It's Preakness Week! I've come to become very fond of racing's second jewel after visiting Pimlico for the last two years. Will we head to New York for the first time since 2008 with a shot at the Triple Crown? Which new shooter will crack the trifecta (it's happened in six of the last seven races)?
I'll Have Another seems to have the tools to keep this thing going for another three weeks when we'll have to bet on the Belmont Stakes and his opportunity to become the 12th horse in history to win the Triple Crown.
We're heading down on Friday morning (we're going through the air this time) to take in Black-Eyed Susan Day, which has some fabulous stakes racing on tap, including the return of the Pimlico Special after a three year hiatus. The Special was last won in 2008 by Student Council, and will only be the eighth running of the race this century. Lots of good horses have run on Preakness weekend in the past two years, including last year's 3-year-old female champion, Royal Delta and 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic champion Blame. So keep your eyes open this weekend, a champion may be among us.
So let's take a quick look at the contenders and sort out who's got a chance to knock off I'll Have Another and who is just a pretender....starting with the Derby horses and finishing with the new shooters...
Bodemeister - Ran a tremendous race in the Derby. I cash big tickets if he holds on. Space Gal was all over him and cashed a $10 Place ticket. The 1/16-mile may help him here and is the main threat. May even take more money than the Derby winner. Hard not to have on your ticket. Hope Baffert runs him. [Update 5/12: He's in!]
Went The Day Well - Not the cleanest of trips in the Derby, and if you watch the replay he was flying late picking off horses to get fourth place. He was 7-wide at the quarter pole and only finished 2 1/2-lengths behind the winner at 30-1. He's proven on dirt and won't be found at those odds again. His daddy, Proud Citizen, finished third in the Preakness. No stamina issues here. Liking him a lot.
Creative Cause - He was a toss for me in the Derby, but fared well, finishing fifth. Harrington will ship him in on Wednesday and won't work him over the track. Lost Santa Anita Derby by a nose to the Derby winner, got as close as third in the Derby before being passed by Dullahan and Went The Day Well in deep stretch. Not feeling this one again.
Liaison - Zetcher horse finished behind Creative Cause in the Derby, in sixth. Has yet to hit the board in four tries as a 3-year-old. Baffert-Garcia won here two years ago with Lookin at Lucky. Baffert still deciding what to do with this colt, he flies into Louisville Monday and will determine whether to ship to Baltimore. [Update 5/12: He's out.]
Hansen - Said he was a perfect Preakness horse in my Degrees of Separation post, but not so sure based on his antics and fade in the Derby. Seems to be more in tuned to be a miler or sprinter - I'd be pointing him to the King's Bishop. He's proven at 8 1/2 furlongs, barely at 9....so don't think the extra distance befits him. Expended a lot energy at the Derby, hope they pass on the race. [Update 5/14/12: Hansen's owner has decided to skip and point towards the 7-furlong Woody Stephens on Belmont Day]
Optimizer - D. Wayne is living in the past, and this horse just doesn't seem to have what it takes. Other than his impressive last close in the Rebel that provided the graded earnings necessary to compete in the Derby, of late he hasn't shown much. But, as you know, they don't run the race on paper. You never know.
Here are the probable new shooters and some brief commentary...
Brimstone Island - A local horse, the Tiznow colt looks to be a late closing type. He closed on new shooter Pretension in the Cannonero II at Pimlico last month so he has a run over the strip. Could grab a piece of the trifecta or super if the pace is right. [Update 5/12: He's out]
Cozzetti - Not seeing it.
Hierro - Winner of the Derby Trial on Churchill's opening night, stretches out for the first time. His dad, Hard Spun, finished third behind the dueling Curlin and Street Sense in 2007. Not throwing out just yet.
Pretension - Canonero II winner got his butt kicked in his two attempts to qualify for Derby in the Gotham and the Illinois Derby. Pass.
Teeth of the Dog - Interesting new shooter, who finished third behind Gemologist and Alpha in the Wood. He also defeated Went The Day Well in his maiden victory in February at Gulfstream, which is a nice nugget of info. Sneaky contender.
Tiger Walk - OK, just because he was in my Run for the Roses stable, doesn't mean I think he can do anything in here. Not afraid to take on the big boys, just not good enough to beat 'em.
Zetterholm - Tricky Ricky enters this Silver Charm colt who hasn't ventured away from Aqueduct this year after racing only once (at Calder) as a 2-year-old. I need to study this one a little harder to figure out why he fits in here.
We'll have our annual BES Day post on Friday and will be live at Pimlico over the weekend..so stay tuned.
A bean counter by trade, writing about horse racing is my passion. Entered the blogosphere in April 2008 and in October 2010 became the racing correspondent for The Buffalo News. In 2012, elected into the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association (NTWAB).