2014 Preakness Horses: Ranking Every Contender at Pimlico
A field of 10 top three-year-olds will line up Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland, for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, and just one has a shot at Triple Crown glory.
Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome hopes to keep his Triple Crown hopes intact. After beating 18 foes in Louisville, he will face nine Saturday, two he beat in the Derby and seven new shooters.
Let’s rank every contender based on running style, speed figures, connections and racing luck.
10. Ria Antonia
The filly is taking on the boys here, and the ladies have managed to win the Preakness five times, the last being the brilliant Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Rachel had won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks prior.
Ria Antonia also ran in the Kentucky Oaks, but she was beaten by nearly 16 lengths in a sixth-place finish, an effort that instills little confidence she can actually beat the boys.
She has only crossed the wire in front once in her career. Her biggest win came in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was beaten by a nose but placed first via a disqualification of She’s a Tiger after the two exchanged a few bumps in the stretch.
Despite having Calvin Borel in the irons, she is going to be the biggest price in the field, and she would need a form reversal and plenty of luck to beat the boys.
9. Pablo Del Monte
Bringing some speed to the race, the colt set the early fractions and held on gamely until late, unable to hold off the top pair in a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass over polytrack at Keeneland.
His only two tries on conventional dirt were a fourth in the Gulfstream Park Derby and a third in the Grade 3 Hutcheson, both going one-turn at Gulfstream Park. The colt just has not run fast enough, and the extra ground here is certainly a question mark.
Fans of this colt could have received as much as 25-1 last week, according to Odds Shark. By post time, his price may actually be even higher.
8. Dynamic Impact
Trained by Canadian-based Mark Casse, who had a strong Keeneland meeting this spring, this colt broke his maiden in his fifth career start and then won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, which used to be a prep for the Run for the Roses until Churchill Downs snubbed it as a points race.
The colt won the race in fast time, a game nose winner over the Bob Baffert-trained Midnight Hawk. A repeat of that effort would put the colt in the mix here, but he seems more likely to regress from his career-best effort.
War Emblem used the Illinois Derby as a prep for victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2002, but I can’t see this colt winning here.
7. Ring Weekend
It took this guy five times just to break his maiden, but his first start against winners earned him a start in the Kentucky Derby. He won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in gate-to-wire fashion, but the race was not as strong as in previous years.
With a Derby ticket stamped, his trainer Graham Motion elected to prep in the Calder Derby, where he was no match for Our Caravan, who rolled to a 9 3/4-length victory. The colt spiked a fever a few weeks later, and Motion decided to skip the Kentucky Derby.
Motion trained 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who then ran second as the beaten favorite in the Preakness. While the connections have to be respected, the colt just does not look good enough to handle this group.
This colt is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has won the Preakness Stakes five times.
Another horse that did not have the points to earn a starting spot in the Derby field, the colt instead went to the Grade 3 Derby Trial, where he was a nose in front at the wire but was disqualified for causing interference in the stretch and placed second.
In his previous start, he was the pacesetter in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park but weakened to finish third behind Danza and Ride On Curlin.
His 10-1 morning line seems likely to be shorter by post time, and he may not be good enough to survive a pace duel and hold off the Derby winner.
5. Social Inclusion
Unable to get into the Derby field because he was sitting in 23rd place in the 2014 Kentucky Derby points standings, the connections pointed the colt toward a prep in Florida. Minor foot issues forced a scratch, and now he makes his first start since running third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5.
The colt has plenty of speed, and if jockey Luis Contreras wants the lead, he is quick enough. The question is whether he is seasoned enough to beat this group in gate-to-wire fashion.
With several runners in here capable of pressing the issue early and with his recent foot problems, his 5-1 betting price sure seems light.
4. Kid Cruz
This colt is flying completely under the radar but has good late turn of foot and is the lone runner in the field that has a win over the Pimlico main track. The Linda Rice trainee won the Federico Tesio in his last start with a good late rally.
He is stepping into tougher company here but has the look of a runner that may still have some upside and is another that will benefit from a sharp early pace. He will be rolling late and can pick up a slice. Leave him out of your trifectas and superfectas at your own peril.
At odds as high as 20-1, according to Odds Shark, he should be tossed in the mix.
3. Ride On Curlin
Jockey Joel Rosario hops off General a Rod to ride this colt, who checked in seventh in the Kentucky Derby after a less-than-stellar trip under Calvin Borel.
The colt was taken back to last early while Borel saved ground, had to steady off heels entering the stretch, was angled out very wide and drifted out even wider while making up some late ground.
While he has yet to get an ideal trip in his last four starts, all losses, he has shown some finishing kick and should be coming late if the early pace is as fast as expected. While he is not a strong win candidate, he has a good shot of landing in the exotics.
2. General a Rod
The Mike Maker trainee did not have the best of trips in his 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
The colt was taken off the pace (and he was up on the pace in his final two Derby preps), had to steady when caught in tight quarters after six furlongs, and then was angled down to the rail on the far turn, which can be a tough place in such a large field. His jockey, Joel Rosario, angled him back out, then back in toward the inside where he found some more trouble and had to steady in deep stretch.
He picks up a new jockey in Javier Castellano, the leading jockey in money earned so far in 2014, and he is a major player here at a decent price. The colt has been between 15-1 and 18-1 in early betting, according to odds posted at Odds Shark.
Look for this colt to finish second or third.
1. California Chrome
The price on the Kentucky Derby winner is going to be short, but he outran both his modest pedigree and 18 opponents to win the Run for the Roses in dominant fashion and has given every indication over the past two weeks that he is ready for more in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
The colt did develop a throat blister, which was discovered Thursday, but his connections say it is nothing more than a pimple, has been treated and will have no effect on his performance.
It looks as if jockey Victor Espinoza had something left in the tank in Louisville, and the colt has a habit of staying out of trouble and having good trips, and we are expecting to see another one in Baltimore.
Steve Haskin of Blood-Horse put it best when he said, "This horse doesn't know what the word 'bounce' means."
We will see you in the Big Apple in three weeks for his Triple Crown bid.