Preakness Contenders 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every Horse

Jessica PaquetteFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2013

Preakness Contenders 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every Horse

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    The field that has assembled for the 138th Preakness Stakes is a complex one, led by the Kentucky Derby victor Orb. Eight rivals will try to deny the big bay colt his chance at immortality, as he strives to move one step closer to Triple Crown greatness. 

    Each horse enters this race with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Some have enough positives to overlook a negative, but for others, their shortcomings will be their undoing in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

    Here is a look at the field for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, with horses listed in order of predicted finish.

9. Titletown Five

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    Strengths

    This colt has shown sharp early speed in some of his better efforts. However, at this level, that appears to be his only strength. He has struggled in both attempts against graded stakes company and has yet to prove he can even be effective going two turns.

     

    Weaknesses

    While he does have early speed, he has proved to be difficult to rate. If he goes out front and hooks one of the other speed types here, he will have a tough task ahead of him getting the distance. His lone win came at seven furlongs, and he has not shown that he has the stamina to go much beyond that.

8. Itsmyluckyday

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    Strengths 

    Itsmyluckyday has shown useful tactical speed and has proved that he can be versatile on or slightly off the pace. He could get an ideal stalking trip here, and it may just boil down to whether or not he is good enough. He also gets a major jockey change to John Velazquez Jr., one of the most in-demand jockeys in the country. 


    Weaknesses

    Unfortunately, this colt seems to have lost a big step since his impressive win in the Holy Bull Stakes in January. He is beginning to look like the type of horse that peaked early in the year and is spinning his wheels now. 

7. Mylute

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    Strengths

    Mylute was able to be competitive in the Kentucky Derby, and his closing kick will be effective here. He has also run two good races in a row and may be a horse who has rounded into form. He benefits from having Rosie Napravnik aboard. She is more familiar with Pimlico than any other jockey in the race, and that experience is valuable.

     

    Weaknesses 

    Because he will have the hometown heroine Napravnik in the irons, this colt will likely be a shorter price than he deserves to be. He was fifth in the Kentucky Derby, but he was not moving with tremendous momentum and was picking up the pieces after a torrid pace. He will not have that sort of pace collapse here and still has not even proved he can win a stakes race. 

6. Oxbow

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    Strengths 

    One of the best things about Oxbow is how gritty and tough this colt has become. Adversity builds character, and he had some rough races early in the season. Regardless of his poor luck, he managed to show up and run his race every time. In the Derby, he showed speed and was the only front-runner to be able to hang around at the end. It was a credible effort, and the cutback in distance helps his chances.

     

    Weaknesses

    Just as his experience is a strength, it may also be a weakness. This colt has not had an easy race all year, and at a certain point, a horse has to take a step backward. On a two-week turnaround off a tenacious effort in the Derby, this may be the race where he is set up to bounce. 

5. Goldencents

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    Strengths 

    He may not have actually used all that much energy in the Kentucky Derby. Once it was clear that he was not handling the track and would not get the lead, Kevin Krigger eased up on him. Since that race, he has been training well, and his speed may be more effective here.


    Weaknesses

    His Achilles' heel is his lack of versatility. In the Derby, it seemed he and Krigger were thrown completely off their game when Palace Malice shot to the lead and they were unable to secure a front-running position. In a smaller field, this colt has a much better chance of getting comfortably to the front end but will have not an uncontested lead. A lot can happen in a race, however, and the fact that he cannot adapt is an issue.

4. Govenor Charlie

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    Strengths 

    This colt seems like he could be freakishly good. His effort in the Sunland Park Derby was visually stunning, and he has a very high cruising speed. He gave every indication he is primed for a strong performance with a sharp workout on Monday. Trainer Bob Baffert is always an advantage to have in your corner and has trained a remarkable five Preakness winners.


    Weaknesses

    He only has three career starts and two wins to his credit. Both of those wins at this point look like they came against dubious competition. 

    His stablemate, Midnight Lucky, did make it to the Kentucky Oaks after winning the Sunland Oaks, the filly equivalent of the stakes race he won to earn his berth into the Derby, the Sunland Park Derby. Both he and the filly turned in sensational, comparable efforts at Sunland Park, but she faltered in the Kentucky Oaks. If her performance is a barometer to measure him, his effort at Sunland may not be as impressive as it initially appeared.

    In addition, he missed training due to a hoof bruise, which is a pesky, lingering sort of injury. While his workout on Monday was sharp, it raises the question of how much that took out of him. 

3. Will Take Charge

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    Strengths 

    The Kentucky Derby was Will Take Charge's first race in seven weeks, and some horses, off that sort of break, need a tightening effort before they peak. Physically, this colt is a massive 17 hands and looks like the type of horse that needs a race to get into prime condition.

    Second start off a layoff is a sharp handicapping angle, and this colt could fire big. In addition, he gets a jockey upgrade to Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith after a troubled trip may have cost him a better placing in the Derby.

     

    Weaknesses

    As talented as he may be, this is an all-or-nothing sort of horse. He is frustratingly inconsistent and seems just as capable of winning as he does throwing in a total clunker. For a moment, it did appear in the Kentucky Derby that he was matching strides with Orb, but it is impossible to tell if he would have been able to keep that up or flatten out. 

2. Departing

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    Strengths 

    Departing comes in fresh after his connections opted to sit out the Kentucky Derby and point the lightly raced, talented colt toward the Preakness. Like Orb, he has a sharp turn of foot and can make up ground quickly. He should benefit from a sharp pace here and figures to be a top contender.

     

    Weaknesses

    Although he has four wins in five starts, those victories did come against soft competition. His best effort may have come in defeat in the Louisiana Derby behind the likes of Revolutionary. At this point he has not proved he can win against top-tier competition and will get a stiff class test in the Preakness.

1. Orb

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    Strengths 

    Orb has a running style that makes him dangerous regardless of the pace. While he will likely have a respectable pace to run at thanks to the speedy Goldencents, Govenor Charlie and Itsmyluckyday, he has proved to be tactical enough to adjust to the race that unfolds. His greatest strength seems to be the fact that he is still improving. He came out of the Kentucky Derby breathing fire and may be even sharper than he was before the big race. 

     

    Weaknesses

    Though he demonstrated no poor behavior at the Kentucky Derby, this colt does have a tendency to get washed out behind the gate and occasionally act up once loaded. Since he will be loaded first on the rail, he will have the most time to stand idle, which could lead to antics. Being that he is the defending Derby winner, he will have a target on his back here, and every jockey in the race will know where he is at all times.