Preakness 2014: Early Predictions Post-Kentucky Derby
The 140th Run for the Roses is in the record books and the West Coast superstar California Chrome silenced his critics with a resounding 1 3/4 triumph.
Not only did he give trainer Art Sherman the greatest thrill since Swaps won the Kentucky Derby in 1955, he became the first California-bred horse to win the race since 1962. There is no denying this is a special sort of horse, and from the moment he crossed the wire, the bold predictions came flying.
Here is a look at some early predictions on what to expect between now and the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
Fresh Faces Will Be Dangerous
Because of the Kentucky Derby point system, several promising horses wound up excluded from the race because they lacked the points to qualify for the field. In other cases, some trainers opted out of the Kentucky Derby and instead turned their focus to the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
A fresh face is always dangerous. With the short two-week turnaround from the Derby to the Preakness, the grueling race combined with travel can simply be too much for some horses, and they can bounce off of big Derby efforts. A new shooter could have upset potential.
Social Inclusion, despite suffering a minor foot bruise, is on track for the Preakness after skipping the Derby following a game effort in the Wood Memorial. Strong Mandate, one of the top contenders earlier in the season, has his sights set on Pimlico as well.
A Filly Has a Slim Chance to Be in the Preakness
Though Steve Asmussen was quoted in the Daily Racing Form as saying Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable had "virtually no chance" to go in the Preakness, stranger things have happened in horse racing.
After superstar Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness in 2009, defeating male rivals and solidifying her status as an all-time great, the door has been opened for fillies to take on the boys. Untapable was a dominant winner of the Kentucky Oaks against the girls and would be an interesting addition to the Preakness Stakes.
While it is unlikely that Untapable will take on male rivals, it is an exciting possibility and could add a further layer of intrigue to those looking to dethrone the king of California.
Bob Baffert Will Be Back with a Vengeance
After starting out the year with a loaded arsenal of three-year-olds, Bob Baffert had a disappointing Kentucky Derby week. When his top horse, Hoppertunity, was withdrawn days before the big race, he was left with the speedball Chitu.
Though Chitu could only manage 10th in the Kentucky Derby, it was not a terrible effort considering he was battling foot issues himself prior to the race and got collared on the front end early. The slight cut in distance of the Preakness could help his chances.
If Hoppertunity's ailment turns out to be something minor like a hoof bruise, he should be back on track with plenty of time to train for the second leg of the Triple Crown. After the disappointing scratch, Baffert should be back with gusto to make amends and leave people wondering "what if?" his big horse had gotten his chance to compete in the Derby.
Mike Smith Will Have an Impact
Mike Smith, one of the most popular and successful jockeys in the sport, lost his chance at the Kentucky Derby when Hoppertunity was forced to scratch days before the race.
He won the Preakness once before—1993 with Prairie Bayou—and his narrow defeat on Bodemeister in 2012 likely left a sour taste in his mouth. Smith is known as one of the best riders in the world, especially on the biggest stages, and likely will not have difficulty finding a mount for the Preakness.
If Hoppertunity is able to rebound and make the race, the pair could be tough. If the colt is still sidelined, Smith will have plenty of other suitors.
D. Wayne Lukas Will Have a Horse in the Race
Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas was noticeably absent from the Kentucky Derby this year, and this is a trainer who hates to miss a big race.
He teamed up with veteran Gary Stevens to pull the shocker with Oxbow in the 2013 Preakness Stakes and will try for a repeat this year with Strong Mandate. Early in the year, Strong Mandate was topping the list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Race by race, his form lost some luster, but he is an impeccably bred, talented colt and could surprise.
If 2013 was any indication, never count out "Coach" Lukas.
Danza Is the Real Deal
Danza had a mere four starts going into the Kentucky Derby, and his inexperience played a factor in his performance. He showed tenacity but could not overcome the extremely rough trip and wound up third.
Danza was one of the biggest question marks as the horses entered the starting gate. His victory in the Arkansas Derby was impressive, but he rose from obscurity to stakes winner overnight, and there was little indication of how legitimate that win was.
He proved on Saturday that his winning effort was not a fluke performance. With a better trip, he could have been even closer to California Chrome and could get another crack at him in the Preakness.
Pimlico Will Gain Popularity
After the iconic Churchill Downs came under scrutiny in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby for several incidents, most notably the poor treatment of legend and horse racing ambassador Ron Turcotte, Pimlico, the home of the Preakness, may gain some popularity.
California Chrome seems to be a horse that the public can and will latch onto. With his likable connections, flashy good looks and his dominance, he is the type of horse that will fill seats. Pimlico will be able to capitalize on his popularity leading up to the big race.
While the Maryland institution has seen better days, the track is likely to see massive crowds to cheer on the very popular California Chrome. In addition, the Pimlico infield is a party of epic proportions, and the InfieldFest slated for this year should be no exception.
California Chrome Will Win the Preakness
A lot can happen in two weeks, but California Chrome proved without a shadow of a doubt that he is the star in this three-year-old crop. He made the 1 1/4-mile test of the Kentucky Derby look easy and should find the Preakness well within his scope.
The big chestnut came out of the Kentucky Derby seemingly unfazed by the effort. He defeated 18 of his peers and was barely winded. Though the time was not impressive, he has proven already that he is capable of going faster than that and has established himself as a dominant standout in this crop of sophomores.
Now he has many hurdles to cross before he becomes a true Triple Crown contender, but this colt could be something really special. Sit back and enjoy the ride.