It’s still the second jewel of the Triple Crown
Controversy surrounds the Preakness, but there will be a winner and our Geo Sette does his best to find him.
After more than a week of turmoil, controversy and what could be deception engrossing the thoroughbred racing industry, our beloved Sport Of Kings, we move forward to the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. From the Run for the Roses to the Run for the Black Eyed Susans, this week our attention turns to the Preakness Stakes.
We move forward with a degree of excitement, but there’s no doubt it’s been somewhat tarnished by the sour news out there regarding The Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit and his post-race positive test for betamethasone. Trainer Bob Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs and all the finger pointing remains. Who’s wrong? Who’s Right? Who do we believe? The question remains, has the integrity of the sport been damaged beyond repair? I am an optimist and I say we have work to do, a lot of it but no.
So, with much of the issues remaining unresolved, the Preakness Race must go on. It’s always been one of my favorites with its storied history going back just as far as the Kentucky Derby.
Who can forget Smarty Jones blasting the field by a dozen lengths back in 2004, becoming the greatest margin of victory that still stands today? Then there was Oxbow upsetting the field in 2013 soundly defeating Orb, the 4:5 favorite after splashing home with an impressive win in the Kentucky Derby. Do you remember the great Alysheba and his big run in 1987?
There’s so much good history to get excited about, even though this Preakness is somewhat tainted. It won’t be regarded as one of the better fields, but it’s still the Preakness Stakes.
Here’s what I feel about each of the colts entered, a field of 10 with only 3 returning from their run in the Kentucky Derby. As I typically provide, the following is my precise order of finish.
#5 Midnight Bourbon M/L 5-1
Just as I shared with my Kentucky Derby analysis, this big imposing colt has been as honest as you will find with all of his career races, with exception of course in the Kentucky Derby where he was sandwiched at the start. Now he comes right back after a moderate breeze and Trainer Steve Asmussen saddles the fabulous Irad Ortiz as Mike Smith will be riding Concert Tour. Throughout his racing career as a juvenile and during his current three-year-old campaign, this colt has demonstrated quality early foot, tactical speed that will be very much needed to contend in this Preakness. I am confident that he’ll break well, and not be bothered at the start, and will likely sit a tactical, comfortable trip behind what is likely to be Medina Spirit and Concert Tour. If one or both of them falters early on, he’s good enough to grab the lead. I was expecting him to run a huge race in the Kentucky Derby, but he was never given the opportunity to do so. All of his races in 2021 at the Fair Grounds were hard hitting, solid races and he’s got the ability to improve off of his prior experience. Irad Ortiz will be a major factor in the race, this colt is my # 1-win contender.
#9 Risk Taking. M/L 15-1
This colt is my 2nd choice as a new shooter in the race. Purchased for $240,000, this son of Medaglia d’Oro has the bloodlines for the distance and comes into this race after three consecutive nine furlong events. He checks many boxes I’m looking for, he raced as a two-year-old and has gotten better this year. He comes into the race with a series of nice breezes, an indication of fitness. He faltered in the Wood Memorial as the betting favorite, but he bobbled at the start, and to me he didn’t appear ready for a race day. I trust the barn of Chad Brown that he’ll improve this time around and I’m expecting him to close powerfully coming from off the pace. I’m taking a stand against the Baffert duo and suggesting a nice exacta with Jose Ortiz hitting the board with a strong 2nd place finish. If he runs his best race, he’s a contender in this spot.
#3 Medina Spirit. M/L 9/5
The Kentucky Derby winner owns the VERY BEST overall form with his past performances. In six career starts, he’s never been worse than 2nd, and now after his Derby win, he’s also proven at the distance. So why am I listing him as my 3rd choice? Well although his effort was special in his Run for the Roses, he had a perfect trip and he was never pressed as he should have been. His race was a fortuitous one, and he was given a fabulous ride by Johnny Velazquez. He ran a career best 102 Beyer, and I’m feeling that’s as good as he’ll ever be. He’ll be the race favorite and will offer very little value. With all the intense scrutiny surrounding the Baffert barn, I’m simply staying way from this guy. Can he win? absolutely, but I’m betting he won’t be as lucky, and there are several horses in this field who are eligible to improve with their best effort. I have him listed 3rd, respectfully so, but I wouldn’t mind at all if he finished out of the money.
