Yep, it's 2014 Preakness Week! Which means it's time to "Get Our Preak On!" with Kegasus and the Infield Fest. Huh? Kegasus is no more? Nooooo! Well, hell, I guess we can talk about the race. How about talking about new shooters rolling into Pimlico this week? Good enough? Very well.
Below is a look into each of the non-Derby horses in this year's Preakness with a quick look at where my eye drifted in terms of their strengths and weaknesses heading to Pimlico.
Preakness Entries, Post Positions & Odds
Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome is the odds-on morning line favorite to win the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico this Saturday and will break from post position number three. (Post time: 6:18 p.m. Eastern; TV: NBC)
Dynamic Impact (12/1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Miguel Mena
Damsire: Smart Strike (Featherbed)
Notable Races: G3-Illinois Derby (1st)
It's hard not to like the upward trend in this colt's form the last two races and the fact that he likes to stalk the early speed, rating a length or two off the pace in the early stages. His victory in the Illinois Derby came over a very consistent colt in Midnight Hawk, even if the Baffert trainee has struggled to win versus graded company this spring.
The rail draw didn't do Dynamic Impact any favors with horses like California Chrome, General a Rod, Bayern, and Social Inclusion to his outside; he'll need to break well in order to establish his preferred stalking trip just off the leaders but, even if he gets out of the gate in good order, it's highly likely that he'll be flanked by California Chrome all the way around the track. That's probably going to be a tough way to win this race.
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rosie Napravnik
Sire: Offlee Wild
Damsire: Thunder Gulch
Notable Races: G3-Derby Trial (1st); G1-Arkansas Derby (3rd)
Trainer Bob Baffert elects to take the shades off of this colt for the Preakness in an effort to get Bayern to settle down a bit more in the early stages. This colt's run up on the lead in all four of his career starts, with the two middle starts (including the Arkansas Derby) coming without blinkers. What's that all mean? Heck if I know. I'm not sure taking the blinkers off is going to be the magic to propel him to the winner's circle on Saturday; it didn't work at Oaklawn against a field that didn't contain a colt as good as California Chrome.
On the plus side of the equation, Bayern can clearly put forth a quality race, even if we haven't witnessed a "Grade 1" kind of winning effort to this point in his career. With only four starts under his belt, there's potentially a lot of development in store for this colt. And, really, that's one of the most difficult factors to accurately assess with horses at this stage of their career: how much growing and improving do they have left? If Bayern can take that next big step forward (and he probably needs to do that very thing to win this race), he could find himself in the mix for win honors.
Ria Antonia (30/1)
Trainer: Tom Amoss
Jockey: Calvin Borel
Sire: Rockport Harbor
Damsire: Mr. Greeley (Beer Baroness)
Notable Races: G1-Kentucky Oaks (6th); G1-Santa Anita Oaks (2nd); G3-Rachel Alexandra (4th); G1-Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (1st); G1-Frizette (5th)
The Juvenile Fillies winner brings a female presence to the 2014 Preakness, the first since Rachel Alexandra scored at Old Hill Top in 2009. With all due respect to Ria Antonia, she's not Rachel Alexandra. She's also not Untapable, the runaway winner of the Kentucky Oaks; Ria Antonia finished 15 lengths back at the wire.
I think Ria Antonia could have a nice, productive racing career but I'm not sure running her against the boys in the Preakness is the way to do it. But, hey, maybe the connections know something I don't know (which is very likely) and this filly will shock the world (probably less likely). At the bare minimum, this filly needs to make a huge improvement off her last race just to get into the mix on Saturday, let alone to win this race. That's a tall order.
Kid Cruz (20/1)
Trainer: Linda Rice
Jockey: Julian Pimentel
Sire: Lemon Drop Kid
Damsire: Tale of the Cat
Notable Races: Federico Tesio (1st); Private Terms (1st)
Kid Cruz, winner of two stakes races in Maryland already in his career (one at Pimlico and one at Laurel), is a very intriguing colt in this year's Preakness in that he's one of the few true off the pace runners in the field. He won the Tesio on April 19th after spotting the field 8 ½ lengths at the start. A month earlier at Laurel he spotted the field 18 lengths at the first call before rolling home in deep stretch to win by four lengths at the wire. His late pace figures from Bris are the best in the field (with the next best being, wow, California Chrome).
Kid Cruz is taking a huge jump up in class against a field that has at least a couple colts that can churn out solid early splits and still roll home with a good deal of gas left in the tank. At the same time, there's something I like about this deep closer picking up the pieces late in the race on Saturday. While I'm in no way leaning towards him as a win bet, He's a lock to be in my exacta and tri, and both of those will be thin plays.
Social Inclusion (5/1)
Trainer: Manuel Azpurua
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Sire: Pioneer of the Nile
Damsire: Saint Ballado
Notable Races: G1-Wood Memorial (3rd)
I won't repeat what I wrote about this colt earlier this week except to state, once again, that I'm leery of putting too much behind him on Saturday. He's going to attract attention from the bettors due to being the flashiest of the new shooters, especially in terms of the speed figures and gaudy victory margins down at Gulfstream, and I'm not sure the odds will fairly represent his chances for victory.
Pablo Del Monte (20/1)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Jeffrey Sanchez
Dam: Giant's Causeway
Damsire: Bring the Heat (One Hot Wish)
Notable Races: G1-Blue Grass (3rd); G3-Hutcheson (3rd); Gulfstream Park Derby (4th); G3-Generous (5th)
His performance on dirt bothers me and I'll have a tough time putting a lot of faith into a colt that, as of yet, hasn't shown that he can run better on dirt as he has on synthetics. He's never been awful on dirt as both his Hutcheson and Gulfstream Park Derby efforts were decent, producing top four finishes. But, and this is a big "but", he can't just be "decent" on dirt and expect to win this race. He needs to be much, much improved. Of course, as I wrote above with regards to Bayern, perhaps this colt's ready to take a big step forward at Pimlico. I'm not sure I'm in the camp of believers as to that possibility, but it's certainly possible.