Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Preakness Stakes

Pimlico: The GI, $1.5 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles

by Brian Nadeau

War Of Will and Tyler Gaffalione winning the Lecomte in January. Hodges Photography/Brit Benson

#1 War of Will (4-1): The much ballyhooed eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby (he was moved up to seventh after race winner Maximum Security was disqualified) sat a dream trip behind the speed in Louisville while tugging early, bulled his way out entering the far turn, then got whacked pretty good by the winner as they hit the bend and came up flat in the stretch while having dead aim the entire way, so what you think of his chances today are all in the eye of the beholder. Fans of this Casse-trained son of War Front will point to his two graded stakes wins at Fair Grounds this winter, all the trouble he encountered in the Derby, and the fact that the Preakness is almost always won by those who ran in Louisville, while detractors will chime in that he had the entire length of the stretch to make a dent yet came up empty and was going backwards at the end. The truth might lie somewhere in between, and the half-furlong cutback he gets today will help, but you’re going to get a tremendously underlaid price because of all the publicity, and the reality is that he’s really no faster than anyone else here, while having to negotiate the rail again; using underneath, if at all.



#2 Bourbon War (12-1): Stretch-runner didn’t get enough points to qualify for the Derby, so Hennig sat back and waited for the dust to settle in Louisville and chose this spot instead of the GII Peter Pan last week at Belmont Park, and judging by the modest field he meets today, and one that appears to have ample early speed, he made the right move. Runner-up to Derby third-place finisher Code of Honor (moved to second) in Gulfstream Park’s GII Fountain of Youth in March was a no-chance fourth in their GI Florida Derby when last seen in April, as Maximum Security walked on the lead, though this son of Tapit did run on late with interest to be fourth. The blinkers go on today, so expect a bit more tactical speed, and this ground-saving draw is perfect, not to mention that the price will be right and the Derby runners have plenty of knocks, so while he’s got to run better than ever, the thinking here is you’re getting all the best of it to find out if he can; upset special.

#3 Warrior’s Charge (12-1): The first of two from Cox is one of several in here who wants to motor early, as evidenced by his fast wire-to-wire win in an AOC at Oaklawn Park last month, along with his MSW win when he led every step of the way there two back. Son of Munnings is surely on the come, and there’s obviously talent here, but his pedigree for this trip is very suspect, and there’s plenty of pace to his outside, so while he’s one to know early, where he is late is a big guess; pop and stop seems likely.

Improbable training at Pimlico. Maryland Jockey Club photo

#4 Improbable (5-2): Tepid Derby favorite will likely be a bit more decisive a choice here, as Baffert looks to win his eighth Preakness, and this son of City Zip was fifth in Louisville (moved up to fourth), so you know those looking to get their money back will string along. Of course, it’s not like he did any running that day, and he was completely one-paced through the lane, even though he (somehow) had a dream trip just off the speed and never got involved in any of the trouble that engulfed several of the top finishers. And therein lies the rub, as you’re going to have to take a short price on a colt that hasn’t won a race all year, is highly suspect going this far, and really hasn’t improved much off the precocious form that saw him end the 2018 at 3-for-3; quite comfortable making him prove it on top.

#5 Owendale (10-1): The second from Cox unleased a devastating rally beating lesser in Keeneland’s GIII Lexington last month, and he gets a lot of bonus points, too, as he did it running to the short finish line and behind pedestrian splits, so you know he’s another that will like the prospected honest and contested pace he can lag off of today. Son of Into Mischief failed the acid test when a distant eighth to War of Will in FG’s GII Risen Star two back, but the run last time says that that might simply have been a bit of a blip on the radar, as opposed to a true indication of where he stands with some good 3-year-olds. The dreaded bounce could come into play here off such a breakthrough win, but the price, distance, and race flow make it worth the risk/reward, so you have to think he fires another big shot right back; huge chance.

