It's Preakness Day 2012! Get your Black-Eyed Susan and get ready to get your Preak on! The handicappers are back for this week's "Staff Picks" to give you their take on this year's second let of the Triple Crown. Enjoy the Preakness and good luck at the windows all day today.
Jared L. Christopher
The Preakness Stakes is the shortest race in the Triple Crown series. Early speed can mean victory for a horse like Bodemeister, especially when pace setters like Hansen are out of the field. Creative Cause ran a game race in the Derby and I fully expect him to be in the mix in the final furlong. Closers like Went the Day Well and I'll Have Another may run out of ground, especially if Baffert's big horse can slow the pace after shooting to an early lead a la Shackleford in the 2011 running.
A Bodemeister / Creative Cause exacta straight up and for coverage, a Bodemeister / Creative Cause with I'll Have Another/Went the Day Well rounding out the trifecta.
It is hard to believe that two weeks have already passed since the Kentucky Derby, and here it is Preakness Day. I don't know that I have quite gotten over my choice to key El Padrino instead of Dullahan on the First Saturday in May, but the Preakness gives each of us a shot at recouping some of what was lost, primarily because it usually isn't the wild, anything-can-happen kind of crapshoot that the Derby has become. As Matt pointed out in an earlier post this week, this race is often formful, and one would be unwise to leave out the post-time favorite in any exotic wager. Also, the pace scenario is usually the exact opposite of the Derby - where the first Saturday of May presents pace pressure, the third offers the par times or slower, and sets up for frontrunners and close stalkers. Let's take a look and see if these patterns will hold true in the 137th edition of the Preakness.
1-Tiger Walk What I Like: Colt enters the race off three straight graded stakes efforts, all of which saw him complete the super or trifecta. Trainer Correa is 34 percent shipping in and 20 percent when adding the blinkers for the first time. Four works lead him in, two of which were bullets. Third in early pace. What Worries Me: Nowhere else in the numbers. Best BRIS speed fig is 11 points shy of the par of 107, although last four efforts have all been marked by rising numbers. An 11-point pop would be a lot to ask, but I think the horse could be used in vertical exotics.
2-Teeth Of The Dog What I Like: Enters off a third place showing in the Wood memorial, but that could just as easily be listed on the other side of the coin, as others coming out of that race have underwelmed. Four works coming, the last of them rated sharp, and one has to note that horse has never been out of money in four starts and clearly appreciates a fast track. What Worries Me: Nine points off the par. Trainer Matz is still only winning 6 percent of his starters in graded stakes. 4th in BRIS Average Competitive Level, but not similarly ranked in other class metrics.
3-Pretension What I Like: I have always paid attention to horses that have had a win over the Pimlico track in the Preakness, and this horse is the only one in this year's field that has, and it was a non-graded stakes win, as well. Jockey Santiago, who is winning 22 percent of his mounts at Pimlico, was aboard for that ride, and has won two of six mounts for trainer Grove. I am interested by Grove's move to wheel back from Derby day and that win at Pimlico right into a G1. An indicator of fit-and-ready? Grove is 17 percent in graded stakes. What Worries Me: Another one that is nowhere in my numbers, and more than 10 points off the par. No works.
4-Zetterholm What I Like: One thing I have learned is never to discount a horse trained by anyone with the last name of Dutrow. Richard Dutrow (whose 10-year ban for rampant use of illegal drugs in his training practice is still pending, I guess?) sends this one forward off an angle I have come to trust with him: what I call the "flash-and-rise." Two races back, colt moved from 7th beaten 5 1/4 at the second call to win, and then found himself in a stakes. He flashed speed, and was promoted. In that non-graded event, he moved from 5th at the second call to win again. Again, he flashed, and again, Dutrow has moved him up the class ladder. Dutrow is 30 percent with winners in their next out, 29 percent shipping in, and 16 percent shipping in. Horse is 5th in late pace. Jockey Alvarado is 69 percent in-the-money when riding for Dutrow. What Worries Me: Lightly raced, and hasn't seen the kind of class he will see here. Thirteen points shy of the par.
5-Went The Day Well What I Like: Ran a best-ever BRIS fig of 105 when taking 4th in the Derby. This pace scenario should allow him to lay closer to the lead and be a factor at the end. Fourth in early, middle and late pace numbers. Also fourth in speed figure average, earnings per start, BRIS class plus speed. Fifth in class. Trainer Motion is 19 percent shipping and training for routes, and 16 percent in graded stakes. Jockey Velazquez is 20 percent wins and 65 percent in the money for Motion. What Worries Me: No works. Has run faster speed figs in each of his last four races. A bounce has to be coming along sometime.
6-Creative Cause What I Like: Numbers. Colt is represented in the top 3 of 10 of the 12 metrics my wife and I tabulate for graded stakes-level races. Chief among those in my mind: third in class plus speed, third in earnings per start, third in middle pace, and tops in late pace. Horse is 8-of-9 on a fast track, and has beaten both the Derby winner and second-place finisher in previous races. I fully expect him to run back to the BRIS speed fig of 105 he posted in the Derby and be involved in the finish of this race. What Worries Me: No works. Trainer Harrington is o-for6 shipping, is winning just 7 percent of his route races, and is 17 percent in graded stakes.
