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Preakness 2014 Preview

A look at tomorrow evening's running of the Preakness. Not that I'll get to see it live, because I have all the weddings to attend in Louisville tomorrow (9:30 AM, 6:30 PM). The PM one butts heads with the Preakness' post time. Hopefully, I come back to good news of the California Chrome winning and/or me winning money varieties.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

# Horse, Jockey (past winners), Trainer (past winners), Odds

1 Dynamic Impact, Miguel Mena, Mark Casse, 12-1

Good:  Has a two race winning streak.  Bred to like the distance, since Tiznow won the Breeders' Cup Classic (1/16 mile longer than this) in 2000 and 2001.  His granddad, Smart Strike, also sired the 2007 winner, Curlin.  Seems to have turned a corner this year, as he's 2/3 with 1 second place finish so far this year.

Bad:  The Illinois Derby seems a weak race to me.  If the rail is a dead rail, that could compromise his chances.  He seems to be a poor man's California Chrome.  If he runs well, I have a hard time believing that California Chrome won't run well.  Also, the "new shooter" angle isn't exactly stellar in recent memory. Only Red Bullet (2000) and Bernardini (2006) ran "fresh" and won, and even they ran on 3 weeks rest.  He's coming off of 4 weeks rest.

Overall:  Might use underneath in exactas/trifectas with CC.  Not sure he can win though, since he does what CC does, but not as well (at least not yet).

2 General a Rod, Javier Castellano (2006), Mike Maker, 15-1

Good:  Has a recent effort and a troubled trip that was excusable in the Derby.  A bad trip helped horses like Lookin At Lucky and Oxbow win their Preaknesses.  Apart from his Derby misfire that had a valid excuse, he's never missed the board.  Has also proven he could pass if he had to if you dig back to his 2013-early 2014 form.

Bad:  His best races are ran on/near the lead.  He figures to be the inside speed with some pressure from Bayern, Ring Weekend, Social Inclusion, and Pablo Del Monte.  Even California Chrome runs similar to his style.  Not sure he can last the trip, as his best efforts are in long 1-turn races.  Game in defeat, but this is a big ask.

Overall:  If he creeps to 18-1 or above, maybe worth a small win bet or in exactas with #1 and #3.  Not a top pick.

3 California Chrome, Victor Espinoza (2002), Art Sherman, 3-5

Good:  He won the Derby.  Obviously, he's not bad.  The parallels to I'll Have Another are striking.  Only difference being, he won't have another horse suck money away from him to keep him from favoritism.  Though he won by just 1.75 lengths, he could have won by about 3-4 if he rode out to the wire.  Hard to go against him now, even without the whole "hope for Triple Crown" thing.

Bad:  Orb looked strong last year before a misfire.  I think CC is more versatile, though.  His value won't be great to win, as he is a near certainty to be even-money or lower.  Most of the top horses ducked him in here.  I'd be concerned about the Belmont, because that is where horses are found out more.  Anyone can lose on their day. He's not immune to that, either.

Overall:  Again, the top pick, not that that takes much conviction to pick a favorite.  He could lose, and I won't bet him to win.  But Big Brown was an even shorter favorite and that led to my best day ever at the track in 2008.  Who knows?  I hope he makes the Belmont interesting.

4 Ring Weekend, Alan Garcia, Graham Motion, 20-1

Good:  Well bred for the distance.  Runs his best races on fast tracks.  On average, when Graham Motion and Alan Garcia team up on a horse, the ROI is almost doubled at $3.96 for a $2 win bet since 2013.  He's a very logical alternative to California Chrome.

Bad:  Best starts are in 1 1/16 mile races where he had clean trips.  Not a guarantee to get a nice trip with several others with similar running styles in here.  Also hasn't replicated his Tampa Bay Derby effort before or since then. The form of the Tampa Bay Derby hasn't exactly glowed like it did in 2007 when it produced the Derby and Haskell winners.

Overall:  Probably my second choice behind California Chrome and my win play for the value.  While I don't think he's good enough to win, he could pull a Macho Again and run a clear second in here.

5 Bayern, Rosie Napravnik, Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010), 10-1

Good:  At one point, he was regarded as one of Baffert's Derby contenders.  His talent helped to carry him to a solid win in his allowance victory at Santa Anita.  His Arkansas Derby win effort was validated in finishing first (albeit disqualified from that win) in the Derby Trial and Danza's third place finish in the Kentucky Derby.  His best effort gives him a solid chance.

Bad:  When challenged on the lead at Oaklawn, he faltered late.  Considering the presence of Pablo Del Monte in this race, he won't get an easy lead if it goes to plan.  I am also not convinced he can pass rivals.  Though it is encouraging that he's removing the blinkers.  He won by 15 once without them; then again, his loss in Arkansas didn't see him wear them, either.

Overall:  If he can rate, he's dangerous and can give CC everything he can handle.  If he pulls on the bridle and is on the engine, he's likely toast along with 'Pablo,' and will wilt.  I like him if he's 12-1 or higher.  Any lower than that merits too much risk for me.  My fourth/fifth choice to win.  More likely, fifth choice.

