He’s baaaa-aaaack! Brian Nadeau returns to Brooklyn Backstretch for a look at the Preakness.
There’s really no reason to beat around the bush, so let’s get right into it…what a Preakness lined up for Saturday! As if the improbable Derby winner Mine That Bird wasn’t enough, we have the super filly Rachel Alexandra to boot. Throw in the second-fourth finishers in the Derby, some accomplished also-rans and a solid cast of new shooters, and you’re left with one of the deepest and most balanced Preakness fields in years. Let’s take a look, from the rail out.
Big Drama: Ran a hole in the win at Gulfstream when he defeated This Ones for Phil in the Grade II Swale at 7 furlongs. Sure, he was disqualified, but don’t think for a second he wasn’t the best horse that day. Blinkers come off in here, but that’s probably to ensure he doesn’t go 44 and change early, not necessarily because they want him to come from off the pace. And let’s face it, with his rail draw there’s only one tactic; go, go, go. So what if Pioneerof The Nile, Friesan Fire and Rachel Alexandra get all hot and bothered watching each other? Just maybe this guy scoots away turning for home, eh? High quality speed in a race that seems to be loaded with several that want to be near the lead, but not right on it, a perfect 2-for-2 record at two turns and a tremendous price to boot. There’s not much reason to keep looking, as we’ve found our guy right here.
Mine That Bird: No idea where that Derby run came from, but the simple fact of the matter was that this guy was a month the best. So what was it–the rail, the ride, the muck, the competition? I don’t really know, but the way he ran by the field like they were standing still says it really was a run for the ages. So where does leave us on Saturday? Tough call, but the price will still be there if you’re a believer–there’s nothing wrong with 6-1 on the Derby winner. And fans can argue he’ll get an even better setup in here than he got in the Derby. And is anyone out there starting to think these high and mighty 3-year-olds aren’t all we once thought they were? I still have to see it to believe it, but anything close to the Louisville performance and he’ll run away and hide once again.
Musket Man: Can anyone tell me how this colt wasn’t moved up to second after Pioneerof The Nile gave him a body blow in midstretch? All things considered, he ran huge at Churchill and now gets a tad shorter trip that should suit his sprint pedigree that much more. But it’s fair to ask if we’ve seen his best; and if not, how much room for improvement does he have? We must remember these Derby horses were trained to the second on May 2, so regression is every bit as possible as a move forward. Mixed signals on this honest colt.
Luv Gov: No question he looked good blasting maidens on Derby Day, and he did it down the center of the track to boot, but take note of the word “maidens.” These ain’t maidens in here, folks. We love D. Wayne, but this would be a bigger story than Governor Spitzer returning to office.
Friesan Fire: Just draw a line through his Derby run; he had no chance after his trip and Saez smartly looked out for his horse. And don’t forget he was favored that day for a reason. So while all the others ran their race and gave every ounce of energy they had, this colt got a neat little public workout in front of 155,000. He worked great again and if Larry says “go,” who are we to argue? Should enjoy a perfect trip just off the leaders and be primed to make a big run turning for home. Major, major player.
Terrain: New shooter hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since taking the prestigious Mountaineer Juvenile last August at 6 furlongs; not exactly a win that will scare anyone in here. Still, he does have a nice closing kick and could be a player for the bottom of the exotics if the pace falls apart in the lane.
Papa Clem: The other Derby runner who was beaten up late by Pioneerof The Nile finished fourth after enduring the bumping match late. Showed in the Derby that his Arkansas Derby score was no fluke and that run in Louisville was a statement that he belongs with the best of his generation. Versatile colt can sit on or off the lead and that should enable Bejarano to play this one off the break and settle in to a nice trip. Dangerous once again at a nice price to boot.
General Quarters: Another of the Derby also-rans who really didn’t fire or enjoy a good trip, so if you are a fan, then you have an angle to work off of. His win in the Sam Davis in February says he’s fast enough to win this, but that was also a long, long time ago. Figures to be running on at the end and should sit the trip, but the gut is telling me he’s just not this good.
Pioneerof The Nile: Contrary to popular belief, this guy got a dream trip in the Derby. He stalked cheap speed three-wide, never had one second of trouble, looked long gone turning for home, and then had to bully his way to a second-place finish when reality says he was fourth-best. Can you tell which way I’m leaning? The thought here is that we saw him run his race, and yeah, it was fine and dandy, but it’s just not good enough to win a Classic. And why would he improve in here when he was cranked to the gills for the First Saturday in May? And you better believe he needs to improve to get unsaddled. Haven’t been a fan all spring and his Derby run sure didn’t convince me otherwise. Certainly an exotics player, but taking a big, big stand on the win end.
Flying Private: Another that gets a line through his Derby as he had no chance from the parking lot that day. The problem is he draws wide again and it’s hard to envision him stalking some classy speed, kicking clear turning for home, and then holding off the charge in the lane.
Take The Points: I was a big fan leading up to the Santa Anita Derby, but he just didn’t run on that day. They wisely skipped the Derby, so maybe he catches a tired group here while ready to fire his best shot. The blinkers go on, and that should have him in the mix early, though he’s not fast enough to make the point. If he’s anywhere near his 30-1 ML, he’s the play of the year, but I doubt you’ll see it. You get speed, a bit of class, expert connections, and a nice price to boot. You could do worse than sneaking this guy into your exotics.
Tone It Down: Outsider will reportedly take back and make a run, as his connections think that is the best way to make an impact here. Ok, we just saw lightning strike two weeks ago, so I’ll be kind and cover my tracks and just say this colt seems like a longshot on Saturday.
Rachel Alexandra: Well, here she is. Two weeks removed from an epic performance in the Kentucky Oaks, in the hands of new connections and, on the plane to Baltimore. It’s the perfect plan! Well, not really. Yes, she looked like a legend in the Oaks, but let’s be honest here, I could have run fourth in that race. And while her numbers and her margins are eye-popping, running on the pace with some classy speed, putting it away on the far turn, and then kicking clear of a bunch of nice colts is slightly different from running pedestrian 47 and change half-miles against some overmatched fillies. Point being, this is a monumental task to say the very least. And all at a whopping 9-5 or so. And you know darn well everyone in the race will have their eyes on her and won’t let her get away for a second. If you don’t want to get involved from a betting standpoint, then sit back and root like heck for her to add her name to the history books. If going to the window is your thing, then she represents one of the biggest bet againsts in recent memory.