Pimlico: The Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles
#1 Dynamic Impact: Rapidly improving son of Tiznow exits a fast win in the GIII Illinois Derby at Hawthorne but certainly tests the big boys today in his first GI assignment. Casse charge has come to hand in his last two, which includes an MSW win at Oaklawn Park, and it’s nice to know that he doesn’t mind a fight, as both wins were by a neck and a nose, respectively. If there’s a rub about his last win, it would be that he was all-out to beat heavy odds-on favorite Midnight Hawk, who is a second tier 3-year-old that didn’t even run in the Kentucky Derby, even though he had the points to do so, so you’re allowed to ask just what he beat that day. Tactical sort should be in the first flight and tracking what figures to beat hot and contested pace, and from there it’s simply a matter of whether he’s good enough or not; not impossible for part.
#2 General a Rod: One of three Derby winners to forge on, this colt by Roman Ruler basically passed a few tired ones late to finish a non-threatening 11th at big odds at Churchill Downs, and he heads to Baltimore still looking for his first graded stakes win. Versatile runner is comfortable both on and just off the pace and he’s likely to side with the latter today for Maker, who has enjoyed another stellar season but has yet to saddle a winner in a race like this. On the face of it, his form is solid, but it’s also worth noting that he made all his waves over the speed-favoring track at Gulfstream Park and hasn’t really run fast anywhere else, which means it’s a bit unlikely he can break through here. Coming back on two weeks’ rest is also a concern, especially after the first sound defeat of his life, so it’s best to make him prove it before backing; playing against.
#3 California Chrome: Rousing Derby winner simply overwhelmed the field and won as he pleased with something left in reserve as well, so there’s no doubt he’s every bit of odds-on today. Son of Lucky Pulpit has now won five straight by open lengths and seems to fit any pace scenario, but there’s no doubt things will be a lot faster up front today, unlike the free pass he got stalking a pedestrian pace in the Derby. And don’t forget, as visually impressive as he was in Louisville, the Derby was painfully slow on the clock; in fact, you have to go back 40 years to find a race run more slowly over a track labeled “fast.” It’s also worth noting how outspoken Sherman has been about running back on two weeks’ rest, and a story did break Thursday morning that he was seen coughing coming off the track due to a throat ulcer, though it’s something he’s apparently been dealing with on and off all winter and spring. On paper he’s a legitimate 3-5 against a very weak group like this, but with a few bad vibes, a much hotter pace, especially from those to his outside, and the possibility that just maybe he’s tailing off in form, let’s look for one better today; second-best.
#4 Ring Weekend: Speedy GII Tampa Bay Derby winner passed on the Derby with a fever but was deemed good to go here for Motion after a sharp 1:13 bullet 6F drill at Fair Hill May 10. Well-bred Tapit colt simply aired in Tampa by running his rivals off their feet but then broke slow and was rank when a distant second in the Calder Derby in his last start April 5, so you have to think he’s on a send mission today. If you want to view him solely on the Tampa run, then he’s got his merits, but that win was so far removed from anything else he’s done that you have to think it might have been him liking that quirky track, as opposed to a horse who is really getting good at the right time. If he is allowed to set his own measured pace Saturday there’s a bit of appeal, but on paper that’s extremely unlikely; pop and stop time.
#5 Bayern: Tricky read had Derby designs for Baffert after two romps to start his career but then was beat a half-length by fellow rival Ride On Curlin in the GI Arkansas Derby at OP and was forced to alter paths and head to the GIII Derby Trial at CD, where he was all-out to win, only to be disqualified and placed second for bumping during the stretch. Speedy son of Offlee Wild is yet another who wants to mix it up early, and as impressive as he was winning his first two, he has no doubt struggled in his two stakes starts and didn’t make a lot of friends when he was life and death to beat a very weak field at odds-on in the Trial. The blinkers come off today, but all reports are that he’s still going early, which only adds more fuel to what is already a mighty hot fire up front, so until he shows he can settle a bit and pass runners in the stretch, there’s really no reason to get interested; not seeing it.
