Pimlico: The GI, $1 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles
#1 Orb: Kentucky Derby hero made it five in a row in Louisville when he sat off a suicidal pace in the slop, rallied wide and rolled home as tons the best and will look to take the next step towards racing immortality in Baltimore. Son of Malibu Moon relished the 45 1/5 half-mile he got at Churchill Downs, but he showed in his GI Florida Derby win at Gulfstream Park in March that he can be placed anywhere and still kick in late, so the splits seem of no concern this weekend. If you’re looking for a chink in the armor, there are a few; first and foremost is his price, as he’ll be in the 2-5 range, and while he’s the most likely winner, he’s not that imposing, as he’s not a ton faster than most of his rivals. Second, he’s also run lifetime bests in five races in a row, so you just wonder, after wheeling back in 14 days off such a huge run, is there some regression in the cards? Shug has been raving about his physical appearance since the Derby, and that work five days ago at Belmont was a real beauty, but as a gambler you’re always supposed to try and beat underlays; keying underneath.
#2 Goldencents: West Coast hotshot didn’t fire in the Derby and was wrapped up late en route to a 17th-place finish, where he was beaten almost 50 lengths, so he better regroup in a hurry if he wants to threaten here. Sure, we all know he’s not as bad as that, but it sure is asking a lot to rebound off such a terrible run on just 14 days rest. Son of Into Mischief also drew poorly and could project as the inisde speed, which is no bargain, or he could be the one to chase Titletown Five early and try to hold off the closers late, which also isn’t very appealing. It’s nice to see O’Neill wheel right back off such a poor run, and that GI Santa Anita Derby win was fast enough to win here, but you just wonder if he’s entering this the right way, at a distance that might be beyond his scope even if he was in raging form; tossing completely.
#3 Titletown Five: The first of three from Lukas knows one way to run, and that’s fast early, so expect a send mission on this son of Tiznow, with the hopes of taking them as far as he can on the engine. His lone two-turn run was a dismal ninth in the GII Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March, and that fourth in the GIII Derby Trial at Churchill last month isn’t scaring anyone here either, so he needs a lifetime best just to be in the exotics mix. Speedster won’t have things easy up front and will have to fend off some nice ones early, then brace for the big horse late, which doesn’t sound like much fun; easy toss.
#4 Departing: The second of a trio of newcomers owns a ton of talent and enters with a sturdy 4-for-5 record for Stall, who expertly guided Blame to a BC Classic win a few years back, so you know he knows how to campaign a good horse. Son of War Front looked great beating no one in the GIII Illinois Derby at Hawthorne in April, and while the figure he earned that day was nothing special, he was visually impressive while racing wide the whole way yet still powering off late. Versatile gelding can be placed anywhere, goes second-time Lasix and should be able to get first run on Orb, which could put him in an enviable spot in deep stretch; gets the call to spoil the party.
#5 Mylute: Converted stretch-runner passed a bunch of tired rivals in the Derby to be a very non-threatening fifth and remains a real question mark at an underlaid price with Napravnik aboard. Sire Midnight Lute has been all the rage but never won a two-turn race, so you wonder if this trip, even though it’s shorter than the Derby, is going to prove to be his calling card. Fans will note that since they decided to take him back in his last two starts (he was second, beaten a nose in the La. Derby), he’s run his two best races, so maybe he can improve again, but the gut says he’s probably going to go the other way; playing against.
#6 Oxbow: Lukas’ second ran a real biggie in the Derby as he made a sharp middle-move into the ridiculous pace and came unglued only in deep stretch en route to a sixth-place finish that saw him finish 9 ¾ lengths behind Orb. After a winter and spring of terrible draws (he was inside in the Derby and in the 10-hole in his three prior starts), this son of Awesome Again drew a perfect attack post for his tactical style, which means he’s going to likely be sitting in the catbird’s seat into the far turn, while ahead of some of his key rivals to boot. There’s something to be said for a horse that fires every time, and he’ll be a big price on the board, so with a nice draw, you get the feeling he’s about ready to show us what he’s really all about; look out.
#7 Will Take Charge: The last of the Lukas trio was forgotten about at 36-1 in the Derby but was running stride-for-stride with Orb entering the far turn before Verrazano stopped abruptly and cost this colt all chance. He limped home eighth, and while it’s impossible to predict where he would finish, there’s no doubt it would have been a heck of a lot closer than the 12 ¼ lengths he was beaten. There are other plusses here, too, as the Derby was his first start since winning Oaklawn Park’s Rebel March 16, which means that while many of these might be set to take a step back, this son of Unbridled’s Song could be ready to move forward. Stretch-runner showed his class when he beat Oxbow in the Rebel and seems poised to outrun his odds again here; expecting a big run.
#8 Govenor Charlie: Lightly raced Baffert runner skipped the Derby after developing a minor injury leading up to the race but was deemed good to go for the second leg of the Triple Crown after a pair of outrageously fast drills at CD. GIII Sunland Derby winner ran off by five that day to announce his presence on the national scene and is obviously in expert hands, but his pace-pressing style might not work too well in this speedy field. Son of Midnight Lute seemingly has a world of talent, but it’s also hard to believe that, after skipping the Derby two weeks ago, he’s primed to run the race of his life, which is exactly what he’ll need here; not seeing it.
#9 Itsmyluckyday: Son of Lawyer Ron was a legitimate win threat in the Derby after running a solid second to Orb in the Florida Derby but didn’t raise a hoof en route to a 15th-place finish. It’s nice to see the normally patient Plesa wheel right back, and his win in the GIII Holy Bull at GP in January was in track record time, so you know he can run fast, which is a big deal in what looks like a relatively slow bunch of 3yos. Of course, he’s got to rebound from what was by far the worst race of his life, while doing it from a tricky draw and facing a potentially dicey pace scenario, so he’s got his work cut out for him. The good news is the price will be right if you still believe, and that work six days ago at Monmouth Park was sharp, so just maybe he can get back on the beam; not impossible.
#7 Will Take Charge