It’s hard to believe that the second jewel of the Triple Crown is already upon us. From a week that began with the Alibi Breakfast festivities, we’re now through the Black Eyed Susan, and all attention turns to the Preakness. After bringing home two chalk heavy Pick 4 plays at Pimlico Race Course on Friday, I’m jumping right back into the fray with an exhaustive look at the major races that comprise the Preakness Day card on Saturday. A marathon of 13 races presents itself, culminating in the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes. It’s a day that could be filled with history, as Rachel Alexandra looks to defy the odds and become the first filly to win the Preakness since Nellie Morse way back in 1924.
Two years ago in 2007, my life changed when I watched a brilliant colt named Curlin take center stage and announce to the world that a new star was born. Might a similarly life changing event be waiting for us just hours away? Only time will tell.
Much like the Black Eyed Susan picks, I’ll skip the opening races on the day and instead focus on the two Pick 4 sequences. This is in the interest of time since it’s already 9 PM here in Pennsylvania as I begin writing this. With any luck we’ll do as good as we did Friday on Black Eyed Susan Day, only hopefully this time we’ll catch some better prices along the way.
Race 5: Alw 26000 N1X (12:26 ET)
- #2 Schleprock (4/1)
- #7 Habitual (5/2*)
- #11 Chancellery (9/2)
We kick things off in the early Pick 4 with a full field of 12 runners routing 1 1/16 miles over the Pimlico turf. There’s not a lot of speed in this race, but turf races tend to come down to “cavalry charges” at the end, where the horse picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down the best in the final few jumps finds it’s way to the winner’s circle. For that reason, I went with #2 Schleprock as the top choice. He’s got 2 recent victories routing over the grass and is technically dropping slightly in class going from the $37k N1X ranks down to the $26k N1X level. With Edgar Prado in the saddle for trainer Michael Pino, this guy looks the one to beat. #7 Habitual is actually listed at lower odds (5/2) on the morning line than Schleprock. You have to look back a couple of races to see why, but this son of former Kentucky Derby champion Monarchos has proven to be a capable turf runner. On his best stuff he can certainly get the job done. #11 Chancellery will have to get things done from the outside, but he’s been improving and has run a couple of decent races in his career over the Pimlico lawn. Another horse that warrants some attention in here is #4 Been Awhile, who took 7 chances to break his maiden, but then promptly defeated N2L claimers at first asking. Perhaps the light bulb has switched on?
$1 Early Pick 4:
2,7,11/ 3,9,10,11/ 8/ 3,6,7 = $36
Race 6: The Deputed Testamony (1:07 ET)
- #11 Sumacha’hot (2/1)
- #9 Belle’s Broker (6/1)
- #3 Norjac (5/2)
Things get a bit deeper when we wade into Stakes territory with the 2nd running of The Deputed Testamony (which for some reason I always want to type as “the Disputed Testimony“), a 1 1/16 mile race over the Pimlico main track. #11 Sumacha’hot would be a much stronger play if he hadn’t drawn such an outside post position. As such, and despite his very usable dirt form in recent history, you’ve got to include other runners on the Pick 4 ticket here. #9 Belle’s Broker has the look of a horse who may get overlooked on the tote board. He definitely knows how to find the winner’s circle, and he’s run pretty well at both this distance and on the local track. He was favored last out before being checked, which may have cost him the race. A bounce back effort puts him right in contention today. #3 Norjac must answer questions regarding his ability to stretch out and get the distance of the Deputed Testamony, but if is able to handle the chore, than he’s clearly a player as well. Two other horses I think warrant consideration in here are #10 Furrariat, who might be ready for a breakout performance, and the speedy inside runner, #1 Out to Please. Ultimately I didn’t think the inside speed runner “classed up” on paper enough to include in the Pick 4, but I wouldn’t count him out of the single race exotics. Of course, I could also make a bit of a case for #3 Take Down Two getting Garrett Gomez in the saddle, so this might be a good race to spread fairly deep. #7 Court Bland will be charging late, and has a decent chance to hit the bottom of the Trifecta and Superfecta.
