The great weekend of racing continues. Now we will be looking at Horse Racing’s second jewel in the Triple Crown series, the 2017 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland. A field of just 10 has been entered for the mile and three-sixteenths classic, including Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
We will also be looking at two other races on the undercard of the Preakness; the Chick Lang Stakes, a six furlong sprint for three year olds, and the Grade: 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes, also six furlongs but for four year olds and up.
Before moving forward, I just need to touch on two subjects.
First off, once again I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your continued and growing support as my “Preview of the Man O’ War Stakes” I wrote last weekend was the #1 viewed article at isportsweb.com site on Saturday.
Second, is our weekly “Back-Track” segment as we looked at four races last weekend. I won three of the four, including a $12.00 winner.
“Back-Track”- May 13, 2017
Peter Pan– The unbeaten Timeline did not look too comfortable to me in the early going, but when jockey Javier Castellano called on him leaving the three eighths pole, he responded. Kudos, once again, to Castellano who rode yet another brilliant race. With the early leader (Meantime) drifting out on the turn, Castellano, instead of allowing himself to be carried out further, opened his left rein and cut inside, saving a ton of ground and then bearing down on his mount to pull away from the field late. Nice win and super ride!
Beaugay Stakes – the winner Hawksmoor, who I said had the most experience with off turf courses, was allowed to set a very slow early pace. She had just enough left to fend off late runs by a firing line of horses coming down the lane including the favorite Dacita, who had a wide trip and was coming late but just ran out of ground (my pick), and Time and Motion, who took dead aim on the leader at the quarter pole but simply didn’t fire. I saw no excuses for her…On a “trip” note – My Sweet Girl had to check very hard, losing valuable momentum, at the five-sixteenths pole….you may want to remember that the next time she runs.
Man O’ War – was a coming out party for Zhukova. The 5-year-old mare broke well and had her ears pricked much of the way down the stretch the first time. I’ve been in this game a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen fractions as slow as was posted in this race. (:27.2 for the first quarter, :56.2 for the half mile and 1:24 flat for the first six furlongs). But even with such absurd fraction, when “Johnny V” called on her she absolutely exploded down the stretch, opening up 5-6 lengths in the blink of an eye as she was striding out beautifully…Like I said, this was a coming out party for this mare and she should be a force in the female turf division this year.
Ruffian – Highway Star saved all the ground in the world with a rail skimming trip to post the upset at 5-1. Bar of Gold, who surprisingly went off as the favorite, ran well for second while High Ridge Road was among the vanguard early but “flattened out” late. She will live to fight another day so do not write her off just yet.
Pimlico Race Course
Race: 7 (2:07 PM EST Post)
Chick Lang Stakes
There is definitely a pattern developing in the Chick Lang. Of the nine horses entered, five of them ran poorly in various races at one mile or more, yet ran extremely well at distances of seven furlongs or less. It makes this race much more difficult to figure out being that (by my count) seven of the nine are in a good spot in this race. That said, I’m going to go with Recruiting Ready, who is sharp as a tack right now. I love the way he dug in when another horse looked him in the eye at the quarter pole of the March 10th allowance race, yet shrugged off that challenge and won “driving”. Colt by Algorithms ran six furlongs (this distance) in a hot 1:09 flat, over this surface and scored a strong 95 speed figure that day. He then came back on April 13 to obliterate a stakes field at Oaklawn Park (his last race). Lastly, I love the “back-class” angle. I mean, take a look back at last year and you’ll see he finished within shouting distance of Classic Empire, Gunnevera and perhaps the most talented horse of this year’s three year old crop (but has been injured and retired since), Not This Time. “He’s definitely in good form right now. He had that confidence booster in the allowance race at Laurel and he was able to step it up again and go to Oaklawn on a track that he had never been on. Just being able to run consistent again and a very fast time as well was good,” trainer Horacio DePaz said. “I really think this race at Pimlico fits him. He’s been there before, he likes it, and he won there. It’s a track that suits his style of running, too.” ……………If you know me, you know I like Three Rules quite a bit. He’s gorgeous and very fast. He also will be the recipient of one of my favorite “moves” in the sport as he will be dropping in class (from the Grade:1 Florida Derby to a non-Graded Stakes race) and getting a big cutting back in distance (three furlongs). Now tack on the facts he has big early speed, drew the rail (which is always a dangerous combination) and he’s been working light out for this. “He ran good in the Fountain of Youth, and the Florida Derby was a great race,” trainer Jose Pinchin said. “He’s doing great. He’s had two real nice works since the race. He’ll probably be the favorite for the race. I think he’s a better sprinter or miler than he is a route horse. It should be the right spot for him.”……………Theory – is a good-looking $335,000 son of Gemologist who probably needed his last race being it was his first start in five months. I didn’t think he ran all that bad as he got hooked in a three pronged battle for the lead in the Bay Shore Stakes (April 8), but understandably tired slightly in deep stretch to check in fourth. Like Three Rules, he will be cutting back in distance and dropping in class and I expect a good effort from him in this spot………………Honorable Mentions: Proforma – has won two of his first three starts including a stakes race at the Fair Grounds in his last. Although this son of Munnings will be making his first start in more than five months, he shows a very strong work pattern over the notoriously deep Fair Hill Training surface in Maryland.….Always a Suspect, who won his last by 8 lengths and has rising speed figures, Even Thunder, who has been either first or second in 6 of 7 career sprint races, Liar’s Dice, who if he runs back to that March 10 race will be tough and Bobby Abu Dhabi, who is 3-1-2-0 in sprint races, all could “jump up” and run well in this race.