#6 Market King (30-1): Huge longshot for Lukas was 11th of 14 in Keeneland’s GII Blue Grass when last seen and subsequently landed on the vet list (before being cleared the other day), so it’s pretty clear that this speedy son of Into Mischief rates as nothing more than a pace nuisance early before he packs it in on the backstretch; get home safely.­

Alwaysmining at Pimlico. Photo credit Jim McCue

#7 Alwaysmining (8-1): Streaking local runner has won six straight with ease while showing plenty of versatility and enters off an 11 1/2-length win in Laurel’s Frederico Tesio, though he steps way up and makes his graded stakes debut today. Stay Thirsty colt showed last time that he doesn’t need to be on the lead to deliver his best, but his natural high cruising speed and this perfect attack post means that he’s not letting anyone get away early today, so expect him to be pressing the issue and adding some fuel to the early fire. Rubley has done a great job here, and the time is right to see just what’s under the hood, and though there are no Ferraris gassing up today, the gut says that he still doesn’t have enough RPMs to get there; playing against.

#8 Signalman (30-1): Expected closer was a “someone had to be third” in the Blue Grass, when he surprisingly showed a lot more speed than usual and basically ran in place while finishing behind easy winner Vekoma, who was nowhere in the Derby, and the much-troubled Win Win Win, who is back again today after a meek 10th in Louisville. Son of General Quarters has far outrun his pedigree and purchase price (32k) and did improve off his seasonal debut seventh in the FOY, and now makes the often pivotal third start of his form cycle for McPeek. On paper he’s yet to run a race that would threaten these, but with a ton of pace in front of him, there’s reason to think he can outrun his odds; eligible to really spice up your exotics.

#9 Bodexpress (20-1): Speedy maiden had a ton of trouble in the Derby en-route to a 14th-place finish after chasing early, and he’s another that figures to get some love due to that trip and the fact he was second to Maximum Security in the Florida Derby. There is some merit to both, and that GP run was a sharp one, but this Bodemeister colt would be a longshot to break his maiden in this classic with a perfect set-up, which is nothing like he’ll get today; needs much softer to threaten.

#10 Everfast (50-1): The longest shot on the board almost blew up GP’s GII Holy Bull in February when a closing second at 128-1 for Romans, but he’s yet to run an inch in three subsequent graded stakes starts, so the only compelling story to this son of Take Charge Indy is whether he’s longer odds today than he was earlier this winter; easy toss.

#11 Laughing Fox (20-1): Deep closer from Asmussen earned an automatic berth today when he got up in time to win the Oaklawn Park Invitational last month, which built on a solid fourth-place finish behind Improbable (and Derby winner Country House) in their GI Arkansas Derby. Son of Union Rags is bred to love the trip, and he’s also going to appreciate all the pace that he’ll be lagging way off of, and note he was only a length behind ‘House in Hot Springs, so there’s a bit of talent here, too. The rise in class off that last win is significant, and he’s too slow on paper to get there, but if things fall apart in the lane, then he’s yet another who could take advantage; potential exotics bomber.

#12 Anothertwistafate (6-1): Dangerous son of Scat Daddy chased early in the Lexington before getting inhaled by Owendale and finishing second, though the enthusiasm is tempered a bit when you watch the replay and realize that he was passed by the winner on the far turn, so it’s not like he was nailed on the line. Tactical sort doesn’t need the lead, and the long run to the first turn means that he can set up shop just off the pace and (hopefully) avoid having any potential stretch starch zapped by what figure to be aggressive splits. There are plenty of negatives, though, especially at what will be an underlaid price with José Ortiz riding, and they are most notably the fact that all three of his wins have been on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, and they were won on the lead, and he’s getting neither the fake stuff or the front today; playing against.

#13 Win Win Win (15-1): Derby wiseguy got a lot of looks after an extremely troubled yet fast-closing second in the Blue Grass, then couldn’t make a dent in his attempt at roses, when he did pass a few but basically spun his wheels while 10th. Long-striding son of Hat Trick (Jpn) will get his pace today, and he wants to lay back and make a run late so this wide draw won’t hurt, as he looks to give local trainer Trombetta a reason to get excited in the lane. There will be several that give him a shot, based on his running style, but he’s also yet to win at two turns, so while he should pass some late, how many remains to be seen; minor award appears his ceiling.


#2 Bourbon War

#5 Owendale

#4 Improbable

#1 War of Will

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