Brian’s Preakness preview

One down, two to go. Super Saver relished the slop and the rail-and Calvin Borel-and dominated what was thought to be a wide-open Kentucky Derby. Can he do it again two weeks later in Baltimore, under what figure to be vastly different circumstances? In his path are four also-rans in the Derby and seven new shooters. Let’s take a look.

Pimlico: The Grade I, $1 million Preakness Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 3/16 miles

1. Aikenite: Late runner is the first of seven new shooters in this second leg of the Triple Crown, and he’s made a reputation for outrunning his sprint-laden pedigree. Never really sold on his quality but he enters off a solid second in the Derby Trial and does have a decent stretch kick. Should be able to save all the ground from the rail, and though they passed on the Derby to run here, it’s tough to envision a horse eligible for an entry-level allowance making an impact; longshot.

2. Schoolyard Dreams: Liked his chances a lot in the Wood, but he was left in the wake of Eskendereya (no shame there) and then found himself on the outside looking in at the Derby because he didn’t have the earnings. On paper, he’s run well but is coming out of races that just have not gone on to stand the test of time; Rule disappointed as the favorite in the Florida Derby, Odysseus was nowhere while getting hurt in the Blue Grass and Jackson Bend and Awesome Act were beaten a football field in the Derby. The good news is that he seems to have only gotten better off the brief respite, and those that saw the TB Derby know a better-timed move and he wins by three. Plus, the deep, sandy surface at Tampa is a lot like the Pimlico one, so there’s a decent chance that he takes to the track very nicely. It’s asking a lot for him to win this, but thinking he’s clearly the best of the new shooters; expecting a big run.

3. Pleasant Prince: What a difference a nose makes; if he gets to the wire first over Ice Box in the Florida Derby, he makes the big one in Louisville, but instead, that second place run left them chasing earnings and it clearly didn’t work out. Comes here off a lackluster run in the Derby Trial where he was third and well behind Aikenite. Like that runner, he’s got a solid stretch punch but is still eligible to run in an entry-level allowance; doubt he gets the pace up front to be much of a factor.

4. Northern Giant: Lukas’s first runner has some zip on his side and we’ve yet to mention how slow the early pace looks on paper, so based on this inside draw, it’s possible that he breaks running and makes the lead. Either way he’ll be up close and that style did work well in the Risen Star (third) and Lane’s End (second), but he got run off his feet in the Arkansas Derby and tired badly. Half-brother to monster Take Charge Lady might impact this one early but doubt he’s around when the real running begins; for Lukas fans.

5. Yawanna Twist: Illinois Derby runner-up is another who hasn’t been averse to running near the lead, so expect him to be involved in the early splits. He ran OK at Hawthorne and was a month clear of third, but race winner American Lion didn’t threaten in the Derby and third place finisher Backtalk just finished the 10 furlongs on Tuesday, so needless to say, the Illinois Derby isn’t really screaming quality. Second in the Gotham to Awesome Act, who was injured in the Derby, so you really don’t know what this state-bred colt is all about. Thinking he’s got some talent, but this is the Preakness we’re talking about, not the Evan Shipman over at Belmont; not today.

6. Jackson Bend: Mighty Mouse was beaten up pretty good when he ran 13th in the Derby, and anyone who saw the race knows that it’s a total toss and not indicative of his talent. Zito forges on with a colt that made his reputation as a 2yo but had the misfortune of chasing Eskendereya home while running a distant second in both the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial. Talent really isn’t the issue with this colt; it’s his ability to handle a classic distance, because in those seconds he never looked like a threat to Eskendereya and was never moving forward in the lane, either. Back in the day Zito brought an accomplished 3yo that flopped in the Derby to Baltimore two weeks later, told Pat Day to put him on the lead in a paceless race to see what happens… and 1 3/16 miles later Louis Quatorze delivered a tour de force and tied Tank’s Prospect for the fastest Preakness of all time. It’s not implausible to think he tells Mike Smith, one of the best front-end riders around, to do the same here; maybe, just maybe lightning strikes twice.