Race: 9 (3:27 PM EST Post)
Maryland Sprint Stakes
I repeat, as of right now Whitmore is the best sprinter in the country….period…..end of sentence. After yet another visually impressive thrashing of his foes, in the Count Fleet Stakes April 15, his third straight win at Oaklawn Park, he takes his show/talent on the road and winds up in this very good spot. By Pleasantly Perfect, who might be one of the biggest horses I’ve ever seen, this gelding continues to win by wide margins (four in a row), post lofty speed figures (three trips in a row) and run sub-1:09 six furlongs (also three times in a row). Now 5 for 5 at this distance, this horse ripped a half mile work in :46.2 last week, signaling to me he is holding form and should be “on his toes” once again for this race. “I’d say in reality the work was like a :47 and (4/5), but the time doesn’t matter,” trainer Ron Moquett said Monday. “It’s the fact that he comes out of the stall in the afternoon after doing that kind of work and is bucking and kicking—all those things that horse trainers like to see and hold their breath when it happens. He’s so ripe that it’s time to run.”……………As I’ve stated before, A.P Indian was on the threshold of being crowned champion sprinter last year but “had a bad day” in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and that cost him big. He received 5 months off and came back in the Commonwealth at Keeneland where he came from behind and surged to the lead in mid-stretch but (understandably) tired in deep stretch and was gunned down by Awesome Slew. This now seven year old by Indian Charlie should be much “tighter” for this race and clearly looms as Whitmore’s main challenger here………….as much as I think Holy Boss is on the downside of his career he still looks the best of the rest here based on his last race, the aforementioned Count Fleet. In that race, he got hooked in a protracted, quickly run speed duel (:21.1, :43.4) before tiring down the lane and eventually was overhauled by Whitmore. I thought he did well to hang on for third and, truth be told, he just missed holding on for second. …………Honorable Mentions: if you throw out Never Gone South’s last race (turf experiment) you will find three straight strong performances. I’m not sure any one of the three are good enough to win this race but he might run well in this spot……………..Laki – is 4 for 6 in his career with speed figures trending upwards. He had a four race winning streak snapped in his last but he is 3 for 3 at this distance. This son of Cuba, a $1,500 stallion, will be stepping up in class here but it’s obvious, he likes to win….chance to hit the board at long odds.
Race: 13 (6:48 PM EST Post)
Analysis in Post Position order, selections below
PP#1 – Multiplier – is a very, very intriguing horse.
This good looking colt, by the wickedly fast The Factor, showed big time talent right from the get go. In his first two races, he came with bold, late rallies to miss by two lengths, then a neck, before breaking his maiden in fine fashion in his third start. All three starts came at The Fair Grounds.
From there his connections sent him to Hawthorne Race Course for the Grade: 3 Illinois Derby. He wasn’t the favorite when he was sent off at 9/2 in wagering, but once again came with a big late run to win by a head.
What caught my attention were the facts that a) he damn near set a track record that day and b) he ran one of the fastest nine furlongs of any three year old this year despite the fact that he was weaving in and out a little in mid-stretch. Although he was running a little erratic in mid-stretch, I loved the way he lowered his head and “leveled out” in the final 100 or so yards.
Moreover, his speed figures are ascending at a very nice, steady rate (71, 76, 83 and 94). If he continues to improve/learn, and I suspect he will as he only has four races under his belt, he could be a “surprise package” in this spot and 30-1 on the morning line is much higher than I thought he would be.
Of course, he’ll have to run further than he’s ever run before and he’ll be taking an enormous step up in class. But I’ll tell you what, he will be on a few of my exotics tickets for sure.