6 Ria Antonia, Calvin Borel (2009), Tom Amoss, 30-1

Good:  Calvin won this race on a filly 5 years ago.  Granted, Ria Antonia is no Rachel Alexandra.  She did manage to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on a big stage, though.  She likely would have ran in the Derby had the point system not been implemented.  Figures to take advantage of a meltdown if Bayern and Pablo decide to burn early.

Bad:  She technically only has won of her own doing once, as the Breeders' Cup victory was by disqualification (and not even an unanimous decision at that).  Seemed overmatched, even for the minor awards, in the Oaks.  Nothing makes me think that she'll magically find her stride at Pimlico against the boys.  The form of her Breeders' Cup cohorts hasn't exactly held up well, either.

Overall:  She's worth using in trifectas/superfectas/super high fives in the 3-5 slots, as anyone can get top 3 finishes.  I don't think that she can do it in the Preakness.  If she does, so be it.  But I doubt that.

7 Kid Cruz, Julian Pimentel, Linda Rice, 20-1

Good:  Tesio winners tend to fare well in this race since they're both ran at Pimlico, after all.  Deputed Testamony won both races, and several have acquired placings in the race (Magic Weisner comes to mind) off of it.  He most assuredly will close if the pace is fast.  I usually like horses like this to get placings.  That could happen.

Bad:  It's a big ask for him to win the Preakness in his first graded stakes effort.  I'm not sure his class holds up against some of these horses as well.  He may get "wise guy" money as the third-fourth choice in here, though that would still offer double-digit odds.

Overall:  My third pick in the race.  I'm not entirely sure the pace will meltdown in here.  Even if it does, can he outkick the likes of California Chrome and Ride on Curlin in the stretch?

8 Social Inclusion, Luis Contreras, Manuel Azpurua, 5-1

Good:  Has the talent of a type like Bayern.  Bernardini looked similar headed into the Preakness in his year, and spring-boarded that into a championship at the end of the season.  Figures to get a clean trip from the outside.  Has proven he can run well in distance races.

Bad:  Wicked Strong could have done a little more than he did with his trip in the Derby, as it wasn't dissimilar from California Chrome's, save for being wider around the track.  That doesn't flatter Social Inclusion.  Also, if he was good enough to be in the Derby, he'd have been second in the Wood.  Think he'll be too short to use with California Chrome and is likely to be burned by Pablo and possibly Bayern/a Rod/Ring Weekend in the pace duel that could happen.

Overall:  I don't like his chances.  He's a toss for me, though I won't talk you out of him if you like him.  It's hard to bet someone at 7-1 odds or less to beat a proven classic winner.

9 Pablo Del Monte, Jeffrey Sanchez, Wesley Ward, 20-1

Good:  Was resilient in his third place Blue Grass effort, as horses were "jumping in at the quarter pole" to win most races that day at Keeneland.  He managed to last as speed to finish third.  Could have ran in the Derby if he wanted since Hoppertunity scratched, though the 20 post was a deterrent.  He's the fastest of the speed; his mom has the world record for 4.5 furlongs on the main track.

Bad:  He's not alone as speed in here.  His three defeats occurred when someone out-sprinted him to the lead on turf/dirt.  His synthetic form flatters him, whereas his other surfaces don't flatter him at all.  I am skeptical of his chances, unless they let him walk a la Oxbow or Shackleford on the front end.

Overall:  I don't think 1 3/16 miles is within his scope.  He's better on synthetics, and this is a big ask for a first win on dirt.  At least Churchill dirt helps along turf/synthetic horses.  I'm not sure that I can say the same thing about Pimlico dirt.  I'll pass.

10 Ride On Curlin, Joel Rosario, William Gowan, 10-1

Good:  He is game and consistent, with 8 top 3 finishes in 10 starts.  Horses that ran in the Derby (or Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks) have won all but 2 Preaknesses since 1985.  He fits the profile there.  His Derby trip was brutal, as Calvin darted to the rail comically early and he also got stopped badly in the stretch before going wide a la Swain in the '98 Breeders' Cup Classic to pass tiring horses late.  Joel Rosario ought to give him a more sensible ride.

Bad:  Then again, Joel in 2014 is not Joel in 2013.  Last year, he could have ridden Turfway Park horses home in graded stakes on his form.  It was like Calvin Borel on Derby Week in 2009.  You couldn't stop him.  Now Joel seems to stop himself in big moments.  Also, Ride on Curlin could still run in a two-other-than allowance race. Which suggests he may not like to necessarily win in his best efforts.  It's very possible that he could be over-bet since everyone and their third cousin twice removed knows about his terribad trip in the Derby.

Overall:  My fourth selection in here, with reservations.  If he's in the 12-1 or above range, maybe even my third choice.  If good Joel shows up and his ride/trip are reasonable, he can run well.  If not, it'll be a long day.  We'll see.

My order of preference:  3-4-7-10-5-1-2-6-8-9

Best of luck to all!