The 134th running of Preakness stakes is carded as Race 12 at 6:15 p.m. this Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. The field consists of 13 entrants vying for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, with Mine That Bird trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The weather forecast is projecting rain leading up to Saturday with mild temperatures and scattered rain showers (40 percent precipitation chance) on Preakness day.
Normally, the Preakness hoopla on the racing front consists of ?will he or won?t he?? That question pertains to the Derby winner doubling up two weeks later. This year the question changed genders to ?will she or won?t she?? and it pertains to the Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, coming off her 20-length victory to take on the boys. The answer is yes and her connections bucked up $100,000 for the opportunity.
This year?s Preakness projects to be the most competitive in at least the last 20 years, but with that has come much controversy.
Imagine yourself as the Bidwell family, owners of the Arizona Cardinals, having gone through years of not having a great team to finally getting a shot at destiny after just knocking off the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Now imagine 72 hours later, Al Davis buys the team from the Bidwells. Sure it?s the same team, but they change the uniform for the Super Bowl to silver and black and put Tom Cable in charge while retaining Todd Haley to run the offense. Baffling, certainly. Well that is exactly what happened in the sport of king?s when breeder/owner Morrison of Rachel Alexandra sold the country?s top filly to deep pocket Stonestreet Stables, moving her from the highly regarded barn of Hal Wiggins to the often maligned Steve Asmussen.
Pathetic in this beat writer?s opinion. I mean what do the connections say if they win the race? They don?t even know the horse. Another prime example of how greed ruins the world. I will be the first to admit, I can?t say I wouldn?t cash in as well. It?s just a shame someone even offers an indecent proposal. The whisper is they bought her for 10 million dollars, a figure that would be impossible to recoup as an investment, so this is purely a case of ?buying? fame, not earning it. Jess Jackson is crusading around, saying he is doing all this to showcase the best athletes against each other regardless of sex. The fans drinking the Kool-Aid actually believe him. I passed on my glass as I know he has a self-fulfilling prophecy foremost. Further adding insult to injury, some of the owners were actually conspiring, within the rules, to enter rank outsiders to prevent the filly from racing. What a debacle. Interestingly, the same day Rachel Alexandra is confirmed to enter the Preakness her new trainer makes the inside front news section of the Daily Racing Form for having a medicine violation hearing for an overage on Lidocaine postponed.
My phone rang off the hook after the Derby all asking the same general question: ?How did that horse win?? The answer actually contradicts what I have preached for years, that 90 percent of all races are won in the barn. In this year?s Derby, the actual jockey won the race. Calvin Borel lived in the shadow of Pat Day at Churchill for years, but since Day?s retirement, Borel has taken the throne. He rode the same race that he did in 2007 aboard Street Sense: he took Mine That Bird to the far back of the back, kept him relaxed, saved ground, let the other?s battle and snuck through the rail to a convincing 6 length victory. Was it lightning striking? Yes. Will it strike twice? No chance. Borel bailed to ride Rachel Alexandra, which shows you what he thinks, and frankly Pimlico doesn?t play to rallying closers. Simply put, Mine That Bird?s 15 minutes of fame has ended.
As far as Borel?s chosen mount, what isn?t to like? Physically she is an imposing figure and she acts as if she is the queen of the ball. Having the fortune to get to see the Triple Crown events front and center, I can tell you her Oaks victory was awe inspiring. Borel looked like a kid riding a rollercoaster as he hung on while she bolted around Churchill. I have only seen a few fillies and mares look as confident as her, specifically two-time Breeders Cup champ Ouija Board. Now the question has become, can she beat the boys? We are about to find out.
Should you be wagering on Friday, Payton D?Oro is my pick in the Black Eyed Susan. Also, Pimlico is holding a jockey challenge, including Smith, Gomez, Leparoux, Desormeaux, Bejerano, Dominquez, Pino and Castellano.
#13 Rachel Alexandra– It has been very enjoyable watching her develop. Borel has been very vocal that he thinks she is the best thing on the planet. Since they teamed up last fall, this combo is 5-for-5 with ascending Beyer?s. Positives are she gets an outstanding draw with the trip to figure in her favor, and numbers-wise she is the one to beat and could potentially be better than advertised. Negatives are she is facing a very talented group of boys, and this isn?t Kansas anymore, Toto. She has yet to face a field this size, having only ran against eight other starters once in her last five starts. Personally, I would have kept her against the gals and got a lot more starts with less taxing efforts, but I do feel she can conquer the boys. My choice with mixed feelings.
#5 Friesan Fire– With the scratch of I Want Revenge in the Derby this guy actually ended up the betting favorite. Coming out of the gate, he looked like a pinball getting bounced around, and locked in until Saez waived the white flag. He pulled up a quarter into the race and appeared sidelined for the foreseeable future, but Jones reached into his bag of tricks and gambled on some hoof repair medicine that worked. Now he?s fresh for this race. He likely will get dismissed this time around, but believe me, this strip suits his style and he is live.
#9 Pioneer of the Nile– If not for the rail skimming Borel, this guy would have been your gutsy Derby winner. I was quite shocked he was the lukewarm third choice two weeks ago especially as Gomez?s mount. He now has proven himself on dirt so he won?t be sneaking up on anyone this time. I still feel there is more in the tank, as do the connections. He will get another target to run at and even if he doesn?t win, he should be found somewhere on the ticket.
#3 Musket Man– He was my wise-guy horse on Derby day, and thanks to the way I cover my gambling bets, it made the 6 hour drive home from Churchill quite enjoyable. I won?t forget him, but unfortunately I have to pass on him for top honors in this spot. His impressive running has been in the lane and this isn?t the venue for that style. The cutback in distance while favoring speed likely will put him in an impossible spot for top honors; still he should clunk up late for a minor award.
Betability: Excellent, that is not the case for non-chalk players normally in this race. I could make a case for playing the favorites or some shots all depending how the wagering shakes out. Regardless of your taste, this should be a gambler?s race to bet.
#5 to win for 1 unit
1 unit Exacta wheel #1, #3, #5, #7, #9, #13 with #5 & #9
1 unit Trifecta wheel #5, #9, #13 with ALL with #5 & #9
1 unit Superfecta wheel #13 with #5, #9 with ALL with #3, #5, #7, #9
Graded Analysis with fair value win odds
#13 Rachel Alexandra: 7-to-5. Monster filly who faces judgment day in deep waters.
#5 Friesan Fire: 5-to-1. One of the best gambling angles in the sport, beaten chalk in last.
#9 Pioneer of the Nile: 9-to-2. Maybe racing gods will reward Zayat for letting the filly in?
#3 Musket Man: 12-to-1. Blue-collar runner has already far exceeded expectations.
#7 Papa Clem: 11-to-1. Another blue collar runner who?s running style fits this.
#1 Big Drama: 15-to-1. Removes the shades to help him rate, track record in last, puzzling.
#11 Take the Points: 35-to-1. Solid Sham, adds a hood, playable.
#2 Mine That Bird: 25-to-1. Underlay on the morning line. Wish I could book it.
#6 Terrain: 35-to-1. Early season whisper was he was a legit horse this season. That talk has faded.
#8 General Quarters: 30-to-1. Great story for a one horse stable, but the fairy tale has ended.
#4 Luv Gov: 100-to-1. Coming off maiden score which took 10 tries to complete. Pass.
#12 Tone It Down: 500-to-1. Normally we get the Tesio winner, this year we get third place.
#10 Flying Private: 500-to-1. Vying for the triple crown of running last in each event.