It’s time, folks. Preak-week is officially here in Baltimore, meaning that if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to officially get your Preak on. With so much to do in so little time, let’s run down the list of contenders for Preakness 135.
- Super Saver
As George C. Scott once opined in the approximate likeness of General George S. Patton: “America loves a winner!” Indeed we do, and here he is – your Derby winner, chicken dinner. The talented son of Maria’s Mon galloped off into history under the confident guide of jockey Calvin Borel. With the slightly shorter distance of the Preakness up next, his tactical speed should give him a clear advantage and make him the worthy favorite. All signs point to a successful invasion of Baltimore.
- Lookin at Lucky
Stop me when this sounds familiar. A highly regarded son of Smart Strike contests for favoritism on the tote board on Derby morning, and then suffers a horrific trip that essentially eliminates him from contention. He returns to the Preakness where he’s promptly given no chance to stage the upset against a seemingly dominant Derby champion, whose initials happen to be S.S., and his equally dominant jockey Calvin Borel. Shades of 2007, anyone? The only thing amiss is that Lucky happens to be the defending 2-year-old champion. Perhaps the most unlucky horse in all of racing. Anyone who watched his “trip from hell” in the Santa Anita Derby probably thought that was as bad as things could possibly get for Lucky. Not so, unofortuately, as he was smashed by Stately Victor in the early going of the Derby. The colt fought on for a 6th place ribbon that, all things considered, was better than he should’ve finished. He’s shipped all over the nation so far in this campaign. If he ever gets his day where the racing gods decide to show some mercy – he’s good enough to be right there at the wire. Martin Garcia will be aboard for the Preakness.
- Paddy O’Prado
In a Kentucky Derby FILLED with “wise guy” horses, this was perhaps the wisest of them all. The son of El Prado had been reportedly working very sharp for that effort on the first Saturday in May, and despite some wild weaving throughout the race, showed that he was clearly one of the top contenders. On paper he didn’t look like that intimidating a dirt horse, but if he takes to the Pimlico surface at all like he did at Churchill Downs, he’d be one to watch again.
I picture good ole “Scarface” in his stall two weekends ago watching the chaos of the Derby and remarking: “Do you know what a haza is, Mike (Machowsky)? It’s a horse – who don’t run straight!” All he has in this world are his guts and his heart. He began with 5 consecutive victories, entrenching himself as a weekly “Cris Carter” reference on our Derby watch lists. However, the world was not his, and his empire collapsed around him with back to back losses (including the Santa Anita Derby). He’s back now, and he’s ready to eat the competition for breakfast. He also thinks girls like ice cream, but I digress.
- Pleasant Prince
His connections were dreaming when they wrote this, so sue them if this goes astray. When he woke up this morning coulda swore it was Derby day. Anyone with Eastern European ancestory already knows this, but as Pleasant Prince and Ice Box learned so well earlier in the year: “what a difference a nose can make!” The prince was nosed by Ice Box in the Florida Derby, who went on to explode for 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. Last out he was 3rd in the Derby Trial behind Hurricane Ike and Aikenite. A nose, a nose, his kingdom for a nose!
Big, beautiful chestnut will once again go to post for legendary Preakness trainer D. Wayne Lukas. You know me – I’m a sucker for chestnuts, but I’m on the fence with this guy. Each race he seems to unleash a fairly solid move – and then suddenly runs flat the rest of the way. Then again, he is a son of Afleet Alex, and all one need do is remember the magic of the 2005 Preakness. I’m expecting improvement this weekend.
- Hurricane Ike
I like Ike. The winner of the Derby Trial is trainer John Sadler’s first Preakness runner. Took six tries to break his maiden but has shown marked improvement since, including a 2nd place finish two races back to Eightyfiveinafifty in the G3 Bayshore. If he can handle the distance, he’s got a shot to make some noise this weekend.
- Yawanna Twist
Earned some praise by finishing 2nd in the G3 Gotham to Awesome Act and the Grade 3 Illinois Derby to American Lion, but the performances of those two in the Kentucky Derby did little to flatter his chances. He does have tricky Rick Dutrow in his corner though. Stranger things have happened.
- Jackson Bend
Routinely lampooned during the Derby prep season despite running his heart out for 2nd place finishes to Eskendereya on separate occassions. So distance and class finally caught up with him in the Derby, where he finished 12th. If you go back and watch that trip, considering how wide he was, that actually isn’t as bad as it seems.
- First Dude
Became the dude that benefitted from the scratch of A Little Warm. Hasn’t won since the end of January (1/30 at Gulfstream), but has finished 5th in the G1 Florida Derby and 3rd in the G1 Toyota Bluegrass. Got a feeling he’s improving at the right time, but it would still be a surprise to see him in the winner’s circle.
- Schoolyard Dreams
A victory by he or Super Saver and the legend of Odysseus will live on forever. Tough to remember that this horse had that Tampa Bay Derby won, only to lose in the final stride. The son of Stephen Got Even drilled 5 furlongs in :59.60 on 5/7. Would need to improve to threaten.
We’ve seen this story before, haven’t we? Stablemate to the Derby winner and perhaps another contender in Mission Impazible. A forgotten horse totally written off and thought to have no chance? He’s a one-run closing type that will need some help in front, but his coworkers ought to help with that. His 2nd in the Derby Trial and 3rd in the Bluegrass suggests he’s moving forward. I’m considering adding him into my exotic plays on Preakness day as I suspect he’ll be dismissed by most.
- Northern Giant
On the plus side, he was 2nd to Dean’s Kitten in the G2 Lane’s End, and 3rd in the G2 Risen Star. On the down side he was 9th in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. No rider has been named yet, but the horse helps mark the 11th time D. Wayne Lukas has sent multiple entries to post in the Preakness.
So there you have ‘em, folks – you’re 2010 Preakness contenders. The obvious question for all is: Who do you like in the Preakness?
We’ll be back later in the week for a recap of the Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico on Thursday morning. Selections for the Black Eyed Susan card on Friday will follow, and then our picks for all of the races on Preakness Day will be up Friday night and into Saturday.