7. Lookin At Lucky: Never really understood why so many thought he was open lengths better than his peers, but with that being said, he ran pretty big in the Derby, considering all the trouble he encountered. Baffert made the obvious choice and replaced Gomez, who seemed to get this colt in trouble in the post parade, let alone the actual race. But still, the horse has never run fast once in his life and he’s going to have to if he wants to wear the Black Eyed Susans. The good news is, aside from Super Saver-over a muddy track-none of his opponents have run fast either. And his lone dirt run aside from the Derby was solid in the Rebel, when he (again) had a ton of trouble but still managed to get up over Noble’s Promise while keeping Dublin at bay. Garcia aboard today, and he can’t do any worse, can he? Still no value in this corner but he seems capable; logical alternative if you’re trying to beat the Derby winner.

8. Super Saver: Benefited from all of Borel’s guile when he splashed home on the rail for a convincing score in a less than stellar renewal of the Derby. And make no mistake about it, folks, that’s really good news because few from Louisville have returned, and the new shooters don’t exactly look like they’re bringing some heavy artillery to Baltimore. Sure, the combination of slop, a dream trip and a bunch of trouble by his rivals all contributed to the win, but don’t forget, this is an improving colt that won by 2 1/2 lengths; it’s not like he was a nostril to the good. Saturday it looks like he’ll get another dream trip on or just off a tepid pace, but it is worth noting that he’ll also (presumably) get a fast track and he’s really never run faster than any his rivals over one of those. But if not him, then who? Not completely sold on his quality, but his opponents are even less inspiring than he is; big, big shot to extend the party another three weeks to Elmont and a run at immortality June 5.

9. Caracortado: Seems to be the wiseguy horse of the week as he gets back to conventional dirt for the first time since his debut in a 4-furlong Fairplex maiden claimer last September. Looked good winning a suspect Bob Lewis in February to bring his career ledger to 5-for-5, but the bloom came off the rose a bit when Sidney’s Candy beat him in both the San Felipe (2nd) and Santa Anita Derby (4th). He did have trouble in that last run and would have been much closer, but he’s kind of been pushing while everyone else has been shoving since the step up in class; not seeing it.

10. Paddy O’Prado: Gave an indication that he would handle a muddy CD strip with that wild 58 2/5 bullet during the week, but the fact remains that he’s still a complete unknown on a fast main track. Fine run in the Derby; he tracked Super Saver to the far turn and even got sawed off by that rival as they both made their moves, and it’s probably a good thing that this second leg is a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby. Desormeaux is on record as saying that his horse was dead tired in the lane in the Derby, so you have to wonder how he’ll respond to this quick turnaround, while encountering what has the potential to be another new set of circumstances. Talented and bred to handle the main, but thinking we just saw his best shot; siding against.

11. First Dude: Third in the Blue Grass but what does that mean nowadays? Race winner Stately Victor, who was 40-1, was nowhere in the Derby while ‘Paddy caught his track and ran a big third. He does have some speed and gets Dominguez, who knows his way around this oval, and that head loss to Fly Down at GP in February looks a lot better since that guy freaked in last weekend’s Dwyer at Belmont, but he’s yet another who could make up a real salty entry-level allowance event; pace factor if anything.

12. Dublin: It seemed everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Simon Cowell to Betty White was telling you that this guy was sore and over-the-top heading into the Derby, but there he was, picking up horses late and finishing seventh after rallying from 15th and far, far back. He was beaten a half-length by ‘Lucky after having at the very least a trip just as bad, and he’s probably three times the price on Saturday, so that’s definitely in his favor. Lukas forges on with a colt who has done nothing wrong this year, but has really not picked it up like many (me especially) thought he would. Should get a better scenario Saturday; he’ll be much closer to a softer pace, and it looks like he’ll get a fast track to boot, plus he gets Go-Go to ride and you know that he’d love nothing better than to stick it to everyone who’s been doubting him. Daddy Afleet Alex turned into a legend with his agile and remarkable win in this race in 2005, but at the end of the day you’ve still got to ask yourself if this guy is good enough to win a two-turn race at a classic distance? And with each passing day the answer becomes more and more clear; grudgingly siding against a personal favorite.

Selections:

8. Super Saver

7. Lookin At Lucky

2. Schoolyard Dreams

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