Horse racing grabs the spotlight on Saturday afternoon with the 135th running of the second jewel of the Triple Crown. This year’s Grade 1 $1,000,000 Preakness Stakes features five horses that ran two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby and seven new faces.
National television coverage begins on NBC at 4:30pm EDT / 1:30 pm PDT with post-time set for 6:12pm EDT / 3:12 pm PDT.
Super Saver rewarded those that made him the trendy pick in Louisville, crossing the wire first after getting bet down to the 8-to-1 second choice behind Lookin at Lucky, who finished a troubled sixth as the highest Derby favorite in history at 6-to-1. He has been favored in all nine career starts.
The odds for both will be considerably lower for the Preakness, with Super Saver installed as the 5-to-2 morning line favorite and Lucky the second choice at 3-to-1. It’s likely that both will go off even lower, as favorites have fared well in the Preakness over the past three decades. They are both currently 9-to-5 in early betting.
My top pick, as he was in the Kentucky Derby, is Lookin at Lucky. Jockey Martin Garcia takes over for Garrett Gomez after trainer Bob Baffert wanted to switch things up in hopes of turning around Lucky’s misfortunes.
“He has so much confidence in me. I will do my best to not disappoint him,” Garcia told me yesterday from Hollywood Park before departing for Baltimore.
While Garcia is a new face on the national scene, he has become Baffert’s go-to-guy, winning over 30% of his mounts for the legendary trainer over the past two years.
“He’s so sincere and appreciative. It’s really fun to win with him,” Baffert told me from Clocker’s Corner at Santa Anita. “He’s really good out of the gate and can finish well, but he still needs a little bit of polish. But he’ll get there, and I think he’s going to be a superstar.”
Breaking from post No. 7 will give Garcia the opportunity to survey how the field breaks and position Lucky accordingly. With the apparent lack of speed in the race and Garcia’s riding style better suited to being close to the lead, it is likely Lucky will be more forwardly placed than he has been in recent starts.
Throughout 2010, I’ve maintained that Lucky is the best 3-year old horse in the country, and that belief won’t waver now. Stubborn maybe, but hopeful that a clean trip is finally in store for the son of Smart Strike.
While the racing fan in me wants the focus of the nation to remain on a chase to Belmont Park for the Triple Crown in three weeks, I’ll take a stand against Super Saver … again. That didn’t work out so well in Louisville, but the colt won’t find the muddy Churchill Downs track that he’s thrived on here at Pimlico. All three of his wins have come either at Churchill or over a sloppy/muddy track.
Saturday's forecast is calling for sunny skies and a fast main track.
The main positive for Super Saver going into the Derby was the presence of jockey Calvin Borel, who trainer Todd Pletcher said moves horses up five lengths over his home track at Churchill. Although Borel romped in the Preakness aboard Rachel Alexandra last year, he’s typically found much less success away from the Twin Spires.
Super Saver to round out the superfecta in fourth place for me.
We’re always up for some good irony, so I’ll pick Dublin to finish second off his morning line of 10-to-1. Gomez takes over on the son of 2005 Preakness winner Afleet Alex, and you can be sure he’ll be riding with something to prove after being taken off Lookin at Lucky. Dublin’s run in the Derby is better than it looks considering the trouble he encountered at the start, and he finished just a whisker behind Super Saver two starts back in the Arkansas Derby.
I’ll use a bomber to round out my trifecta, although I think Yawanna Twist will go off much lower than the 30-to-1 he’s listed at on the morning line. He’s finished first or second in all four career starts and has the most room for improvement having had the fewest starts of any other horse in the field.
Here’s a look at the other eight participants in the run for the Woodlawn Vase:
Aikenite (20-1) – Pletcher’s other horse. There’s no way he would sabotage his shot at the Triple Crown. A mile and three sixteenths might be a little further than this horse wants to go.
Schoolyard Dreams (15-1) – Edged Super Saver while finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby two starts ago, but followed that up with a fourth place finish after a clean trip in the Wood Memorial.
Pleasant Prince (20-1) – In his seventh start of 2010, he’s still looking for his first win. Missed by a nose to Ice Box in the Florida Derby, but followed that up with two lackluster efforts.
Northern Giant (30-1) – Has only a maiden win to his credit, last seen finishing dead last in the Arkansas Derby.
Jackson Bend (12-1) – His streak of nine straight top two finishes ended in Kentucky thanks in large part to a brutal trip. Still maintain the majority of his success has come against weaker competition.
Caracortado (10-1) – Fresh face from California could be a live long shot. But, instead of being a So Cal homer, he’s a toss for me. Just can’t imagine jockey Paul Atkinson helping the cause.
Paddy O’Prado (9-2) – Jockey Kent Desormeaux felt he had the Derby won if it weren’t for Super Saver blocking his way. In reality, he got a great trip behind a blazing pace and was fortunate to hold on for third. He won’t be as fortunate this time.
First Dude (20-1) – Another with only a maiden win to his credit. He could be forwardly placed after a pair of troubled starts in the Florida Derby and Bluegrass Stakes. A long shot with a shot to hit the board.
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