Preakness Favorites: The Biggest Flaw of Each of the Top Contenders

Brendan O'MearaFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

Preakness Favorites: The Biggest Flaw of Each of the Top Contenders

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    California Chrome will be the favorite, but a vulnerable one.
    California Chrome will be the favorite, but a vulnerable one.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Preakness Stakes is fast approaching with horses eager to redeem themselves out of the Kentucky Derby or horses looking to assert themselves after getting snubbed from Kentucky. Then there's the Derby winner trying keep the Triple Crown dream alive.

    There are solid horses in this field that have a legitimate shot at winning the Preakness. But often times with strength comes weakness. No horse is invincible.

    Every horse has an Achilles' heel, or a chink in the chest armor a la Smaug, and by reading ahead you'll find out what makes even the strongest horses vulnerable in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome

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    California Chrome gets a bath.
    California Chrome gets a bath.Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Flaw: Fatigue

    There are some who feel California Chrome's Kentucky Derby victory was a blight on his record because of the final time: 2:03.66. Imagine that? Winning the Derby wasn't enough; he needed to win it with the proper time as well.

    Some have noted that the final time doesn't tell the whole story. For one, Chrome didn't take to the track and still won. Second, he opened up by five then essentially coasted to the line to win by just under two lengths. Those are strong cases for why he could win in the Preakness. 

    But we're looking for weaknesses. He went from running the second-fastest Santa Anita Derby to the horse that ran the slowest Kentucky Derby over a fast track in decades. The two weeks' rest is also a heavy burden for Chrome. The other great horses didn't get a good shot at Chrome in the Derby, and as a result, Chrome wasn't tested.

    The Preakness will be different. Maybe Chrome will take to the track and blow up like Smarty Jones and Big Brown before him. But there are several horses with a lot of talent in this race that are fresher and will get a strong shot at Chrome. 

    His weakness has mainly to do with the lack of rest and how untested he was in Kentucky. Those are big hurdles to overcome and if he does overcome them, watch out. Art Sherman, trainer of Chrome, told The Daily News

    If he takes to the track at Baltimore, you’re going to see a different horse. If he can come out of there and be fourth going around the turn and fourth down the backside and have a clear path, you’re going to see old Chrome perform.

Social Inclusion

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    Flaw: Inexperience

    For all his talent, speed and power, Social Inclusion is just a baby. He's only raced three times, and he almost won in that third race, finishing a diminishing third to the eventual Kentucky Derby second choice, Wicked Strong.

    Social Inclusion hasn't exactly snuck up on anyone (just once when he defeated Honor Code at Gulfstream by 10 lengths in an allowance race). He was 8-5 in the Wood Memorial off that effort, even better than the previously undefeated Samraat (second in the Wood, sixth in the Derby). 

    Social Inclusion's weakness could also be his strength. Seven years ago, Curlin was third in the Derby in just his fourth career start and then won the Preakness and nearly won the Belmont Stakes. 

    Inexperience has its benefits (namely rest, less wear and tear), but Social Inclusion is running up against horses with experience and game. If a handicapper had to point to why he could lose, that would be the sole reason.

    Throw in that he's going to have some friends on the front end in the Preakness and he raises some questions that Gary Quill of Horse Racing Nation wants to know:

    The question marks for Social Inclusion are…will the Pimlico dirt surface be as speed friendly as Gulfstream Park? Can he carry that speed for 1 3/16 miles? Can/will he rate off the pace since there will be plenty of other early speed coming from Bayern, Pablo Del Monte and Ring Weekend? 

Ride on Curlin

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    Ride On Curlin stands by a sign that says, "Caution, Horse Bites."
    Ride On Curlin stands by a sign that says, "Caution, Horse Bites."David Goldman/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Flaw: Can't Break Through the Leaders

    There are horses that are simply bridesmaids and never brides. Enter Ride On Curlin. For as tough a horse as he is, he's not so much a winner as he is a horse wonderfully suited for exactas, trifectas and superfectas.

    He's done some great running from off the pace. He'll probably get a hotter pace in the Preakness than he had in the Derby, not to mention fewer horses to run around.

    As tough as this colt is, he appears to lack the killer instinct to hit the front. He's just a few strides shy of being a Grade 1 winner, and he won't have the speed to keep up in this spot.

Ria Antonia

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    Flaw: Recent Trainer Change

    Ria Antonia may be in an easier spot in the Preakness than she was on May 2, when she ran against Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks. Untapable could very well be the best three-year-old—colt or filly—in the land, but we won't find that out until later in the year.

    Ria Antonia's biggest hurdle is being switched from trainer Bob Baffert to Tom Amoss. Couple that with being a filly against the boys and she's got a lot going against her.

    As of Sunday, her connections were undecided about her running in the Preakness, all the more reason to possibly avoid her.

    "She trained this morning with us for the first time,” Amoss said. “She is going to have a light breeze Monday or Tuesday after which [owner] Mr. Paolucci and I will discuss the Preakness.”

    Calvin Borel worked her at Churchill Downs on Sunday, and that could mean he'll earn the mount in the Preakness. He won the Preakness on Rachel Alexandra in 2009. 

Dynamic Impact

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    Flaw: Swimming in Deep Water

    Ever since the Illinois Derby was downgraded as a prep for the Kentucky Derby, it has been reborn as a Preakness prep. Departing, a wise-guy horse from a year ago, prepped well and was a threat in the Preakness. 

    If Dynamic Impact has a weakness, it's his lack of accomplishments. It took him five tries to break his maiden and his best win—the Grade 3 Illinois Derby—was a Grade 3. Now he makes his first start in a Grade 1 and his talent—or maybe lack thereof—could be exposed in this spot.  

    There are other proven Grade 1 horses here, and Dynamic Impact will have to move forward in a major way at the longest distance he's ever run to even get a piece.

Bayern

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    Flaw: Endurance

    Bayern is one of Bob Baffert's best horses, a flashy, front-running beast. And it's that running style that could be his undoing in the Preakness. Bayern's best work has been at a mile or shorter, so he could have distance limitations.

    He fatigued in the Arkansas Derby after setting the pace. He was pressed from his outside, which he will no doubt face in the Preakness. As a result, Baffert plans on removing the blinkers to give Bayern a chance to race off the lead instead of bombing to the front and trying to hold on to dear life.

    "If we’re going to get him to track horses, track the speed, he needs them off," Baffert said Sunday.

    When faced with that pressure and the added distance, Bayern could run into some serious trouble at Pimlico. The blinkers should help him relax. (Think Palace Malice from a year ago: Blinkers in the Derby and he ran off with the pace; no blinkers in the Belmont Stakes and he won.)