PP#2 – Cloud Computing – is another who showed ability right from the beginning.
This $200,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, from the white hot Chad Brown barn (Brown is winning at an almost 30% clip thus far in 2017) won at first asking at six furlongs in NY before (what I thought was) being thrown to the wolves when he was entered in the Grade: 3 Gotham at Aqueduct.
I mean, in his second start he was asked to stretch out 2 ½ furlongs and to go from a maiden race to Grade: 3 competition…thrown to the wolves my foot….this horse responded with a very strong second place finish behind J Boys Echo and ran a very good 96 speed figure in the process.
I must admit from there, he did disappoint to some extent in his next (and last) race where he just couldn’t keep up with Irish War Cry and Battalion Runner in the Wood Memorial also at Aqueduct in NY (finishing third).
Bottom line here is, this is a very nice horse but I’m not seeing how he is going to keep up with the likes of Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. I say that because if he couldn’t handle Irish War Cry in the Wood, how on earth will he handle Always Dreaming, who shrugged off Irish War Cry at the quarter pole in the Derby with minimum effort?
PP#3 – Hence – was one of the bigger disappointments in the Kentucky Derby.
The way he was going into that race, (coming off a monster win and had speed figures climbing faster that my credit card balance) I was thinking he was going to run big.
Instead, this chestnut son of Street Boss never ran a step, finishing in a different zip code (11th, beaten by 18 ½ lengths).
So where does he go from here? Which Hence will we see this Saturday? The one that literally ran a hole in the wind two starts back (came from last to roar past his competition down the stretch in the Sunland Park Derby) or the one we saw in Kentucky that didn’t run a step?
The truth of the matter is, I have no clue and it doesn’t help that he is in the dreaded good race, bad race, good race, bad race pattern since the beginning of the year….if you go by that pattern he is due for a “good” race and make no mistake, his good race would put him squarely among the vanguard at the end.
PP#4 – Always Dreaming– as the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner he needs no real introduction….but I’ll give you one anyway.
First off, in winning the Derby he improved his 2017 record to 4-0 and in fact, no one has really ever been close to him. The $350,000 son of the fleet Bodemeister won those four races by margins of 11 1/2, 5, 4 and 2 ¾’s lengths with speed figures to match (71, 97 and 102 in his last three starts).
Secondly, I’ve watched him train closely since his Derby win and I have to say, he looks nothing short of sensational. It’s as if the Derby took nothing or very little out of him.
Check out this latest 1 ½ mile gallop (below)….note, other than throwing his head a little at the wire, how he is “on the bit”, head cocked downward and just cruising along. I believe every word that trainer Todd Pletcher said earlier this week when he said this horse “doesn’t need any breezes, because he is dead fit”.
“He’s been training great for a long time now and he continues to show us the same things he was showing us leading up to the Derby,” Pletcher said. “I like the way he is behaving around the barn. He’s quiet in the stall and is very composed. And when he gets on the track, he’s strong, but in a good way.”
Those are all reasons why you should play him and why he might very well win again on Saturday afternoon.
Now, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t play him……
First off, he had a (no pun intended) “dream” trip in the Derby. I mean, he broke alertly and established an excellent tactical position around that cavalry charge they call the first turn. As I stated in my “Kentucky Derby …the aftermath” article, jockey “Johnny V” made the winning move early as he tipped him out from the one path to the two path (to give him clear sailing) going down the backside and the rest was history….after a catastrophic beginning for half the field, no one was catching this horse down the lane. The only one who had a chance was Irish War Cry, but he wound up “quitting” at the three-sixteenths pole.
So where does that leave us? Well…he’s fit and clearly peaking out. He also appears, for the most part, to be getting past his behavioral problems. If he gets another good trip, he is probably your winner…but asking for back to back “dream” trips in not one, but two of the biggest races in this country is also asking a lot.
Regardless of whether you play him or not, for what it’s worth the 4/5 on the morning line is a little “heavy” if you ask me….I was thinking he would open at 7/5 or 8/5.
PP#5 – Classic Empire – was completely wiped out at the start of the Derby and never really stood a chance right from the beginning.
The two year old colt champion by Pioneer of the Nile who likes to assume a stalking position early before pouncing on his competition down the stretch, found himself in an unfamiliar place in the Derby as at one point he was 13th and some 12-13 lengths off the early lead.
After taking a bump or two during the running of the race, jockey Julien Leparoux finally got him in a good spot turning for home and was able to “set him down” for the drive. He began picking up stream and passing horses when sure enough a horse tiring in front of him bore out and partially blocked his progress, causing a valuable momentum loss.