7-Bodemeister What I Like: His run in the Derby. It has to be one of the best losing efforts in the history of the race, and he might have proved his freakish greatness with that run. He is tops or second in 12-of-12 metrics. We all know he will be running on the front end and without a Trinniberg to press him along. Trainer Baffert is 30 percent shipping, 37 percent with a beaten favorite (!), and 22 percent in graded stakes. Jockey Smith is hitting at 43 percent for Baffert. Horse has only run under a 101 once, and that was in his first race. What Worries Me: His run in the Derby. Did that magnificent effort take something out of him? No works. I wish he had one to quell that fear that he might be letting down a little. Still, even if he does, I think this horse, at a minimum, hits the board. At a maximum, he wins by seven.
8-Daddy Nose Best What I Like: Draw a line through his Derby, as the traffic gods scowled at him that day. I believe if you liked him on Derby day, you should really like him here. Horse rounds out the top 5 in 10 of 12 of my numbers columns, and he is one of only two returning Derby horses that posted a work in the last two weeks. I don't know what we can take from a :53 second drill in the Churchill slop (25th of 25 that day....), but having any kind of work in-between, regardless of time, tell me that the horse is fit. Trainer Asmussen is 22 percent shipping in, and 16 percent in graded stakes. Horse may like a pedestrian pace, as he has won or showed in three races that went in par times. Horse may benefit from getting old rider, Leparoux back. What Worries Me: Horse gets back old rider, Leparoux. After the Frenchman's ride aboard Union Rags, I don't know that I am going to back him in a G1 until I see him win one. As a sustaining kind of runner, he will need to be within two lengths of the lead at the second call to have a chance. Since breaking his maiden, races where he hasn't had that condition have seen him finish no better than third.
9-I'll Have Another What I Like: He won the Derby, and therefore I am rooting for him. He has been first or second in every race but one, and he is third or better in 11 of 12 metrics, including tops in BRIS average competitive level, earnings per start, and class plus speed. Horse enters third-off-the-layoff, which, unbelievably, might be the top of his form cycle. Does he still have plenty in the tank? What Worries Me: He registered a BRIS speed fig of 108, a 10-point increase from his previous race, so I greatly fear a bounce. No works, either to quell that fear. His Derby win notwithstanding, trainer O'Neill is still only 8 percent winning in 169 graded stakes races.
10-Optimizer What I Like: He keeps coming back for more. He put in a middling work between the Derby and this one. What Worries Me: I feel like I have written about this horse a lot. As I recall, I made this horse my top selection way back in the Arkansas Derby, and I thought the Derby's pace might set up for his closing style. But I don't see the kind of pace he would need materializing here, and the numbers say there are better closers in the field than he. He is 11 points shy of the par, nowhere in my numbers, and trainer Lukas is hitting just 2 percent of 162 graded stakes races.
11-Cozzetti What I Like: Three solid works lead him in, the last being a bullet (:58 and 4 over five furlongs in the slop at Churchill is pretty impressive). Horse has completed the super or trifecta in each of his last three races. What Worries Me: Horse is thirteen points shy of par, is nowhere in my numbers. Horse has only won one race: his maiden-breaker.
There is always the question of how Derby horses will do when running back in two weeks, a rare occurrence for horses these days, but I feel like the class of this field enters from that race. I expect Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Creative Cause and Went The Day Well to run on the front-end. If the pace is honest, or slow, I think those four draw off and comprise the superfecta.
Top Selection: Creative Cause If Wet: Bodemeister
Alternates: Bodemeister, I'll Have Another
Wow, was I wrong in the Derby. I was right about torrid fractions, but wow, Bodemeister is a heckuva runner. And I really need to stop obsessing over a singular horse in the Derby. Serves me right. The only thing that kept me from losing my shirt was a $2 win bet on I'll Have Another that was a complete afterthought. Just pure luck.
But now I know that there is no way a closer catches Bodemeister, so I can safely throw all of them out. Since none of them are that special, I don't even have a second thought about it. So there goes Pretension (is a closer in graded races, probably because he's just not fast enough), Zetterholm (no way), Optimizer (couldn't catch Bode before, won't do it now). and Cozzetti (changed to a closer in graded company, is probably just not fast enough).
That leaves me with 7 horses that either want the lead or want to be near it. I see Bodemeister making the lead with Teeth of the Dog just off his hindquarter. Creative Cause and Went the Day Well will be tracking them closely. I'll Have Another wants to be outside of the traffic with Daddy Nose Best on his inside. Tiger Walk brings up the rear of the leaders with no shot.
If Bode keeps his fractions sane, he wins. If Mike Smith lets him get away from him like he did in the Derby, I think you then see the opportunity for IHA and Daddy Nose Best to seize the lead. But Bode does seem to naturally run with the "if you ain't first yer last" mentality.
But I honestly think that this shapes up nicely for a head to head run down the stretch between a tiring, but talented, Bodemeister and a hard charging I'll Have Another. If IHA can stay wide and clear of traffic I think he has a shot to catch him. If Daddy Nose Best can stay down inside the pack and wait for a hole, he's got a shot as well.
Place- I'll Have Another
Show- Daddy Nose Best
What I'm playing: I think I'll wheel a trifecta in this one with the three horses above and throwing in a couple of the longer shots on the board at post time in the hopes I hit one of them. I don't see much value in either Bode or IHA. I think both of them will go off at around 3/5. But honestly, I think the real payoffs will be in the Pick 3-4-5 on Saturday.
All Hail Kegasus!