Race 7: The Grade 3 Gallorette (1:55 ET)
- #8 Dynaforce (4/5*)
- #2 All Is Vanity (9/2)
- #3 Shytoe Lafeet (10/1)
We move into graded stakes territory with the 58th running of the Grade 3 Gallorette, going 1 1/16 miles over the turf. #8 Dynaforce is the main attraction of this event, coming off a disappointing 8th (though only beaten by 4 lengths) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last October at Santa Anita to the super talented Forever Together. This looks like a good spot for her to make his 2009 debut, as she’s the only runner of the field that can boast at having cracked the 100 Beyer Speed Figure threshold. That being said, she’ll still need to bring his top stuff to prevail. As a previous Grade 1 winner, she’s clearly the class of the field. What handicappers must determine is if they are willing to trust that class off the long layoff and bravely single, or if they think a couple of other runners might have a chance to pull off the upset. Obviously, based on my Pick 4 play a few races above, I’m going to be brave and trust that class edge, but you won’t hear me argue with those who feel otherwise….and their just might be some juicy value to be had for those who do attempt to beat the chalk. #2 All is Vanity looks like the filly with the best chance to “class up” against Dynaforce in here. She used a wide post position to put in a game run against Raw Silk in the South Beach back in April, and could move forward off that effort. #3 Shytoe Lafeet is my longshot bomb chance for this race. For one thing, I’m always fond of the Larry Jones/Gabriel Saez combo, especially with fillies and mares. What’s more, this is a runner who has had excuses in each of the past two races. I’m guessing that with a name like Shytoe Lafeet, all of the foot fetish folks out there in the world will be all over this runner. If you toss those efforts, she’s got a little something under the hood and looks like a player in here to me. Another horse I’d strongly consider using in the single race exotics is #5 Quiet Meadow.
Race 8: The Grade 3 Hirsch Jacobs (2:35 ET)
- #6 Despite the Odds (9/2)
- #3 Not for Silver (8/1)
- #7 Nuclear Wayne (4/1)
I actually had a chance to cover the 34th running of The Hirsch Jacobs over at Case The Race earlier this weekend. I’m still sticking with my picks there. I think this race has all kinds of speed, and the two horses that leap off the page to me are those from the white hot Michael Trombetta barn. #6 Despite the Odds looks to be the better of the two, and is an improving son of champion sprinter Speightstown. #3 Not for Silver is no slouch himself, and really I could see either of these guys passing the pace setters in the lane to score. Another runner who could offer some value, despite being only 4/1 on the morning line is #7 Nuclear Wayne, a fast improving son of Mineshaft. Of the speed types, #1 Taqarub makes the most sense to me, but like I said, I’ll be playing against the speed here.
Race 9: The Woodlawn (3:44 ET)
- #8 Affirmatif (3/5*)
- #4 Beacon Hill Road (6/1)
- #5 Colonel Rutledge (10/1)
The Late Pick 4 sequence begins with the 44th running of The Woodlawn. We’ve got a field of ten three-year-olds going 1 mile over the turf . #8 Affirmatif is the most intriguing of the field, despite this being only his 3rd career start. The son of Unbridled’s Song is listed at extremely low odds of 3/5 on the morning line, but appears a worthy favorite on paper. He’ll likely press the pace early on and then make his move before the field enters the final turn. If he’s as good as he looks on paper, the race could be over right there. #4 Beacon Hill Road was a mediocre looking runner until switched to the Jason Servis barn, where he’s promptly run his best career efforts in back to back stakes races. A similar effort could put him right where he needs to be should Affirmatif fail to fire. My longshot pick for the race is #5 Colonel Rutledge. Not only do I love a good martial sounding name in a colt, but this one goes out for one of my favorite trainers, Graham Motion. It’s hard to figure out based on his limited past performance profile if he’s a better dirt runner or turf runner. He owns a win over the grass, but his better speed figures have been over the dirt. I’m guessing that he’s an improved horse since that first turf effort. That should show up on Saturday. Another horse you’ve got to consider using is #1 Heros Image, who might be force to go quickly early on by virtue of breaking from the rail.
$1 Late Pick 4:
4,8/ 5,7,8/ 1,3,4/ 7,9,13 = $54
Race 10: The Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap (4:30 ET)
- #8 Ravalo (3/1)
- #5 Ah Day (5/2*)
- #7 Celtic Innis (10/1)
Speed is the name of the game in the 23rd running of the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap, and #8 Ravalo has it. True, his last two efforts at Aqueduct and Keeneland have left quite a bit to be desired, but this gelding has won an impressive 8 of 16 races at today’s 6 furlong distance. I don’t think that can be ignored. He’s breaking from the outside ,but should be able to get the lead and then shift over to save ground. Speed tends to hold quite well at Pimlico, so he should be a force if he does indeed get loose up front. #5 Ah Day shocked me by being 5/2 on the morning line. I would have thought his recent darkened form trying to stretch out further might have increased his value. Now we’ll be at the mercy of horseplayers to determine what price he actually goes to post as. He should relish the distance change, and with Garrett Gomez in the saddle, this son of Malibu Moon could be quite a force for trainer King Leatherbury. #7 Celtic Innis is another runner who seems to thrive at the 6 furlong idstance, and has done especially well at Pimlico over his career. He’s been on the shelf since January, but at 7-years-old it could be that he just needed to get his legs back underneath him. Another runner that did not make my final selections that gives me some pause is #5 Torpedo Run, who exits 3 consecutive victories. He’ll probably be the guy I’m sweating out the most if I do indeed leave him off the late Pick 4.
