Preakness Picks

This certainly isn’t the strongest Preakness field I’ve ever seen, but it might be one of the most intriguing. It’s great to see four of the top seven finishers from the Kentucky Derby make it back on short rest, along with at least five other horses that had every right to be in that race but didn’t quite make the earnings cut. With Hurricane Ike now out with an injury, this race should set up much differently than that one did, as there is not nearly as much speed here, and the likely fractions (think :48.0 instead of :46.0)  should benefit horses closer to pace more so than they did during the Derby. Here’s a brief look at who I think has the best chances in this wide open Preakness Stakes, a race in which I can make a pretty good case for any one of them to win. Top 2010 Beyers, Post Positions and Morning Line odds in parentheses:

PICKS:

1) Lookin at Lucky (98 Beyer, PP#7, 3-1)- Had yet another disastrous trip in the Derby from the dreaded #1 post and fell way too far back early to have a shot at the board, and still rallied impressively to finish 6th. This might actually be his ideal distance, and this is his last chance to prove he’s for real as he finally gets an ideal post starting in the middle of the field. The pace scenario isn’t as favorable as it was for him in the Derby, but I can’t jump off now…with a clean trip, I think he’s still the most talented runner in the field and will probably be positioned a bit closer to the lead. We’re all still waiting for his coming out party. I just hope he isn’t worn down after one of the roughest campaigns in recent memory.

2) Super Saver (104 Beyer, PP#8, 5-2)- Derby winner could very well dictate the pace, and his ascending Beyers in last three starts suggest a horse that is continuing to reach his full potential. He’s impossible to leave out especially considering if he has it his way he could wire the field with ease, but if he runs into any trouble getting to the lead, it’s important to remember that Borel isn’t at Churchill anymore. Still, the top two appear to vastly outclass the rest of the field.

3) Schoolyard Dreams (94 Beyer, PP#2, 15-1)- Showed a strong turn of foot in the Tampa Bay Derby, beating the eventual Derby winner while getting a few pounds, and had excuses (health issues?) in his 4th place Wood Memorial finish. Aside from that effort he’s never missed the board, and he is working extremely well and is fresh after missing the Derby earnings cut; all signs point to improvement in the near future. His running style should fit just fine here, as he’ll enjoy a ground saving trip just behind the front runners.

4) First Dude (90, PP#11, 20-1)- He’ll probably be close to the pace as well and deserves a close look based on his field-high Tomlinson distance rating. He’s actually a half brother to Schoolyard Dreams, both sired by Stephen Got Even, so I suppose if I like that one I have to respect him as well. I’m not sure he has demonstrated the same versatility and turn of foot, and he’s still waiting for an above average speed figure, but he stands a good chance to sit off the pace and may very well just keep on going. Pleasant Prince had his number in the Florida Derby but the pace collapsed in that race, and Paddy O’Prado beat him very narrowly in the Blue Grass. He’s fresh and training well, and looks like a live longshot at these odds.

5) Paddy O’Prado (100 Beyer, PP#10, 9-2)- A repeat of his 3rd place Derby finish will have him in 2nd here, but how much did he benefit from the mud on Derby Day? Is he tired after that huge effort? A bounce candidate? He sure seems to change leads a lot as he tires, and he still has yet to prove himself on a dry dirt track. I’m looking elsewhere but admittedly frightened, and might be sorry on Saturday night, but you can’t use everyone, especially since he figures to take a lot of action at the windows.

6) Dublin (98 Beyer, PP#12, 10-1)- Seems to be always there at the end but still refuses to pass anyone down the stretch. He improved upon each furlong in a respectable 7th place finish in the Derby, arguably his best effort to date, but hung again without any excuses. Would need to take a leap forward here and may be gassed after a pretty tough spring campaign. You can’t ever count D. Wayne Lukas out completely, and he stands to benefit from Gomez taking over, but I still think he lacks that killer instinct in the stretch.

7) Aikenite (91 Beyer, PP#1, 20-1)- Looked much improved in his second place Derby trial effort, closing on the winner from far back, a style that suits him much better than chasing the pace. He’s been beaten twice by Jackson Bend but seemed to be gaining ground in shorter races, and may be ready to turn the tables. However, closers may be up against it this time based on the likely pace scenario, and I can’t get past the fact that he’s been handily beaten by half of the field in previous races.

8- Jackson Bend (93 Beyer, PP#6, 12-1)- Always tries, but still has distance issues. He will definitely be closer to the pace than usual in this race, which could work to his benefit if he can get away with really slow fractions, but I have a feeling Super Saver will have something to say about that. The feeling here is that this is more of an 8f horse, and that making the lead will likely make those last 300 yards even more difficult than usual.

9) Pleasant Prince (99, PP#3, 20-1)- Flattered by Ice Box’s 2nd place finish in the Derby; he lost to that one by a nostril in the Florida Derby but that effort has looked somewhat like a fluke since. He had excuses in a dismal Blue Grass over polytrack but didn’t really fire or make a strong move in his next outing in the Derby Trial even with its fast fractions, and was beaten handily buy some of these there. He probably needs a much hotter pace (46ish, like what he got at Gulfstream in his best race to date) than he will get here.

10) Caracortado (98, PP#9, 10-1)- Closing type is talented and will probably get some support at the windows but won’t have a super hot pace to run at. In response, he may attempt a style shift and go with the pace, but I probably don’t have to tell you how I think that will turn out. He moves to dirt for the first time, but distance figures (lowest Tomlinson figure in the field- by a mile) and pedigree suggest this isn’t his best spot.

11) Yawanna Twist (96 Beyer, PP#5, 30-1)- I have to admit that I was impressed with his Gotham performance, as he closed hard to nearly overtake winner Awesome Act, another strong closer. However, as mentioned, I don’t feel like this is a race to play more than one closer in, and he is probably a step behind in terms of class. He may try to go early as well, which gives him a fighting chance, but won’t be my play.

12) Northern Giant (92 Beyer, PP#4, 30-1)- Probably the only horse in the field that I can’t really make a case for. Seems like he needs a shorter race and a sloppier track.

BETS ($35 unit):

$1 Exacta Box: Lookin at Lucky, Super Saver, Schoolyard Dreams

$4 Exacta Box: Lookin at Lucky, Super Saver

$1 Exacta Key: Lookin at Lucky, Super Saver/ Schoolyard Dreams, First Dude

$1 Exacta Box: Schoolyard Dreams, First Dude

$10 Place: Lookin at Lucky

$5 Show: Schoolyard Dreams

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