#10 Concert Tour. M/L 5/2
This colt never raced as a Juvenile and began his career this year in mid-January, winning his debut in a sprint and then was very impressive winning back to back Grade 2 events. He faltered horribly in the Arkansas Derby. He opened at 1/9 and went off 1/5 burning everyone’s money as he failed to finish the job after having the lead in deep stretch, was pressed and outkicked for 2nd by Caddo River who displayed more heart that day. This guy comes into this race with a series of solid works and is obviously talented; however, I question his ability to make the distance as his two wins came at 7 panels and at a mile and 1/16th. In the Arkansas Derby he was asked to make the 9 furlongs, and he seemed to have nothing left when it counted in the final furlong. Mike Smith takes over for Joel Rosario. Look for this guy to be up there early on the pace, it’s his natural running style, but who knows what Baffert will instruct his riders. Based on his talent alone, he warrants consideration as my 4th choice and he’ll be getting back at the windows too, so don’t expect much of a price.
# 4 Crowded Trade. M/L 10-1
This is a lightly raced colt coming out of the Chad Brown barn with a rider change to Javier Castellano. He began his career in late January, so he was unraced as a Juvenile. He won his debut in a sprint and then he showed some heart racing big in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes where after a bobbled start, he battled throughout the stretch just getting nailed by a nose at the wire. This son of More Than Ready will have a decent career as I feel he will develop further this year and later as an older horse. He was very wide racing in the Wood Memorial, so I’m not sure we saw his best that day. Look for him to improve and show some life late in this race. He’s worthy of being a slight contender here so I wouldn’t ignore completely, he could better my 5th place rating and can be used in many of your deeper gimmicks.
#2 Keep Me In Mind M/L 15-1
This colt was a promising performer as a juvenile, no doubt a precocious sort, but he hasn’t been entirely the same this year. In fairness to him, he hasn’t had the very best of trips and his 1st race was off a 5 month layoff. David Cohen is back up for the very consistent Robertino Diodoro barn and if there’s a good enough pace, I can imagine this colt coming rather powerfully late in this race. In the Kentucky Derby he showed some late run, so in this less congested field, I am feeling a similar trip. I will be using him in many of my exotic wagers. His price will be generous, he’s not likely to win, but I have him as a contender to get a late share of this purse.
#8 Unbridled Honor. M/L 15-1
This gray colt, the son of Honor Code, has actually showed continuous improvement and I like the way he closed in the slop in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland. He picks up the services of Luis Saez who will give him a quality ride, but in this specific spot, I feel he’s likely to finish mid-pack. Todd Pletcher is deserving of respect and I’m actually hoping he takes an additional step forward, but the others I have listed above simply are more appealing.
# 6 Rombauer. M/L 12-1
This guy will be making his 7th start, and now over his 5th new surface. There is another jockey change with Flavian Prat up for Michael McCarthy. This is his 3rd race off his layoff into his three-year-old campaign. He comes into the race with four pretty sharp handily workouts. I’m expecting improvement as he appears to be fresh and fit, but as a slow starter he’ll need a perfect trip and a very advantageous pace to make a good run at it in the stretch. He figures to close well late in the race. I will only use in deeper gimmicks
#7 France Go de Ina M/L 20-1
The best thing about this colt is they have Joel Rosario riding him. Shipping him in from Japan and overseas at Meydan just doesn’t make sense to me. Purchased at $100,000, this son of Will Take Charge needs to show me a race or even a workout here in the United States before I endorse him, Tossing him.
#1 Ram M/L 30-1
As a lifelong Rams fan, I would love to have liked this guy, but his numbers simply do not compare to many in this field. Interestingly enough, he’s the son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Purchased for $375,000, he’s trained by the legend that is D Wayne Lucas who has won this race several times. He comes into this race winning back to back races, defeating 50,000 Maiden Claimers and then a pretty weak allowance field at Churchill Downs. This is simply too much of a reach, tossing him.
Let’s make Preakness Stakes Day a great one. Enjoy and good luck!
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