We end this crazy Triple Crown season with Brian’s final race preview of the year. Despite an unpredictable schedule and way more races to handicap, Brian continued his masterful, detailed analysis, as he has for a decade. My deep and heartfelt thanks for all of his work, and I hope that he helped you cash a few tickets this year.
Pimlico: The GI, $1 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles
Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Preakness. Follow him on Twitter here.
#1 Excession (30-1): Deep closer is the first of three in here for Asmussen and will really have his work cut out for him, as he hasn’t been out since a shocking second at 82-1 to Nadal in the slop in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in March. A repeat, with some maturation, actually puts this son of Union Rags in the mix with these, but this layoff is tough to get past, not to mention his fast -rack form and figures are way behind that sloppy run; tough to tout.
#2 Mr. Big News (12-1): Fellow deep closer passed several in the Kentucky Derby and was a surprising third at big odds for Calhoun, though it’s worth noting that he got a dream pace scenario and actually flattened out late after getting into contention off the far turn. Giant’s Causeway colt also has the dreaded bounce to worry about, too, so while the pace figures to flatter him again, let’s make him prove that that Louisville run was no fluke; midpack finish may be his ceiling.
#3 Art Collector (5-2): Major player won Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) in July but sadly had to scratch out of the Derby a few days before the race with a minor foot injury, though those three works since show that he’s none the worse for wear for good guy Drury, who will have a lot rooting for him. Versatile son of Bernardini can be placed anywhere, which is key here, as there’s plenty of speed, and Derby winner Authentic wired in Louisville, so this one could be sitting in the ideal spot off the far turn. He’ll also be a bit better price, too, in a race where the (win) alternatives seem few and far between, which means he’s going to be a real handful in the lane; looks good.
#4 Swiss Skydiver (6-1): Talented filly disappointed with a dream trip in the Kentucky Oaks for McPeek, as she sat just off a hot pace and simply got outkicked, though one could argue that he bounced off her seismic Alabama (G1) score at Saratoga two back. Like ‘Art next door, this daughter of Daredevil is eligible to sit a nice trip, but the problem is that that dude already swatted her away easily when she was second to him in the Blue Grass, which isn’t a ringing endorsement for her chances here; not seeing it.
#5 Thousand Words (5-1): The first of two heavy hitters for Baffert was scratched in the paddock after flipping over in the Derby but was under 10-1 in the betting, so he was live off the wire job in Del Mar’s Shared Belief on August 1. Pioneerof the Nile runner doesn’t have to be on the lead, though that win last time was by far his best yet, so it’s also unlikely that they take that away from him here, and regardless, he wants to be involved in some way early, and, with a Derby-winning stablemate to his outside, and some salty pressers to his inside, off what had to be a traumatic experience in Louisville, it sure seems like a lot to ask; making him prove it.
#6 Jesus’ Team (30-1): Arguably the longest shot in the race has some decent enough form showing for D’Angelo and wasn’t disgraced when fourth to Authentic in Monmouth Park’s Haskell (G1) in July, but the meek third in Saratoga’s Jim Dandy (G2) won’t cut it here. If you’re a fan, he’ll be a big price and will be in the right spot off the far turn, but that’s where the positives end; easy toss.
#7 Ny Traffic (15-1): Pace-presser was a bit of a wiseguy in the Derby for Joseph but couldn’t deliver in a fading eighth, suggesting that the trip was a bit too far, so, if nothing else, this slight cutback won’t hurt. Son of Cross Traffic was a resurgent second in the Haskell and just a nose behind Authentic after dropping back, but the Derby dud might be a bit better of an indication of who he is at this level; know him early, unlikely late.
#8 Max Player (15-1): Stretch-runner was quietly a good fifth in the Derby in his first start for Asmussen after a solid campaign in NY for Rice, and with Lopez getting aboard ,he may be a bit closer early, which won’t hurt his chances. Honor Code colt isn’t likely this kind, as his lone claim to fame was a Withers (G3) win at Aqueduct in February, but he was (a distant) third to Tiz the Law in both the Belmont in June and Saratoga’s Travers (G1) in August, so he has some quality to him as well. But his real appeal comes in terms of the race flow, as he should get plenty of pace to rally into, so while a win may be out of reach, he could add some value underneath; along late for a share.
#9 Authentic (9-5): Derby hero had possible distance limitations heading to Louisville but ran huge, as he set a hot pace, had every chance to give it up when Tiz the Law came calling, yet re-broke late and was pulling away comfortably in a huge effort. Whether he can back it up is the question, and the pace has already been discussed, so sure, while this outside attack post won’t hurt, there’s little doubt that he has to earn it right back. Derby winners have had a lot of success in Baltimore in recent years, and he’s a legitimate favorite to add to the list, but the gut says he comes back to the pack a bit after chasing hard early; second-best.
#10 Pneumatic (20-1): Longshot was probably a “too much too soon” fourth in the Belmont but looked good easily beating ‘Jesus’ in good time in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Aug. 15 and is on the short list of potential upsetters with further improvement. Son of Uncle Mo is the third Asmussen here, but, unlike his two ‘mates, he’s got plenty of tactical speed to sit the right kind of trip off the speed, while getting first run on the closers, too. He showed in the Belmont that he’s not completely out of his element at the top level, and there’s no doubt that he added some seasoning and toughness after the win last time, which means that he’s got every right to make a dent here; not the worst stab in the world.
#11 Liveyourbeastlife (30-1): Stalker was a much-improved second in the Jim Dandy but will have to negotiate a wide draw, which won’t help this son of Ghostzapper get position entering the first turn. If he improves on his last, he’s in with an exotics chance, and Rodriguez knows what to do with a nice horse, but the thinking is he’s going backwards off that run, not forwards; no thanks.
#3 Art Collector
#8 Max Player