We can’t have an American Pharoah or a Justify every year and we appreciate that as horse racing people, but this year’s crop of sophomores has left us completely scratching our heads as to the pecking order.
After the one of the most controversial, painful and yet still brilliant Kentucky Derbies of all time we are even more in the dark heading into the 2019 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico this Saturday as to how many genuinely top class three-year-old colts there are and more to the point; who they are.
Neither “winner” of the Derby, Maximum Security or Country House, will take part in Maryland and nor will we see Code Of Honor, Tacitus or Game Winner.
The only horse finishing to good effect at Churchill Downs and also taking part here is Bob Baffert’s Improbable and he is now unsurprisingly the 5/2 morning line favorite to take victory.
So without the usual bunch of top six Derby finishers to rely on, here’s a look at what could be considered the top six contenders for this race along with what sort of chance they have of victory in Pimlico’s $1.5 million showpiece:
Jockey: Daniel Centeno
Trainer: Kelly Rubley
Post Position: 7
M/L Odds: 8/1
This is a horse with speed who could break out early and look to make all. He beat Gray Magician easily at Laurel Park and could be a real improver, while we should bear in mind Gray Magician went on to run second in the UAE Derby over in Dubai in March.
Jockey: John Velazquez
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Post Position: 9
M/L Odds: 20/1
He was a late participant in the Kentucky Derby after Omaha Beach was scratched and to be honest he didn’t run well. He had previously finished second to Maximum Security in Florida however and repeat of that sort of form puts him in with a chance. He is another who could help to force a tough early pace but that may only serve to set things up for one or two better horses.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Mark Hennig
Post Position: 2
M/L Odds: 12/1
This year’s Florida form has really been worth watching, so given that he beat Code Of Honor (second at Louisville) and then finished fourth behind Maximum Security in the Florida Derby this horse is very much here on merit and could defy his juicy looking odds.
He comes into this race fresh having not contested the Kentucky Derby and should be suited by the race distance. As long as he gets a better early position than he has managed on his last two starts then he could be a real force to be reckoned with up the stretch.
Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Post Position: 4
M/L Odds: 5/2
The 2018 Los Alamitos Futurity winner was compared to Justify early in his career and, despite being beaten in his prep, went off favorite for the Kentucky Derby last time.
True he didn’t justify those odds, but he has easily the best form in this race and if anything we can expect him to improve for this slight drop in distance and for a fast track – he’s had to go through the slop in his last two runs and it’s not to his liking.
As a colt by City Zip, he has shown lots of pace in the past but stayed the mile well in the winter, so the quick pace which is almost guaranteed here will be up his alley and it’s hard to see him finishing anywhere outside of the first two or three.
War Of Will
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Trainer: Mark Casse
Post Position: 1
M/L Odds: 4/1
This is another who is by a sire whose progeny show a lot of speed, in this case War Front, so the mile-and-a-quarter of the Kentucky Derby was never going to be his forte.
Every half-furlong drop in distance is in his favor and we should bear in mind that he was one of the horses inconvenienced during the Derby too.
War Of Will produced a high class prep performance back in February when beating eventual Kentucky Derby winner Country House in the Risen Star and if he lasts home OK this time then he won’t be far away.
Win Win Win
Jockey: Julien Pimentel
Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Post Position: 13
M/L Odds: 15/1
He’s certainly been keeping the right company, the problem is the genuine stakes types keep beating him home so from a wide gate he has it all to do. That said he definitely has ability and his morning line odds could be made to look a little silly if things fall his way out there.
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