#6 Ria Antonia: The lone filly in the field will try to emulate Rachel Alexandra and win this race over the boys, but the issue is that she’s barely faster than Rachael Ray, which makes her a mighty dicey proposition, no matter how modest this field might be. New trainer Amoss takes the blinkers off this daughter of Rockport Harbor, and if you’re looking for positives, at least you can point to her stalking/closing style, which ensures a good trip from midpack in this speedy field. Longshot came to fame when she was disqualified into the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year at Santa Anita, but she’s been drubbed pretty badly in 2-of-3 starts this year, including a sixth-place finish in the GI Kentucky Oaks at CD in her last start, which was just 15 days ago, so not only is she overmatched here, but her current form is in question, too. Respect this barn and the magic it often has, but anything more than splitting the field would be a real shocker; easy toss.
#7 Kid Cruz: The buzz horse is getting a lot of attention this week for a few reasons, first and foremost because of his closing style, as we’ve already mentioned how fast and contested the pace should be, but also because he’s the only horse with a race—and a win—over the track, having done so in the Federico Tesio in his last start April 19. Lemon Drop Kid colt has proven to be a mighty sharp 50k claim for Rice, and go back and watch his Private Terms win two-back, when he closed from probably 25 lengths back to win for fun, and it’s easy to see why he could have a big say in the stretch today. Of course, he’s making his graded stakes debut here and spots a ton of stakes experience to his rivals, not to mention that he’s never run remotely fast enough to threaten in a race like this, let alone win it. But the old adage says “pace makes the race,” and when that’s the case, horses are allowed to overcome their drawbacks and outperform their abilities, so the thinking here is that he makes his presence felt in the lane; expecting a big run.
#8 Social Inclusion: Freakishly talented son of Pioneerof The Nile was third when last seen in the GI Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 5, but it was about as good of a non-winning effort as you’ll ever see, as he broke slow, dueled while wide, took over in hand off the far turn, then relented late on an outside closers track, all in just his third career start and just six weeks removed from his career debut. That effort really answered his critics who were a bit hesitant off two romping wins over the speed-favoring GP track to start his career for Azpurua, and you have to think it was a blessing that he didn’t make the Derby, as he now gets the big horse off two weeks rest from a favorable attack post as well. But there’s plenty of cause for concern too, since he missed a prep at GP May 3 with a minor foot injury and shows only one work since April 28, though that was a bullet 47-flat move over the track Monday morning, which at least helps alleviate some concern. So while the foot may be a guessing game, there’s no denying his talent, which is every bit as good as the Derby winner’s, so at a nice price, with a nice draw and the ability to attend the pace from the outside and break this race open off the far turn, there’s a lot to like in this corner; upset special.
#9 Pablo Del Monte: Yet another horse who wants to flash speed and arguably the fastest horse (early) in the race, so expect to see this son of Giant’s Causeway go out winging for Ward. The weird thing is that all Derby Week long, while he was on the outside looking in at the race, his connections said they wanted to run, but when he scratched into the race, they scratched out of the race, so it’s tough to get a gauge on just where this colt stands. It’s also a real stretch to think he can run as well on dirt, as both career wins came over the Polytrack at Keeneland and he was a fine third in the GI Blue Grass there in his last start April 12, plus he’s never been within 3 ½ lengths of the winner in two dirt starts. His pedigree says this trip and surface should not be hindrances, but until he proves it, there’s no point in backing; know him early.
#10 Ride On Curlin: Beautifully bred son of Curlin was a much-ballyhooed seventh in the Derby, when Borel took him from the 18-post to the rail in a matter of strides and things only got worse from there, as he encountered a ton of trouble in the last quarter mile. And apparently that was not the spot Gowan wanted to be in, hence the switch to Rosario today, but if he’s not going inside then he’ll be quite wide early and often today, so there’s certainly some trepidation here. It’s also worth mentioning that, while he passed a bunch of tired horses late in the Derby, this is also a horse that has lost ground in the stretch in all four of his other two-turn routes, so don’t mistake him for some kind of stretch-running dynamo just because of last time. The rainy forecast could move him up, as he was a fine third in the GII Rebel at OP three-back, not to mention that he did run well when second in the Arkansas Derby there two-back, but you’re going to have to take an underlaid price on a horse that really is a lot more reputation than substance at this point; using underneath, if at all.
#8 Social Inclusion
#3 California Chrome
#7 Kid Cruz
#10 Ride On Curlin
Featured photo courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club