The Preakness – Grade I
PIM 1 3/16m Dirt
Purse $1,500.000 For Three Year Olds.
Whilst the KYD has the aura and the BEL has a dour war like quality it is this race that sets the scene for greatness amongst the generations of three year olds. The middle leg either means one more step to immortality or the beginning of a match between the top three year olds as they try and thrash out the top spot over a whole season. So my favourite leg of the TC and this year we have a race which has more than just a possible TC winner contained in its intricate story. Here we have four stories, we have the KYD form, we have the possibility of a non KYD runner benefitting from missing the big race, we have the change of under foot conditions and we have that final and possibly most intriguing piece of the puzzle the HRP draw. I will cover the first couple of possibilities as i study each runner but it is the third which may be the most important for a variety of reasons. We have a couple of runners that were drawn wide in the KYD that have much nicer draws here and a couple that were drawn favourably in the KYD but have wide draws in this race. I feel that if we have a complete flip in the form between these runners we can finally say that the draw IS the single most important thing about winning and losing at HRP. There is a large part of me that hopes the big story after this race has nothing to do with the draw but i feel if it is then the whole perception of racing here will be changed forever. OK enough speculation lets see who is going to have a chance in The Preakness!
1 Out On A Limb, trained by Smokey Stover
A fast finishing third in the AR Derby put this one into the KYD with a fair chance but a horrible draw saw him given little chance of getting into the top three. Dropping back some ten lengths off the pace at halfway he never really had a hope but did make up decent ground to end up ninth beaten just four lengths. The inside draw today will see him with a much better chance as his best races have come from an inside draw. He could easily be the dark horse in the race but his win record isnt that great so a place may be his best chance. He hasnt publicly worked since the KYD but a solid conformation suggests this quick turnaround shouldnt bother him and whilst he didnt look too inconvenienced with the slop at CD he will probably prefer the better ground in this race.
2 Ginger Haggis, trained by The Sidley Stud
You cannot fault this ones juvenile form as he racked up three grade ones in a row culminating in the BC Juvenile and was the top two year old colt at HRP. He took a while to hit his stride as a three year old disappointing in the Davis stakes but improving in the Gotham and eventually looking back to his old self with a commanding win in the Spiral. Given a horrible draw in the KYD he still had his supporters but after dropping to last place he could only make up ground to tenth through heavy traffic. This ideal draw today will be his best chance of recapturing his excellent two year old form and with his regular jockey on board you have to put him in with a big chance. Equally at home on any going this one really does have everything to do with the draw in this race and a glance at his conformation tells us little about his ability to back up.
3 Coin Flip, trained by Mb Stables
This was a very good two year old with a win in the grade one Brett Futurity and a close fifth in the BC Juvenile but despite being given every chance he hasnt matched that sort of form as a three year old. Having said that there is some merit in his three efforts, he ran on the pace in the Risen Star but faded to be sixth but then ran a pretty good race in the BG Stakes when making up plenty of ground to be fifth. Missing the KYD may be a real plus here and his works have been pretty solid suggesting he is ready from a very nice draw to try and give the champion trainer some compensation for his disappointing KYD.
4 Lord High Admiral, trained by John Henry
Started the KYD as favourite for two reasons, his two from two record on a wet track and his wins in both the Rebel and the AR Derby. The only question mark in the KYD was a sticky draw but he managed to race just behind the leaders and as he closed up at the mile mark it looked like John Henry was going to get a first KYD win. In the end however he found little in the race down the stretch and ended up sixth and a shade disappointing. His conformation suggests distance shouldnt be a problem so despite his good wet track record I am going out on a limb and thinking he may not have been suited by the slop. If thats the case then he has every chance of setting the record straight here especially with a very nice draw.
5 Jolly Be Native, trained by Kopites
After a very public spat about receiving wide draws Kopites has two runners with very nice draws in this race, i am sure thats just coincidence but whatever it is he has a very good chance of winning this with either of his runners. Beaten inches by Ginger Haggis in the BC Juvenile he was very close to the being a leading two year old and when he came out with a very game dead heat win in the Rebel he looked every inch a top KYD hope. A wide draw in the AR Derby did him no favours and after going to the lead he faded late to be sixth. That result prompted his trainer to miss the KYD which considering his short femur may have been the best decision with regards to his chances in this race. If he can get a decent stalk or a soft lead he may be the one to beat.
6 How To Laff, trained by Kopites
This is another with a tale of two draws to work out as he won the Gotham from an inside draw and then got beaten in the Wood memorial from a wide draw. With only seven races under his belt he is one of the least exposed runners in the race and he may turn out to be the better of the stables two runners. If you look at his two most recent efforts his best run may have been in the Wood Memorial with that wide draw as he was only beaten a quarter length after making the running and like his stable mate a stalk position on an average pace may see him in with a very good chance.
7 Niner Forty Niner, trained by Serenity Stables
This ones form and life at HRP reads like a bad novel, great runs, poor runs, nearly a thousand dollars in three sales he is probably the hardest runner to really get a handle on. Drawn wide in the SA Derby he flew late to be beaten less than a length in third he then had a super draw in the KYD but threw it away by going back into the rear only to run on late to be a great fourth beaten only a length. I like his draw today because it gives him options but with his best efforts are in coming from behind and i suspect he will be taken back again today. Serenity Stables seems to have got a little consistency out of him since shelling out $450.000 for him in March so a repeat of his last two runs will give him a big chance but if he reverts to running on pace we could also see him at the back of the pack come the finishing line.
