Horse-by-horse analysis of Preakness * The Racing Biz

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After one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history, this year’s Preakness will go ahead without the astonishing Derby winner Rich Strike choosing to go for the Belmont. At first glance, this field appears to be dominated by Epicenter, who ran a very tough second at Churchill after sitting out at a brutally fast pace. Most other years he would have hung on to be a deserving winner there, and with less competition and slower fractions, the second jewel of the Triple Crown seems like an easier place to be.

Perhaps Epicenter’s biggest competition will come from the filly, Secret Oath, a convincing Kentucky Oaks winner who takes her second shot against the boys in this event. She ran third against the boys in the Arkansas Derby earlier this year

Just two years ago, Swiss Skydiver became the sixth filly to win the Preakness, so the precedent was set for a strong performance by Secret Oath in that race.

Likely pacemakers Early Voting and Armagnac could also muddy the waters for Epicenter if it chooses to be further up front here, setting the stage for more versatile runners such as Simplification which closed well in Kentucky. Some lesser-known new shooters will round out the field, making for an intriguing take on the Preakness that will focus on a few top contenders. The start time for the race will be 7:01 a.m. EDT.

CHOICES

1. #8 Epicenter (6-5)

2. #1 Simplified (6-1)

3. #5 Early Voting (7-2)

4. #4 Secret Oath (9-2)

(Past performance includes all points races. Click on the race to see the race video in a pop-up window. PP race line includes race date, finish position, points earned, race name and track).

1. Simplify (6-1)

  • COACH: Antonio Sano
  • JOCKEY: John Velazquez
  • OWNER: Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 8-3-1-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 4th, Grade I Kentucky Derby

This Not this Time colt showed more tactical speed in Florida than he did in Kentucky, but being positioned off the pace clearly worked to his advantage there. He has shown some running style versatility in the past and was well under bet in the Derby at 35/1 based on his strong preparations. Much of his performance here will depend on where his new driver John Velaquez is out of the gate, as leading could wear him out at this distance. He’s not a player to overlook although he might not be the best choice here to draw the rail as he’s generally run well and could be a good play to hang on and hit the board.

Simplification (FL) / T: Antonio Sano
Not this time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride (ARG)

2. Creative Minister (10-1)

  • COACH: Kenneth McPeek
  • JOCKEY: Brian Hernandez Jr.
  • OWNER: Fern Circle Stables and Back Racing LLC
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 3-2-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1st, Allowance

McPeek and relations decided to pay the additional $150,000 fee to enter this lightly tested colt into the Preakness, which is certainly a testament to their confidence after an impressive optional fee claiming a victory on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Visually, all his efforts have been top notch, but a significant step up in class is usually difficult for a younger horse to overcome. Admittedly, it’s a smaller field and the distance doesn’t seem to be a problem for this closer who still had a lot to do with his last two victories. The Creative Minister might be a bit of a stretch due to McPeek’s past success in winning big swings in Triple Crown races, although that’s surely a big swing. It’s one that could be included in the exotics if the value is right, looking for odds on the morning line of 10/1, and will have a good chance of closing if others are able to press early voting in the first half mile.

3. Fenwick (50-1)

  • COACH: Kevin McKathan
  • JOCKEY: Florent Geroux
  • OWNER: Villa Rosa Farm and Harlo Stable
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 6-1-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 11th, Grade II Blue Grass

A confusing late addition to the Preakness field, this colt by Curlin took five tries to break his maiden, eventually running well after being put in the lead early on. Following this victory, his connections enrolled him in the Blue Grass, where he fell behind early and was never a factor, finishing last. It’s likely to be the longest hit on the board, and unlike Derby Rich Strike, there’s no indication it’ll improve here. Breaking well is a must, but there are more established speed horses that should be able to outrun Fenwick at turn one. At the very least, it could be one to press Epicenter and Early Voting more than they’d like, so he could end up being a factor even if he doesn’t cling to hit the board .

4. Secret oath (9-2)

  • COACH: D. Wayne Lukas
  • JOCKEY: Luis Saez
  • OWNER: Briland Farm
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 8-5-0-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1st, Grade I Kentucky Oaks

The filly in this field happens to be one of the most experienced and has five career trips to the winner’s circle after winning the Kentucky Oaks last time out. She was clearly the best in this trial, getting a terrific run from Luis Saez who remains in irons here. In the Arkansas Derby, Secret Oath attempted a similar move, picking off six horses rounding the furthest bend in the stretch, but ran out of gas late. She is clearly extremely talented, but it could take a few breaks to come from the middle of the pack at this distance. The pace will need to be fast and Saez will need to make another strong, sweeping move to get her into the lead group. If the best horses, mainly Epicenter, come off easy and race, it will be difficult for this one to win. Still, using it in Exotics and hitting the board could be a decent value play here.

