Preakness 2014: 10 Bold Predictions for Triple Crown's 2nd Leg

Brendan O'MearaFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2014

Preakness 2014: 10 Bold Predictions for Triple Crown's 2nd Leg

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    The bull's eye is squarely on California Chrome.
    The bull's eye is squarely on California Chrome.Garry Jones/Associated Press

    These predictions are so hot, so bold, so spicy, they need to be chased with a glass of whole milk. Definitely hyperbolic, but it's the Preakness and the Preakness is nothing if not ostentatious. 

    The second jewel of racing's Triple Crown—the Preakness Stakes—gathers a few Derby starters and many new shooters. The fresh horses that skipped the Derby are always enticing and especially so when a filly enters the ranks. That would be Ria Antonia. Of all fillies coming out of the Kentucky Oaks, she would not be the one you'd pick with the greatest chance to beat the boys, but here she is. 

    There's a hometown hero, a jockey switch and Lorde. Yes, Lorde. So let's put on our rocket ship underpants and get all kinds of bold for the Preakness.

Rosario's on the Right Horse

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    Jockey Joel Rosario made the right move by moving to the open saddle on Ride On Curlin.
    Jockey Joel Rosario made the right move by moving to the open saddle on Ride On Curlin.Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Jockeys jump around, and when they do, it signifies what horse they deem to be superior. Enter Joel Rosario; exit Calvin Borel.

    Ride On Curlin finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Not bad, but not good enough. While respectable, Billy Gowan, Ride On Curlin's trainer, expected much better and wasn't pleased with Borel's ride. Borel broke from Post 19 and instead of easing over to the rail, Borel aggressively tucked Ride On Curlin inside. 

    "I told [Borel] before the race that he had three-eighths of a mile to work his way over," Gowan said.

    Rosario defects from General a Rod, 11th in the Kentucky Derby. General a Rod committed to the Preakness on Friday, yet Rosario elected to move to the son of Curlin—the 2007 Preakness winner. 

    It's a gamble for Rosario, but one worth taking. It's hard to say where Ride On Curlin will finish, but he didn't run all that hard in Kentucky, which makes him dangerous come Saturday. And Rosario must know this.

Baffert Will Hit the Board

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    Bob Baffert will saddle two starters for the Preakness.
    Bob Baffert will saddle two starters for the Preakness.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has Bayern, the super talented horse who never raced as a two-year-old. Bayern was third as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby where he lost to Danza. Danza went on to finish sixth in the Derby, a respectable finish that validates Bayern's ability.

    Bayern lacked the points to qualify for the Derby, but that's likely a good thing. The Derby is a beast unto itself, and the Preakness is mild in comparison. He gets the benefit of having skipped that race.

    Bayern is an exciting horse to watch and while he may not win, second or third is well within his capabilities.

     

     

Lorde's Dirty Secret?

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    Lorde will perform on the infield for the Preakness.
    Lorde will perform on the infield for the Preakness.Zach Cordner/Associated Press

    Lorde headlines the Preakness InfieldFest, and it's here that she will admit to being a 35-year-old Ukrainian expat. 

    Sure, the "media" says she's only 17. Sure, the "media" says she's from New Zealand, but the gig is up. Admit it. Trials abroad brought you to the States. What respectable Grammy-Award winner sings to a bunch of drunk fools on the Pimlico infield? Come clean, Lorde, come clean. You can still be queen bee.

    You can still live that fantasy.

Hometown Hero Kid Cruz Last of Them All

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    Linda Rice (far left) brings Kid Cruz to the Preakness.
    Linda Rice (far left) brings Kid Cruz to the Preakness.Associated Press

    The Preakness always invites a hometown horse into the race. Invites is the wrong word, but there's always a local horse that wins the local Preakness prep, and that horse, this year, happens to be Kid Cruz, trained by Linda Rice.

    He takes a two-race win streak into the Preakness, having won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico and the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park. Kid Cruz's winning time for the nine furlongs in the Private Terms was a dismal 1:54.82

    There are high-quality horses coming in off the Derby and new shooters champing at the bit to crush it in the Preakness. Kid Cruz is a new shooter, but he'll be firing blanks in this field.

Ria Antonia Will Bounce Back

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    Ria Antonia may become the sixth filly to win the Preakness.
    Ria Antonia may become the sixth filly to win the Preakness.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    A filly is taking on the boys again. The last time this happened the year was 2009 when Rachel Alexandra smoked the boys from Post 13. Naturally it was an amazing race.

    Ria Antonia wasn't her best in the Kentucky Oaks on May 2, finishing a distant sixth Untapable. Her effort so perplexed her owner that she was transferred from Bob Baffert's barn—a five-time winner of the Preakness—to Tom Amoss' barn. 

    Given that she wheels back on just two weeks' time is an indicator that she's either sitting on a big race, or ther owner is delusional. Perhaps it's best to err on the side of her being a threat given that there's every reason not to run her in a Grade 1 against the Derby winner on short rest.

