While I have handicapped the entire Preakness day card, due to time constraints I will not be able to elaborate on my opinions about any races other than the main event until tomorrow. My picks for the undercard races are posted below, but for my analysis of these races you will have to follow me on Twitter, where I’ll be tweeting live from Pimlico.
Click here to jump down to my Preakness Stakes analysis.
2nd Race, starter handicap
$10 Win 1 (Outhaul)
$10 Win 9 (Who Dat Boy)
5th Race, Maryland Sprint Handicap
$10 Win 5 (Service for Ten)
7th Race, Chick Lang Stakes
$15 Win 2 (Extrasexyhippzster)
8th Race, James W. Murphy Stakes
$10 Win 11 (Elevated)
$5 Exacta 1-11 (Special Envoy – Elevated)
9th Race, Gallorette Handicap
$15 Win 3 (Somali Lemonade); (WINNER; Payout: $36.00)
11th Race, Dixie Stakes
$10 Win 7 (Chamois)
12th RACE: THE PREAKNESS STAKES
The debate over the relative strength and final time of California Chrome’s Kentucky Derby has been a hot topic over the past couple of weeks. Yet, unless your opinion is bordering on the extreme, having a strong opinion about Derby speed figures is not critical to an assessment of California Chrome’s chances in this second leg of the Triple Crown. We already know that he is a fast and adaptable runner who, at this point, is at the head of his class. No one is debating that much. Most would agree that he probably didn’t run his very best race in the Kentucky Derby, yet he still was a decisive winner of that race. CALIFORNIA CHROME (#3) is the most likely winner once again today, but now the question becomes one of value. What price is too low? Below even money? After all, he is almost certain to be odds-on, isn’t he?
SOCIAL INCLUSION (#8) should be a clear second choice in the wagering and, in my opinion, would represent good value at any price over 5-1. I know that there appears to be plenty of pace on paper, but I can envision a scenario in which Social Inclusion gets loose early. The fact that Baffert took the blinkers off Bayern suggests to me that they’re probably thinking about rating him. The other main speed, Pablo Del Monte, will have to be hard ridden to clear the frontrunner breaking just to his inside if that is indeed his connections’ game plan. I highly doubt that California Chrome will sent from the gate. Victor Espinoza will probably come out looking to let the speed horses to his outside clear off so that he can angle outside of them before the clubhouse turn, just as he did in the Derby.
If Social Inclusion is able to get to the front and set moderate fractions, he is a threat to win this race. He put in a very strong effort in the Wood Memorial despite the fact that he washed out badly before the race and was forced to rush up to the front after breaking a half-step slowly. That all should amount to some valuable experience for this lightly raced colt and I’m left with the impression that he now may be ready to run an improved race. I do have some questions about his ability at the Preakness distance, but I would not underestimate his talent. I will bet him to win if the odds are fair.
As for the others, I’m mostly interested in using them on the undersides of exactas and trifectas. Kid Cruz (#7) should love the distance and any pace that develops up front will help him. I thought he finished very powerfully in the Tesio despite not getting an ideal trip and won’t be surprised to see him close into a trifecta position. I’m less optimistic about his chances to win the race given the speed figure edge of my top two choices, but I suppose he isn’t impossible if things fall apart late.
Ride On Curlin (#10) is another that I could use underneath at the right price. His Derby actually wasn’t that bad of an effort. Perhaps Calvin Borel placed him too far back early in the race, but I thought he made his most costly error approaching the top of the stretch when he appeared to be waiting for the rail to open up as it so often has for him in that race. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that Ride of Curlin could have hit the board had Borel just decided to loop the field with Commanding Curve.
Dynamic Impact’s last race is fast enough to make him a contender here and I suppose Irish You Well returned to validate the Beyer number with his third in the Peter Pan, but I’m still having trouble endorsing him. Dynamic Impact seems to run his best races when he’s placed close to the pace and is in a position to fight it out with one or two other rivals in the stretch. I’m just not sure if he’ll be as effective closing from mid-pack in a race that is sure to feature a significantly faster pace than the Illinois Derby.
I suspect that Bayern has distance limitations and I’m still not convinced that General A Rod is all that good, though I admit he didn’t get the right trip in the Derby. The others aren’t worth mentioning.
I hope that California Chrome wins for all the obvious reasons, but as far as my wagering strategy is concerned, I do not feel that I have to bet on him and only him. My main wager is a win bet on Social Inclusion provided that he goes off at odds of at least 5-1. I will also play Social Inclusion in an exacta box with California Chrome. Finally, I will key California Chrome on top in a trifecta while using Kid Cruz, Social Inclusion, and Ride on Curlin in the remaining positions.