Secret Oath (KY) / T: D. Wayne Lukas
Arrogate – Absinthe Minded, by Quiet American

5. Early Voting (7-2)

  • COACH: Chad Brown
  • JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz
  • OWNER: Klaravich Stables
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 3-2-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2nd, Grade II Wood Memorial

A Grade III Withers Stakes winner, this apprentice of Chad Brown has gone on to lead in back-to-back starts, including an impressive second at Wood Memorial last time out. Early voting set up solid pace in that one, only to be crushed by a hard-charging Mo Donegal who came back to run well in the Derby. It should be the leader in the field with Epicenter sitting, although it could show more versatility and drop in second if a new shooter decides to take the initiative early. It could mean Jose Ortiz took this mount on Simplification, but could still be a tough spot to win at this distance given that nine furlongs could be his limit with this style of racing. A good run from Ortiz and moderate fractions could put this colt in good stead to hang on to the money here.

Early Voting (KY) / T: Chad Brown
Gun Runner – Summer Love, from Tiznow

6. Happy Jack (30-1)

  • COACH: Doug O’Neill
  • JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione
  • OWNER: Calumet Farm
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-1-0-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 14th, Kentucky Derby

Looked well overtaken before the Derby after a few distant finishes in the warm-up races, but bizarrely died out at 23/1. He didn’t have the best of breaks, but not poor enough to excuse dropping to eighteenth at the start. Finishing fourteenth by nineteen lengths in this one makes it difficult to build a case for this longshot here, especially after four consecutive efforts not to finish within 10 lengths of the winner. Will make some changes with a new jockey in Tyler Gaffalione and add blinkers which should bring him closer to early pace. Ultimately, outside of a first time win, this colt by Oxbow struggled to be competitive, and even in a weaker overall field here, it would be hard to see a scenario where he is a winning threat.

Happy Jack (KY) / T: Doug O’Neill
Oxbow – Tapestry, by Tapit

7. Armagnac (12-1)

  • COACH: Tim Yakteen
  • JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.
  • OWNER: SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm LLC
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-2-0-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1st, Allowance

Ancient Baffert’s apprentice didn’t run well in either stakes effort, then fell in the optional allowance claim business to win by more than four lengths with a leading score. As with the others here, keeping up with early voting will be tough, and winning seems like a stretch. He actually ran a day after the Kentucky Derby at Santa Anita, so he works on less rest than that field, making it an even tougher battle. His best chance of being competitive comes in a scenario where early voting doesn’t break well and can’t take the lead early on, with very soft fractions for the first half mile. It just seems like one to leave out in Exotics, especially if the value isn’t there.

Armagnac (KY) / T: Tim Yakteen
Quality Road – Kitty Wine, by Lemondropkid

8. Epicenter (6-5)

  • COACH: Steve Asmussen
  • JOCKEY: Joel Rosario
  • OWNER: Winchell Thoroughbred
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 7-4-2-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2nd, Grade I Kentucky Derby

This likely favorite sat wisely ahead of the leaders in a grueling Derby pace but was still close to a lead where none of the best in the group finished strong. In many ways, his run was as impressive as Rich Strike’s, as he withstood a strong stretch charge from Zandon who got a more favorable trip being comfortably behind. A strong second-place finish there and the assumption that he came out of that loss in good shape puts him clearly above the rest here. With a much smaller field, Rosario can choose to position Epicenter ahead or abstain from early voting and others, but shouldn’t have to worry about a 45-second halftime. Clear first choice that should be included in all exotic tickets.

Epicenter (KY) / T: Steve Asmussen
Not this time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride (ARG)

9. Skippy Longstocking (20-1)

  • COACH: Saffie Joseph
  • JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado
  • OWNER: Daniel Alonso
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 9-2-1-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 3rd, Grade II Wood Memorial

Finished third at Wood Memorial behind Early Voting and Mo Donegal, but made a nice closing move in this one late and picked up a win at Gulfstream in early March. It will take a step forward here, especially if there isn’t a ton of early pace in this area to get closer. Even then, more accomplished runners like Simplification who could close the pace seem like a better option in this scenario, or even Secret Oath coming from the middle of the pack. It could be good value as a long game to maybe get up for fourth or even third, but winning here feels like a stretch unless the pace is scorching. Having the Preakness Exaggerator winner as a father could be a plus, especially if the track turns out to be a little softer if it rains.

Skippylongstocking (KY) / T: Saffie Joseph
Exaggerator – Twinkling, by War Chant
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