    If she wins, she'll become the sixth filly to win the race and join the company of Rachel Alexandra (2009), Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906) and Flocarline (1903).

    Fun fact: Ria Antonia won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after the winner was disqualified. 

     

Pablo Del Monte Will Prove He Belongs on Turf, Not Dirt

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    Pablo Del Monte's best surface isn't dirt.
    Pablo Del Monte's best surface isn't dirt.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Pablo Del Monte set the pace in the Blue Grass Stakes and held on for third place. It was a good race, but over a synthetic surface that tends to favor horses with a "grass running style," meaning horses that run well on Polytrack tend to be better turf horses than dirt horses.

    Pablo Del Monte's trainer, Wesley Ward, opted to skip the Derby in favor of the Preakness. He's excited to send out his colt, but even Ward must harbor some apprehension. Pablo Del Monte's sire is the great Giant's Causeway, a champion turf horse. 

    Pablo Del Monte's maternal great great grandsire was successful on dirt, but he also spent his first six races in England where grass is the only surface horses compete. 

    There's a slew of great three-year-old turf races coming at Colonial Downs, and it would be great to see Pablo Del Monte vault to the head of his class on grass.

The Preakness Time Will Be 1:58.00 (That's Slow)

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    Oxbow's winning Preakness time was historically slow.
    Oxbow's winning Preakness time was historically slow.Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    Honestly, final times can be a bit overblown. Race conditions and tactics play such a pivotal role in the final time that it's largely irrelevant. Whoever gets to the wire first is the only thing that matters. 

    But in a timed sport, the clock still carries meaning. Oxbow's Preakness time from 2013 was 1:57.54, the slowest since Carry Back in 1961 (1:57.60). It was still a thrilling race. Races can be scintillating even if the clock yawns.

    This year's three-year-olds simply aren't that fast. California Chrome's winning Derby time was 2:03.66, the slowest over a fast track since 1974.

    Should California Chrome win the Preakness, he'll have the baggage of his Derby weighing him down. Even he if loses, the winner will be coming in slow. That's the nature of today's American thoroughbred. Be that as it may, the race will be good fun, slow fun, all the more time to savor it.

    Even if ...

California Chrome Loses in the Preakness

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    California Chrome turns for home in the Derby.
    California Chrome turns for home in the Derby.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Oh, boy, here we go. No one wants to see California Chrome lose. Even his competitors—who obviously want to win—wouldn't be heart broken if CC took the Black-Eyed Susans. Everyone loves a live Triple Crown contender. But here's the thing: CC's Derby wasn't encouraging, and new shooters are champing at the bit.

    His tepid Derby could have been an indicator of fatigue. His final quarter mile, according to Andrew Beyer, was 26.21 seconds. The Preankess is shorter by half a furlong, but that won't matter much. 

    The new shooters are going to dominate this Preakness, so much so that ...

California Chrome Will Finish off the Board

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    California Chrome winning the Derby.
    California Chrome winning the Derby.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Horse players can find a lot to love about other horses in this race, and if California Chrome finishes off the board those tickets are going to be worth a lot of dough. California Chrome will be 3-2 or even money and there's a great chance he'll finish fourth or worse.

    The Derby, as we've already established, was historically slow. His 97 Beyer Speed Figure was horrible for a fast track. CC paired up 108 and 107 Beyers in Santa Anita for the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. He bounced poorly and, on two weeks' rest, doesn't appear capable of running any faster. 

    Many of the horses in this field—more than half—have had three to four weeks of rest while CC has had two. 

    No one wants to see Chrome lose. Triple Crowns are fun to support, but Chrome's road will come to an end in a major way here. He'll then get a nice rest and hopefully be sound to run in the Haskell Invitational, Travers Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic. But that's down the yellow-brick road a ways.

    Oh, and another thing, who's gonna win the Preakness?

Social Inclusion Will Assert Himself as a Leader of His Class

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    Social Inclusion may be the most underrated three-year-old running today. California Chrome should feel lucky he didn't get to face him in the Kentucky Derby, and that's just as well. Social Inclusion may not have been ready for such a large field in what would have been just his fourth career start.

    In the above video, Social Inclusion crushed Honor Code, a colt who lived atop many Derby-favorite lists before he was sidelined with an injury. 

    Social Inclusion then set the pace in the Wood Memorial before he was clipped at the wire by Wicked Strong and Samraat—fourth and sixth in the Kentucky Derby.

    Social Inclusion hasn't raced since the Wood back in early April, so he comes in fresh and will be able to dictate the pace on the front end. His speed could be the sustainable kind.

    "In the Wood Memorial, I believe he learned a lot,” Manny Azpurua, Social Inclusion's trainer, said. "I’m so pleased the way he ran. I think he’s going to run a good race. He’s been doing everything I’ve asked him. He’s got his mind on running."