Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he analyzed every official Derby points race and will preview the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.
Pimlico: The Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles
#1 Multiplier (30-1): Rapidly improving son of The Factor was up in time to win the GIII Illinois Derby at Hawthorne last month over Hedge Fund, who is entered earlier on the card in R11, so you can get a bit better gauge on the quality of that race by tabbing what that colt does. Stalker is eligible to sit a nice trip off plenty of speed in here, and Walsh isn’t one to toss them where they can’t compete, so while this is obviously a seismic step up in class, it’s not like he’s totally outgunned on paper, he’s obviously getting good, and the race flow will suit his style too; could add value underneath in the exotics.
#2 Cloud Computing (12-1): One of the bigger wiseguy horses of the spring has flashed plenty of talent in three starts for Brown but also has done nothing remotely close to suggest he can win a race like this, as both his GIII Gotham second and GII Wood Memorial third don’t look too good in recent light after the Kentucky Derby, where both winners of those two were up the track and then some. The other worry is that you’ll have to take an underlaid price on a son of Maclean’s Music that is still eligible for an N1X and really isn’t bred (at least on top) to relish this trip, so while he’s likely going to win something decent at some point, it’s highly unlikely it will be the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown; just not buying into the hype.
#3 Hence (20-1): Derby also-ran got a lot of publicity heading into the race off his GIII Sunland Derby win but spun his wheels when 11th, and while the track and his deep-closing style didn’t do him any favors, it’s time to start realizing that the win in New Mexico was more the exception than the rule, as he’s done nothing remotely close before or since to back it up. The first of two for Asmussen will once again lag back and look to make a run, and the pace could be very hot, which will flatter his style, but there’s just nothing here to suggest he’s supposed to give this kind a scare; not seeing it.
#4 Always Dreaming (4-5): Derby hero made it four in a row with a convincing win in Louisville after getting all the best of it after running on the inside, which was clearly the best part of the track all day; however, that being said, he did press hot splits and his pace rival, State of Honor, did finish 19th, so you can’t just dismiss the run simply as a bias-aided score. Still, there’s some major trepidation moving forward for this son of Bodemeister, as his aforementioned overmatched whipping boy (whom he also beat in the GI Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park) isn’t in here, and, most importantly, he’s drawn inside his biggest rival Classic Empire, who had a nightmare trip in the Derby and is reportedly pressing the issue the entire way around today. And that’s before we even mention that Pletcher rarely runs a horse in the Preakness, never runs them back on two weeks’, and his other Derby winner, Super Saver, who also won roses on a wet track, was nowhere to be found in Baltimore. So do you really want to take 3-5 on a horse that has a lot of questions to answer with little to no margin for error? Willing to make him prove it at false odds.
#5 Classic Empire (3-1): Reigning 2yo champion hasn’t had a lot of luck this year, as he’s been hurt, lost training time, and then had the aforementioned brutal trip in the Derby, when he was whacked sideways and lost all chance at the start, was forced much further back than they wanted, and had to rally extremely wide over an inside-favoring track, yet still ran on gallantly for 4th. Well, things appear to be a lot different on the face of it today, as he’s drawn to the immediate outside of his main rival and Casse has indicated they’ll be giving nothing away early and putting this son of Pioneerof the Nile into the race. Plus, he’s actually a fresh horse, in that he’s really only had two races this year, since he didn’t run an inch in the GIII Holy Bull at GP and returned as a short horse when he won the GI Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in April. So, while he does have 8 3/4 lengths to make up on ‘Dreaming, there are a lot of reasons to think it’s easily doable today, and the price is certainly one of them; love his chances in here.
#6 Gunnevera (15-1): Deep, deep closer had no real chance in the Derby and trudged home 7th, some 13 1/4 lengths behind the winner, so obviously he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to turn the tables. There are a few reasons for optimism, though, most of which start and end with the pace, which should be honest and potentially contested, and this son of Dialed In showed in his GII Fountain of Youth win at GP for Sano that he knows what to do when things get too heated up front. So while he still has to turn the tables on ‘Dreaming, who also beat him in the Florida Derby, there’s a chance he gets the right race flow to do it; expecting a big run.
#7 Term of Art (30-1): Santa Anita invader hasn’t done much running out west, with a distant 3rd-place finish in their Derby the highlight of his year for O’Neill. The blinkers go on this son of Tiznow, so maybe he’ll be a bit closer early, though he’s not even in the exotics mix with anything he’s done up to this point; easy toss.
#8 Senior Investment (30-1): Big longshot closed from the clouds to get up in the GIII Lexington at Keeneland in a race that fell apart late, so he’s really got his work cut out for him if he wants to make a dent against the big guns in here. Son of Discreetly Mine is on the improve for McPeek, and is another that will like the expected hot and contested pace, but it’s tough to think he can pass enough to make a dent; mid-pack finish seems likely.
#9 Lookin At Lee (10-1): Derby runner-up is another that rode the rail to a big run as he didn’t move off the fence until deep stretch, when his run flattened out, which only gives more credence to the fact thata the inside was the place to be. The second for Asmussen is much more fancied, and remember that dad Lookin At Lucky won this race a few years back, so there’s reason to believe he, too, going to take to the local surface. But there’s also reason to believe that he regresses in a big way, as he clearly got all the best of it in the Derby, but now shortens up a tad and won’t have the racetrack to help his deep closing run; underneath, if at all.
#10 Conquest Mo Money (15-1): Extremely talented and versatile colt almost pulled the shocker in the Arkansas Derby, when he dueled on the lead and was beaten only a half-length by ‘Empire, in what was clearly a breakthrough run for Hernandez. And the fact he enters fresh, too, after passing the Derby, is a positive as well, though it must be noted that the last two horses to win the Preakness without running in Louisville were named Bernardini and Rachel Alexandra, so clearly you need to be a superstar to get the job done. Improving son of Uncle Mo has his work cut out for him and likely can’t win this, but he’s good enough to let them know he’s in here, and with this outside draw, he’s also eligible to add a lot of fuel to the pace fire, which could aid the chances of the deep closers that need some heat up front to factor; know him early, not sure about late.
#5 Classic Empire
#4 Always Dreaming
#9 Lookin At Lee