This Saturday, May 16, 2016, will be the 140th running of the race known as the second jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. The race, run at 1 3/16ths miles, is run at Pimlico Racecourse, outside of Baltimore, MD. Because of the racetrack being on a hill, it is given the nickname, “Old Hilltop. Should Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah be fortunate to win on Saturday, he will have two-thirds of the elusive Triple Crown.
I was at the Kentucky Derby this year. Before I give my readers my opinion on the Preakness, I want to share my thoughts on my Kentucky Derby experience. First of all, I highly recommend that my readers attend the race. Not only do you see great racing action, but the people watching is awesome. I hung out around the paddock area, and I saw quite a few famous people. I met Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife. I got his autograph. He was very nice. I saw Kentucky Governor Steve Bashear (D), and Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, who played for the University of Louisville, gave the “riders up” for the Derby horses. I ran into various horse trainers and owners as well as people wearing all sorts of crazy hats.
[adinserter block=”1″]As for the race itself, as I had General Admission tickets, I had to watch the race on a screen, but I thought it was a very exciting race. The way the track was playing, I knew that any horse that came from way off the pace didn’t have a prayer. Any horse that was near the pace was going to have a shot. I had picked Dortmund. I also thought that Firing Line and the favorite American Pharoah had a shot. Wow, I should have played the Trifecta. American Pharoah won, with Firing Line second, and Dortmund third.
Much has been made about Pharoah not being impressive. I didn’t buy that. Some people were expecting a 15 length victory, like his last two races. Has anyone ever heard of “bouncing?” What I mean by that is when a horse regresses from a huge effort. I also saw the fuss about his jockey Victor Espinoza hitting Pharoah 32 times. First of all, Pharoah blew the turn, so that explains some of the use of the whip. Also, if you watch the head on replay, Espinoza didn’t make contact with the horse during the 32 uses. Many times, he flagged the horse. In other words, he waved the whip to get the horse’s attention. Am I a HUGE FAN of using the whip like Espinoza did? I am not, after all, as the saying goes, “It’s all in the hands.” I’m just saying that why I think this is a very important issue for discussion, I think it was way blown out of proportion.
Now, that I’ve discussed the Derby, onto the Preakness. Like my Kentucky Derby blog, I will discuss the Preakness by using the same format . I will give you a link to the field, with the morning line odds, jockey, etc. I will group them according to how much of a chance I give them to win the 140th Preakness Stakes. As we only have an 8 horse field, I’m going to split them up into two groups. So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the Preakness Stakes.
EVENT: Preakness Stakes 140
VENUE: Pimlico Racecourse
POST TIME: 6:18PM, EST
GENERALLY AWARE THEY’RE LONG SHOTS
Mr. Z leads off the group of horses who are generally aware they don’t have big change of winning the race. If my readers like to play long shots, by all means, please do. Anyway, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who trains this horse just HAD to have a horse in the Preakness, right? The poor animal has not won a race in nearly a year, and even though his now former owner, Ahmed Zayat, said after the Derby, that Mr. Z wasn’t running in the Preakness, the once powerful Calumet Farm buys him. Now, the horse is in the Preakness. Lukas is a legend in the sport, but I think his ego is getting in the way. Even Todd Pletcher is not entering a horse in the race. Regardless, I don’t think this horse should be in the race.
This horse will have a lot of sentiment attached to him. He’s owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson, who owned and bred Barbaro. To refresh your memories, in the 2006 Preakness, Barbaro shattered his hind leg soon after leaving the gate. After a 9 month struggle for his life, he sadly passed away. Anyway, after almost a decade absence, the Jacksons return with Divining Rod. The horse has won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes, the last time out. He has finished 3rd in the Tampa Bay Derby as well. He would be one to play, if you like hunch bets. I am sure many Barbaro fans will be backing him.
Tale of Verve
Like Mr. Z, what is this horse doing in the Preakness? All the races this horse has run in are Maiden Special Weights. I know his trainer, Dallas Stewart, has had horses hit the board in past Triple Crown races, but he must think highly of this horse to put him in the Preakness. Tale of Verve also needs a very fast pace to run at, to even have a shot. From looking at where the speed is, he could get it. I’m not sure he has to talent.
Bodhisattva, who’s named for the Buddhist term, “enlightened one,” is the local horse. He may be a California bred, but his sire, Student Council, won the 2008 Pimlico Special, so there are Maryland ties. He’s the winner of the Frederico Tesio Stakes, and had placed in the Private Terms Stakes. If you are a fan of Steely Dan, put a couple of bucks on his nose. ( https://youtu.be/uAEphHf0P-c)
MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT TO WIN THE PREAKNESS
The second place finisher in the 2015 Kentucky Derby kicks off my discussion of the 4 horses that I feel are more likely than not to wind up with the famous blanket of Black Eyed Susans that is placed on the back of the winner of the Preakness. Firing Line had a great Derby. He battled Dortmund for the lead. He finally seized the lead, but American Pharoah was a bit too much. Firing Line has been working like a monster since the Derby. He’s coming from the far outside post, #8, but I think Gary Stevens can get him into a great position. A slight caveat is that the last second place finisher in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness was Prarie Bayou in 1993.
Danzig Moon ran fifth in the Derby, which I was impressed with, considering that the pace was dawdling, and the track was not playing to closers. I was impressed with his second place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes, as well. With a possibility of a better pace scenario, I think Danzig Moon could either pull the upset, or hit the board. He should be better positioned in the race, as there’s just 8 horses. I would use in exotics.
Here’s the Kentucky Derby hero. He’s an amazing looking horse in person. I thought he won a hard fought race in the Derby. I’m more impressed by that kind of win, than a blow out, a lot of the time. Again, he’s the horse to beat. Much has been made of his post position, #1. I will admit that it’s not ideal, considering the fact that the rest of the speed is on the outside of him. I think that he has the class to overcome his bad post. He’s won from the #1 hole as a 2YO, so this won’t be foreign for him. There’s a possibility of thunderstorms as well, so a wet track should not bother Pharoah either, if you remember his performance in the Rebel Stakes back in February.
Dortmund ran an awesome Derby. He set dawdling fractions. He battled eventual second place finisher Firing Line, his main rival during the Kentucky Derby prep season in California, during the entire race. Firing Line got his revenge, as Dortmund wound up third. After the race, it was revealed that on April 25th, the week before the Derby, Dortmund was nearly scratched due to a bout of colic. Briefly, colic is an intestinal disease, that can be very serious in horses. Horses like The Wicked North have died from the disease. The issue with this, is that the concealment of the news of the horse’s illness IS a big deal.
[adinserter block=”1″]While the horse was cleared to race, and thankfully, he was alright, I felt that both his owner Kaleem Shah, and his trainer Bob Baffert should have said something to the public. This is an integrity of the game issue. Handicappers and fans, I feel should have had the information. Fans and the public need to know that this game is on the level, and handicappers need to know that the sport they’re betting on isn’t rigged. I’m sure had they known the horse was sick, they would have changed their bets.
That being said, from looking at Dortmund this whole week after the Derby, he looks a lot better than he did in the Derby. He really looks like he will give a much better effort in the Preakness. I am willing to give him a mulligan. I liked him in the Derby. I’m not in love with his post position, #2, but I think he has great tactical speed to overcome it.
Obviously, American Pharoah is the horse to beat. If he’s at his best, no one will beat him. I have been on this horse’s bandwagon since the beginning. However, I also have been on the Dortmund bandwagon as well. I am behind Dortmund again. I think he turns the tables.
Your winner of the 2015 Preakness Stakes is: DORTMUND.