Race 11: The Grade 2 Dixie (5:13 PM)
- #4 Kiss the Kid (5/1)
- #1 Proudinsky (5/2*)
- #3 Parading (9/2)
Ah, the Dixie…such memories. It was in this race last year that my Pick 6 dreams came to a crashing halt when longshot Pays to Dream upset the late Shakis and others, and my despair was forever captured on film (that’s me in the yellow hat in that picture right next to the finish line). Time for some redemption, and what do you know, the gods of horse racing have seen fit to provide me with a Lemon Drop to get the job done! You know I love me some Lemon Drops! #4 Kiss the Kid exits two strong Beyer performances, in cluding a win in the Grade 3 Appleton in March. The victory was his third in 4 starts, having only been defeated by Kip Deville in that sequence. Kip Deville is one of the finest turf runners in North America, and while this field is deep, it doesn’t have any true monsters like him. #1 Proudinksy is a guy I never leave ff my tickets. He ran on Derby day against Einstein, Cowboy Cal, and Court Vision in the Grade 1 Turf Classic, and comes right back two weeks later for trainer Bobby Frankel. He’s always a threat on his top stuff, and the 1 1/8 mile distance of the Dixie seems to be his strong suit. #3 Parading is likely the pace setter of the race, and could be handful if he’s allowed to gets too easy a lead. There are others in here with designs on pressing that pace a bit, but his newfound early speed style should suit him very well. #2 Monba and #8 Strike a Deal are also runners worth considering here. Hopefully I won’t make it two years in a row being knocked out in the Dixie.
Race 12: The Grade 1 Preakness (6:15 ET)
- #13 Rachel Alexandra (8/5*)
- #9 Pioneer of the Nile (5/1)
- #7 Papa Clem(12/1)
So it all comes down to this. The 134th running of The Preakness. Over 80 years of history are on the line! Can Rachel Alexandra repeat the brilliance she demonstrated in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago? Clearly the stakes have risen, and she finds herself in the deepest field she’s yet seen. She’s drawn the outside, and will likely have to gun it from the start in order to save ground going into the first turn. #1 Big Drama to the extreme inside also figures to be on the gas early on, creating a situation that might be ripe for the next flight of colts coming home. That should include the group that finished 2, 3, 4 in the Kentucky Derby; #9 Pioneer of the Nile, #7 Papa Clem, and #3 Musket Man. Much has been made of Pioneer of the Nile either being of questionable quality or potentially “sitting on a big one.” I tend to believe the latter of the two. If not for that brilliant move by Calvin Borel to find the rail with Mine That Bird, Pioneer might have been Derby champion. He should get a firmer surface to run over, and he looms the biggest threat to Queen Rachel’s attempt to achieve eternal glory. The horse that I think is being most overlooked here is #7 Papa Clem. What exactly did this guy do to deserve being ranked so low at 12/1? Was he not less than a length behind Pioneer of the Nile? He’ll be my longshot play, for sure. I’m not really sure what to make of #5 Friesan Fire. I probably gave him the “kiss of death” by making him my last minute Kentucky Derby selection just hours before the run for the roses (after the late scratch of I Want Revenge), and having met Larry Jones at the Alibi Breakfast, I can’t stomach being responsible for another miserable performance, so he shall be the official “horse I shall not speak of” for this race. Truth be told, I think he’s a sneaky threat if he has indeed healed….I’m just not going to name him in my picks. #3 Musket Man is a horse that has really earned my respect over the Triple Crown campaign, and I could see him getting back up into the money again on Saturday. As for the longer shots on the board, call me crazy but Take the Points at 30/1 looks very intriguing. What to make of Kentucky Derby champion Mine That Bird? Well, you’ll never hear me disrsepect that horse again. I’ve learned my lesson. It’s just that without jockey Calvin Borel, and without the cool, damp climate that he seemed to thrive in so perfectly two weeks ago, I’m going to play againts him. Besides, all of that glorious value that made him famous in the Derby will now be gone thanks to being a household name. I’ll be there to cheer for Rachel Alexandra, but I think she might be up against it, which is why I’m ultimately going to cover Pioneer and Papa Clem as well on the Pick 4.
- $20 Win #7 Papa Clem
- $1 Trifecta: 13/5,7,9/1,2,3,5,7,9,11 = $18
Best of luck to everyone. I’ll likely be “tweeting” along with the action from the Turfside Terrace. If you caught the action today on Black Eyed Susan Day, I was giving out paddock picks and other useful tips. Needless to say my access to the paddock is non existant when I’m across the track in the Turfside Terrace, but I’ll be in prime position to watch the Preakness runners saddle. You can follow along if you like from the link below: