Pimlico: The Grade I, $1 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles
#1 Astrology (15-1 ML): Beautifully bred son of A.P. Indy has progressed nicely this year and enters on the upswing off a one-turn run in the sloppy Jerome. However, up to this point he’s never been true GI quality, nor has he ever run fast enough to win a race like this, not to mention that he got the worst of it with the tricky rail draw; not seeing it today.
#2 Norman Asbjornson (30-1): Neat little son of Preakness winner Real Quiet has quietly had a nice campaign this spring, albeit a non-threatening one against top foes, and he now goes for the big prize for top local conditioner Grove. Up to this point he’s simply not been fast enough to do any damage here, but he does figure to get the trip and has proven to be versatile from both on and off the pace; for the locals.
#3 King Congie (20-1): Turf/synthetic specialist has not lifted a hoof in two dirt starts, but they were last year and at one turn, and it’s quite obvious he’s a much better horse now than he was then. And they all said the same thing about Animal Kingdom before the Derby, and we all know how that turned out, right? Enters off a solid third in the GI Blue Grass at KEE with tons of trouble to boot, so at least you know he’s headed the right way, though it’s one tall task; passing.
#4 Flashpoint (20-1): Lightning-quick son of sprinter/miler Pomeroy has been freshened since trying to stalk from a wide draw in the Florida Derby, and now makes his first start for Ward after being in the Dutrow barn for the first three starts of his career. They tried rating in Florida, but there’s no doubt he’s going today, especially with the inside draw (in regards to the other speed), and it’s not like there’s a ton of proven monsters chasing him, so don’t be surprised if he’s clear off the far turn and putting a big, big scare to everyone behind; theft is clearly on the agenda.
#5 Shackleford (12-1): Loved his chances in the Derby and he got the dream trip of all time, settling nicely on the lead through pedestrian splits, but when push came to shove he came up completely empty in the final furlong, so you have to wonder just how far he wants to run. Should sit just off the early pace and try to win it on the turn, but again you’ve got that distance thing nagging at you; mixed feelings, though the price will be right again.
#6 Sway Away (15-1): Talented runner just missed getting into the Derby due to insufficient earnings, so he now gets on the train at the second stop in Baltimore. Made an impressive, albeit premature, middle move in the GI Arkansas Derby and paid the price when he tired late while running into trouble and being rank during the run. Gomez gets aboard today, and you can bet that he’ll be much more patient in a race that should have a very sharp early pace; gets the call to pull the upset.
#7 Midnight Interlude (15-1): Finished nowhere in the Derby after gutting out a win in the GI Santa Anita Derby, a race that seems to be exposed as a fraud with each passing day. Forges on to Baltimore for no apparent reason and has reportedly look very, very suspect in his training this week; easy toss.
#8 Dance City (12-1): Big run to finish third while troubled late in the Arkansas Derby in what was his first stakes start, so there’s no doubt tons of talent in this corner. Pletcher runner might get a tricky trip here as he’s likely to be chasing three-deep into a hot pace, and when you’re running 1 3/16 miles, that’s not such an enticing scenario. All reports say that he’s thrived this week at Pimlico and seems to be coming up to the race of his life, but he’s really going to have to earn it with the trip he’ll pull; thinking a minor award is his ceiling.
#9 Mucho Macho Man (6-1): Tough-as-nails runner ran a biggie in the Derby to finish third and he was gaining on Nehro late as well, so there’s little doubt he’s in peak form, and all his travels say he doesn’t need to take his track with him. And don’t forget, the Derby was also his first race in six weeks off the GII La. Derby, where he threw a shoe early, yet was still running on late. Should sit a dream trip behind the speed and likely get first run on the closers, and that would mean that he’ll be in an enviable spot turning for home; won’t fault anyone who thinks this is the horse to beat.
#10 Dialed In (9-2): Tepid Derby favorite didn’t do much running and basically passed some tired runners in the lane to finish a non-threatening eighth. Sure, we’ve heard about how fast he came home that last half-mile, but don’t forget, the Derby was basically a turf race, i.e. slow early and fast late, so he was supposed to come home strongly. Should get much better splits today, but the feeling is that he’s a much, much better one-turn horse than he is a two-turn horse; just like in the Derby, he’s a confident toss.
#11 Animal Kingdom (2-1): Upset Derby winner entered the fray as a turf/synthetic specialist but clearly relished the dirt at CD with a powerful stretch run to win comfortably and etch his name in the record books. He was no doubt awesome that day, but there are a few things to remember: first, he worked beautifully over the track the week before to tip his hand to a liking for the course, and second, the Derby was a run like the turf/synthetic races that he’s accustomed to. Today he figures to be anywhere from six to eight lengths farther behind than he was at CD, and that means he’ll have a much different trip in here, so at 2-1 with some questions attached, he’ll be an underlay, though there’s little doubt he’ll have to be dealt with; major player.
#12 Isn’t He Perfect (30-1): New York runner has finished midpack in his last two stakes starts and that doesn’t really enhance his chances in this tough middle jewel of the Triple Crown. He seems tactical enough to sit midpack, but that’s about all the positives he’s got going for him; looms the longest of the longshots.
#13 Concealed Identity (30-1): Local winner of the Tesio will try to do his Maryland connections proud, but he drew poorly and wants to be near the front, so that’s not going to help his chances today. Should break running and sit a wide trip into the first turn and hopefully move up on the backside, but it’s hard to envision him threatening when the real running begins; midpack finish appears to be his ceiling.
#14 Mr. Commons (20-1): Shirreffs runner ran well to finish third in the Santa Anita Derby from a stalking range, and he’s young, lightly raced and in expert hands, so he might have another forward move in him today. Took the worst of it at the draw, so he could be wide on the turn, but if he’s allowed to settle on the backside and find his rhythm, then maybe he can put a scare into them on the far turn; not at the top of the list but stranger things have happened.
#6 Sway Away
#9 Mucho Macho Man
#11 Animal Kingdom