From the calculations, this colt ran 75 feet further than Always Dreaming had to in the Derby….that equates to about 3 ½ – 4 lengths, which I found interesting being that he was beaten by 8 ¾ lengths. Now add on the fact that he lost another five or so lengths from the horrendous start and you should come up with a horse who is either just as good, or better than, Always Dreaming.
“One thing I would say in Classic Empire’s favor is he ran by a lot of good horses (in the Derby). He ran by Irish War Cry, he ran by McCraken—all these horses that were considered the top contenders,” trainer Mark Casse said. “And I don’t think anyone would disagree that he took the biggest blow of any horse and he still ran by a lot of good horses.”…agreed Mr. Casse….no argument here.
PP#6- Gunnevera– was another, like Classic Empire, who had a nightmare trip in the Derby.
The stretch running son of Dialed In got squeezed at the start, bumped down the backstretch, was floated 5 wide on the turn for home and was “herded out” even wider down the stretch.
Unlike Classic Empire, this colt wasn’t winning the Derby regardless.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this horse…a lot actually….when he is right, his late run is electrifying but his speed figures are heading downward and he’s now lost to Always Dreaming twice in his last two races by a combined (almost) 20 lengths.
I also think his trainer might be right as I don’t think he cared much for the semi off Churchill Downs surface on Derby Day either.
“In the Derby, the track was very heavy on the outside, but I’m very happy with how he is getting over this track.” Trainer Antonio Sano said.
He is certainly not completely out of this race. I mean, his Derby effort was too bad to be true and I expect a better performance in this race.
But he will need a wicked early pace to set up his late run here. That might prove difficult as there is not a whole lot of early speed entered in this race.
PP#7 – Term of Art – listen, give me any horse in any race and I will find you a reason why/how he could win…….except for this horse.
I mean he hasn’t won since November and his final times and speed figures aren’t in the same stratosphere as some of the top contenders in this race.
His recent works are good and he’ll get “blinkers on” here but other than that…..I see no way he can win this race……..next.
PP#8 – Senior Investment – came roaring down the stretch to nip the talented West Coast on the wire in the Lexington Stakes in his last.
This improving son of Discreetly Mine has now won four of his last five and has a very nice upward trend to his speed figures during that time (69, 78, 78, 83 and 89).
Still another stretch runner, like Gunnevera, he will need some early pace to “run at” also and I’m not sure he will get that….also, it will probably take a “trip” speed figure to win this race which means he’ll have to improve “a lot” more to reach that level.
Is that possible? Yes…….but it is also unlikely.
PP#9 – Lookin at Lee – had the quintessential perfect trip (for a late runner) in the Derby and, as I suspected, he ran huge, finishing second at 33-1.
That after drawing the dreaded #1 post position…..so with a smaller field and a better post, you have to figure he runs even better here….right?
Well…maybe…… as you can look at him two different ways.
One, he had a perfect rail skimming, ground saving trip in the Derby and still couldn’t win…. or two, he is a late runner who is still improving (speed figures through his last four races: 83, 86, 91 and very good 98 in the Derby) and is ready for a break out performance.
This son of Lookin at Lucky clearly relishes the classical distances and has been on the board in seven of 10 career starts overall….I’m not sure he is capable of winning in this spot but certainly we should see more of the same consistency on Saturday afternoon.
PP#10 – Conquest Mo Money – is the “in form” (and improving) speed of the race.
As I mentioned several times earlier, this race is void of early speed but what little there is comes from this son of Uncle Mo.
In fact, he’s never been worse than second in five lifetime starts (with four of them being at Sunland Park) and gave Classic Empire all he could handle in the Arkansas Derby in his last.
Perhaps since Sunland Park is some 800 feet above sea-level (a lot higher than most racetracks in this country) there is something to that “thin air” angle (like when NFL teams go to Denver to play and are exhausted mid-way through the third quarter sometimes).
His connections are demonstrating some “testicular fortitude” by paying the $150,000 supplemental fee to run him in this spot….that’s quite a gamble.
You also have to like his speed figure ascension through his five race career (64, 74, 76, 91 and 93).
For those of you who think he will be left alone on an uncontested lead….that isn’t happening…not in this race and not with Classic Empire and Always Dreaming in here too. I assure you, at the very least, those two will be “breathing down his neck” in the early going.
1) Classic Empire
2) Always Dreaming
Lookin at Lee
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2017- Record: 33-82 = 40%
2016- Record: 91-229 = 40%
2015- Record: 67-180 = 37%
2014- Record: 29-73 = 40%
2013- Record: 20-59= 34%
2012: Record: 24-73= 33%
2011- Record: N/A
2010- Record: 24-74= 33%
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