Preakness First Pass

16 May

By Lucky Kalanges

With the official draw completed, here’s a quick looked at the Preakness Stakes contenders from the rail out:

1 WAR OF WILL (4/1) – Draws the rail again after working out a decent trip from that notoriously tough spot in the Derby, only to be taken out on the far turn by Maximum Security. Battled honorably until the final sixteenth, but failed to finish and faded to eighth. Either a glass half-full or empty depending on how you look at his last two out-of-the-money efforts. Should be fit coming back in two weeks, and will be a threat if he can work out a trip. Must gun it from the rail to establish position early, and can’t get too excited about him from a value standpoint, as the expected second choice.

2 BOURBON WAR (12/1) – Comes in off a layoff after finishing a no-chance 4th behind Maximum Security who crawled on the lead in the Florida Derby. He’s a dead closer so a lot will depend on how fast they go up front, but the pace does figure to be a bit quicker than it was at Gulfstream. Only finished 3/4 a length behind Code of Honor in last heat. Exotics threat.

3 WARRIOR’S CHARGE (12/1) – Ships in for the Brad Cox barn off wire-to-wire maiden and optional claiming victories by six or more lengths. Figures to gun for the lead here. Pace factor and a threat if he can clear, which looks like a much tougher assignment today with ALWAYS MINING and BODEXPRESS drawn to his outside. Florent Geroux opts for stablemate Owendale.

4 IMPROBABLE (5/2) – Three wins in six starts, but is still looking for his first victory as a three-year-old. Figures to have a better shot this time with a smaller field and a fast track. However, as the lone Baffert entry and morning-line favorite, he doesn’t figure to offer much value and is clearly beatable for the win.

5 OWENDALE (10/1) – Stablemate of the #3 horse, comes in off an impressive victory over Antohertwistafate in the Lexington, a race in which he made a sweeping move around the far turn. 2nd off a layoff, figures to sit and finish. Last speed figure fits with this bunch and could get the trip. Win contender and a key exotics player at 8/1 or better.

6 MARKET KING (30/1) – Maiden winner with eight starts. Cheap speed from the Lukas barn looks overmatched here. Toss.

7 ALWAYSMINING (8/1) – Local hero has ripped off six straight wins by open lengths at Laurel and is well-deserving of this shot. Speed figures fit with this group and gets a great draw in the middle of the field. Will take them as far as he can.

8 SIGNALMAN (30/1) – Improving figures, 3rd off a layoff for the McPeek barn, this mid-pack type has had quick paces to chase in his last two and managed only to grab third in the Blue Grass last out. He’s very experienced in fields of 13 or more, and has four solid works in tow. Should offer some value in lower half of exotics if he’s forgotten at 30/1.

9 BODEXPRESS (20/1) – Still a maiden, but throw out his Derby effort from a hopeless post and he split Maximum Security and Code of Honor in the Florida Derby. All those two did was cross the wire first and third in America’s biggest race. Should be putting the heat on the pacesetters and will try to get first run on the closers turning for home. Offers value in the exotics and can’t completely eliminate him for the win. Velazquez up is a plus.

10 EVERFAST (50/1) – Seldom fast is more like it, but ever ambitiously placed. Connections have bitten off more than this guy can chew again. Toss.

11 LAUGHING FOX (20/1) – Don’t laugh, prior to his last win he finished 4th behind would-be Derby favorite Omaha Beach, today’s likely favorite, and actual Derby winner, Country House, in the Arkansas Derby. This dead-closer fits from a class standpoint if he can get a lively pace to chase and a decent trip. Must use in the bottom half of the exotics.

12 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE (6/1) – Hard not to like this hard-knocking colt from the Bay Area who has managed five exacta finishes in six lifetime starts. Got stuck in a bit of traffic stalking the pace in the Lexington Stakes, which allowed Owendale to get the jump on him. He should be involved early and with the outside draw, he should manage to stay out of trouble. Gets Jose Ortiz this time. Still needs to prove he can win outside of Golden Gate, but offers value as the third choice. Win contender and exotics key for me.

13 WIN WIN WIN (15/1) – Deep closer with local connections can pick up the pieces late with the right trip. Wide draw shouldn’t hurt him. Finished behind the local hero Alwaysmining when he was racing at Laurel. Really had no shot in the Derby with the wet track. Will consider in the lower half of the exotics, third and fourth.

That’s my first impressions of the field. I’ll be back Friday night with my picks for the 144th Preakness.

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