Fans of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist should be glad to know that the undefeated son of Uncle Mo has settled in nicely at Pimlico Racecourse for his attempt to win the $1.5 million Preakness stakes on Saturday.
Yet, aside from only two horses who could not beat him in the 1-1/4 mile Derby, I believe the 1-3/16 mile Preakness will be dominated by eight newcomers to make 11 going to the post. After listing them all, my profiles of their respective talents will be spelled out.
First, here are the only two horses who ran against Nyquist who are listed as definite Preakness starters:
• Exaggerator, who was a rallying second in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby.
• Lani, the UAE Derby winner who finished ninth of the 20 Derby horses after a terrible break from the starting gate.
While Gun Runner, who was a good third after a gritty pace-pressing effort, is not likely to go in the Preakness, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen could change his mind tomorrow (Wednesday). That’s when official entries for the 1-3/16 mile classic – along with their assigned post positions – will be named at Pimlico.
Beyond the two relatively familiar 3 year olds who must improve significantly to beat Nyquist, there could be eight newcomers in the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. Most have the credentials to be in the field.
These include Cherry Wine, who was on the Derby also eligible list and did not get in when none of the 20 eligible horses with assigned post positions scratched out.
Laoban, the other Derby-“also eligible” who failed to get in, is a stakes-placed maiden trained by Eric Guillot, currently listed as a probable Preakness starter. The same goes for the Bob Baffert trained Collected – a three time stakes winner who was dominant in his last outings in March and April.
Trainer Brad Cox is expected to start his stakes-placed Dazzling Gem; while Mark Casse’s consistent in-the-money-type Fellowship also seems likely to go, as does Gary Sherlock’s recent Santa Anita stakes winner, Uncle Lino.
Todd Pletcher’s flashy but lightly raced Stradivari also is expected to compete as is Alan Goldberg’s Awesome Speed, who gained automatic entry to the Preakness when he won the Frederico Tesio Stakes (via disqualification) last month at Maryland’s Laurel Racetrack.
As previously stated, that would make 11 in the Preakness, unless Gun Runner’s connections decide to put him in the race,
Here then are my preliminary profiles of each horse’s respective Preakness potential in order of their accomplishments. And, I should add, I will be finalizing my Preakness plays at a special handicapping seminar and book signing (for my new book, “Cashing Big on Racing’s Biggest Days”), on Preakness Day, Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Sunset Station racebook. Beyond my final analysis of this 141st Preakness, I plan to go over several intriguing bets on the stakes-loaded Preakness card!
The reigning champion has high class versatility. He can race close to the pace, or settle off it and rally. Been tough to handle in all starts and should be 3-5 to win this, perhaps as low as 1-2.
Had every advantage in the Derby, including a red-hot-pace and a rain-softened track, both of which he loved. Did finish well and is a good colt; but must improve to beat Nyquist.
Baffert trainee is an improving son of the fast City Zip out of a stamina producing mare with two recent stakes wins. Tends to stalk the pace and his best performance was in his longest career race.
Was a fair third when close to the pace in the Santa Anita Derby (won by Exaggerator on a wet track) and recently won the California Chrome stakes on the lead at SA to earn a respectable 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Better than commonly rated.
Was fourth in career debut in NY last fall; then won a 1-1/16 mile Gulfstream maiden race in December by 11. In his 2016 debut, he scored a strong 100 Beyer Fig, while comfortably winning a 1-1/8 mile allowance at Keeneland. Has star potential.
Set a realistic pace in his last two Graded route stakes. Did tire late for second and fourth in those races; but held well enough for third in a prior race behind Collected. Should be close for at least 7 furlongs.
Won his first two in January and February at Oaklawn, then was decent third to Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby before an OK fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Worked well, belongs here.
Closed with interest to finish fourth in Oaklawn’s Rebel; then improved for third in the Blue Grass at Keeneland last month. Couldn’t get into the Derby, which may prove a blessing in disguise.
Has Graded stakes talent as he showed in the UAE Derby as well as in a stakes win in Japan. Seems a nervous type and sometimes breaks poorly. If able to settle nicely at Pimlico might surprise many in this field at huge odds.
Has run evenly or closed mildly for several in-the-money finishes in Graded stakes. This includes his OK third to Nyquist in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream and his more recent fourth in the Pat Day Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
Four-time winner from six starts, including the win the Laurel Stewards gave him when soundly bumped in the Tesio after setting the pace and finishing second. Possible pace factor, but seems unlikely to finish in the money.
Bottom line: This clearly is Nyquist’s race to lose and yet, even if he does win at short odds as most expect, there could be great value in the Trifecta and Superfecta. Hope to see you at Sunset Station on Saturday.
Steve Davidowitz, author of the best selling “,” has covered racing since Secretariat, lives in Vegas and has just completed a new book – “Cashing Big on Racing’s Biggest Days.” Should you wish to purchase a personally autographed copy, please send Steve a note for details: SteveDavidowitz @GamingToday.com