Preakness Field 2015: Examining Favorites, Sleeper Contenders, Top Jockeys

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 12, 2015

Danzig Moon, ridden by exercise rider William Cano, gallops at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, April 30, 2015.  (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Garry Jones/Associated Press

The 2015 Preakness Stakes field is not official until Wednesday's post positions draw, and even then horses can be withdrawn before Saturday's race. But many Preakness hopefuls are already bowing out.  

Pimlico Race Course typically holds a much smaller field of 10 to 12 horses, but it promises to be even more exclusive than that this year. Trainer Todd Pletcher currently has four horses—Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge, Stanford and Materiality—listed as contenders, but Jonathan Lintner of The Courier-Journal reported Monday that it's probable only one of the four will run, and it's likely to be Materiality.

In fact, Carpe Diem has already been ruled out, per Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman, while DRF's David Grening reported over the weekend that Competitive Edge is likely to miss as well. If all of that holds true, only eight horses will be running.

With that in mind, American Pharoah still has enough on his plate to threaten his quest toward a Triple Crown. Let's take a look at the field.

2015 Preakness Stakes Field

HorseJockeyTrainerOdds
American PharoahVictor EspinozaBob Baffert5-6
Firing LineGary StevensSimon Callaghan5-1
DortmundMartin GarciaBob Baffert11-2
Carpe Diem*-Todd Pletcher12-1
Competitive Edge*-Todd Pletcher14-1
MaterialityJavier CastellanoTodd Pletcher16-1
Danzig MoonJulien LeparouxMark Casse20-1
Divining Rod-Arnaud Delacour22-1
BodhisattvaTrevor McCarthyJose Corrales40-1
Stanford*Florent GerouxTodd Pletcher40-1
Grand BiliTyler GaffalioneGustavo Delgado50-1
Tale of VerveJoel RosarioDallas Stewart66-1
Preakness.com / OddsShark.com

Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated May 11

* Indicates horses unlikely to participate, according to Lintner's report.

Favorites

American Pharoah

Garry Jones/Associated Press

The mass exodus of contenders in the days leading up to the Preakness likely has something to do with the show American Pharoah and the two runners-up put on at Churchill Downs.

As the Derby champion galloped past Firing Line and Dortmund down the stretch, one thing became obvious—nobody else had what it takes to hang with those three. But even with the trio speeding out past the rest, American Pharoah still managed to leave them in the dust.

The come-from-behind win justified American Pharoah's status as the favorite, and Saturday will mark just another race with high expectations for jockey Victor Espinoza, per Chris Fallica:

The big question on American Pharoah surrounds his ability to emerge in a tight and hotly contested race, which he answered convincingly on horse racing's biggest stage. A short two-week layoff invariably puts any horse at a disadvantage, but the only horses capable of doing anything about it will have the same amount of rest.

Firing Line

Garry Jones/Associated Press

After coming up short to Dortmund in two previous races, Firing Line resiliently got over the hump on the Kentucky Derby's final stretch. But he couldn't keep it going long enough to hold off American Pharoah.

This time around, on a shorter track of 1 3/16 miles and with both horses coming off of short rest, perhaps a reversal of fortune will be in store. 

Firing Line has already proven his top-line speed is capable of contending with trainer Bob Baffert's star duo of American Pharoah and Dortmund. But was his incredible late push at the Derby a sign his shortcomings are no longer, or simply a one-time case?

With American Pharoah all but assured to assert his dominance again, Firing Line would do well to simply hold off Dortmund again. But if the latest odds are any indication, that won't be much of a surprise.

Sleepers

Divining Rod

Garry Jones/Associated Press

Potential sleeper candidates to dethrone American Pharoah—or even usurp one of the three favorites for a win-place-show finish—are dropping like flies, but Divining Rod looks capable of turning some heads this weekend.

After winning the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April, Divining Rod was unable to qualify for Churchill Downs. But coming in off of an impressive victory and having the month-plus of rest that most don't could be a recipe for disaster for the rest of the field.

The obvious step up in competition is worth addressing, but experience on the saddle can make all the difference. Divining Rod's jockey hasn't yet been announced, but trainer Arnaud Delacour will have his pick between the likes of Gary Castellano and John Velazquez—assuming Pletcher does end up scratching three of his four horses.

Divining Rod has placed top-three in every one of his career races and could very well continue the streak through Saturday.

Danzig Moon

LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 29: Danzig Moon goes over the track during morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 29, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Outside of the mighty three favorites, most who ran in the Derby are avoiding Pimlico in order to maximize rest before the Belmont Stakes. But not Danzig Moon, who is looking to build off of some positives from Churchill Downs.

Overshadowed in American Pharoah's thrilling win and Firing Line's great run was a fifth-place finish from Danzig Moon, who came in just 6 1/2 lengths behind the victor. That came on the heels of an impressive second-place finish at the Blue Grass Stakes.

Jockey Julien Leparoux will be riding Danzig Moon just like in those previous two races, which sets up for him to be nipping at the heels of the front horses yet again. Trainer Mark Casse is talking up his horse after seeing his recent practice runs, per a report from Privman.

“He was training well coming into the Blue Grass, out of that he trained even better coming into the Derby, and we think he’s doing even better now,” Casse said. 

Danzig Moon didn't have enough in the tank to seriously contend with the top Derby finishers, but he certainly showed he won't be fading away. All it will take is a little extra push for him to sneak into the top three.

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