good spot turning for home. Gets a new jockey in Garrett Gomez. We will use in the back end of our exotics.
We’re passing on – Concealed Identity, Isn’t He Perfect and Saratoga Red.
Have a great Preakness day and don’t forget to log on to www.gamingtoday.com and get my final analysis on the race Friday. The post position draw is Wednesday.