8 They All Laughed, trained by Mb Stables
Ran a huge race in the KYD to be second but i think he was favoured by the slop that day so he may have been flattered in the end. Having said that he was only beaten a neck in the FL Derby after running on the front end on faster ground so i may be a bit quick on that point. His short femur suggests the quick back up may be tough for him but he worked well enough after the KYD to suggest he wont be too badly effected. With this one i find myself trying to find reasons he cant win probably because on bare form alone he has a very good chance of doing just that. He has some of the most consistent form in this race, proved he can run from any gate and is from the leading stable in the game, those reasons may be enough at the end of the day.
9 Made To Sin, trained by John Henry
After his wins in the Holy Bull and the Fountain Of Youth he was touted as a Derby winner a fair way out from the KYD. Then came a disappointing effort in the FL Derby where he could only manage seventh and a terrible run in the Derby where he was beaten twelve lengths into fifteenth. There are highs and lows right there and it is hard to make a case for him to return to form in this despite grade one winning form. I think we can write off the KYD effort and put it down to the ground conditions as he has run on easier ground four times and never run that well but his effort was that bad that it couldnt just be the surface. I think more than that is found in his conformation as a short femur could make him just a little fragile. He had a good and successful two year old campaign and a very busy lead up to the Derby and may be feeling the heat of a busy calender. For that reason alone i cannot fancy him in this race.
10 Mancini, trained by Our Athletes
He was super consistent leading up to the KYD so his terrible effort in finishing a weak twelfth can only be put down to a dislike for the slop. Taking that effort out his win in the BG Stakes was very strong and it is easy to give him a chance on that as it is for his fast finishing second in the Lewis Stakes. I worry about his short femur though and the quick turn round and his works arent the best so for those reasons i feel that his best effort may only see him in the top half of the field at the end.
11 Slither, trained by NightMare Racing
This is probably the unluckiest horse in the race having raced from 19 in the KYD and now facing 12 in the Preakness. Although he took a while to break maidens he has since run some super races and was very consistent up to the KYD. A head second in the SA Derby, a close third in the Rebel would have seen him with a big chance in the run for the roses had he not been drawn in the car park but despite that he actually ran pretty well. Stalking the lead round the field he only gave way after the mile mark and was only beaten four lengths in the end, a pretty good effort considering he wasnt suited by the slop or the draw. With an inside draw in this race i would have been all over his chances but another difficult gate will make it tough once again. The short femur issue and the quick back up are also considerations but if any horse in this field deserved a bit of luck it would be this one.
12 Withdrawn, trained by John Henry
This has never been the most consistent of horses only following up his maiden win in April this year. A decent two year old his best effort may have been when third in the LA Futurity so he came into the three year old season as a bit of a dark horse for the Derby. A gutsy dead heat win in the LA Derby put him right into the KYD and with a perfect draw he was a strong fancy. Dropping back early on he ran on well late to be fifth beaten just a length which was a great effort. However and this is the key point he raced from 3 that day but runs from 12 today. History tells us that if he couldnt win that race from an inside draw and cannot win this race from a wide draw but history is meant to be the past so you may just have to take a chance.
13 Snow Peak, trained by Mb Stables
Last seasons champion race horse thanks to five straight wins and four staright grade ones this filly hasnt managed a win this season but has run some great races and is probably the most interesting entry in the race. She ran well on a surface that she hated to be second in the KYO last time and had run well when taking on the boys before that running on late to be fourth in the Fountain Of Youth and second in the Holy Bull. I dont think the wide draw will affect her as much as others as she will surely be taken right back and if the pace is strong she will be once again running on late. Traffic and the quick back up for a fragile looking filly are both good reasons to avoid her for this race but the weight allowance, her obvious class and this longer trip are all good reasons she can win. I dont have any confidence in her but i keep getting this picture of her rounding the field on the turn and storming home to win and i cant shake it off.
14 Shootfromthehip, trained by Nakamura Stables
After i watched this one win the FL Derby i went on record saying this one would win the KYD and he didnt disappoint with a great win on the big day. If he had managed an inside draw here i would have been very bullish about his chances but this widest draw does make me nervous. I just hope he doesnt suffer the wide gate speed push and end up weakening into obscurity because i think if he can sit no worse than midpack it wont matter if he is five or six wide he could still win. It would be great to see the BEL with the bonus up for grabs and this homebred taking HRP’s first ever TC but i feel this will be tougher to win for the gelding and if he can manage it the bonus will be a formality. Wide draw or not i am pretty sure most of HRP will be cheering this one home.
With the two best horses in the race drawn 13 and 14 and memories of a filly beating Five Fives out of a TC chance this is probably a more intriguing race than the KYD was. Will the draw mean the KYD form is reversed? Will missing the KYD and coming into the race fresh make the difference? Can a filly win?
Well i wish i could be sure of the answers but like most i am going to make an informed guess based on knowledge which means very little. So the winner, well i think Shootfromthehip still has a great chance even from 14 but How To Laff may be the dark horse in this race and it is impossible to write off anything from Mb Stables.
So my pick will be for Kopites to take his first Preakness with How To Laff, Shootfromthehip running second and Ginger Haggis third. Of the rest well, i will take one of the Mb Stables trio for fourth or Slither to get a break.
Good luck to all and lets hope i am writing about HRP’s first ever TC hope going to the Belmont.