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Last year American Pharoah was a stand out in all his races and went on to sweep the Triple Crown, the first horse to do this since 1978. This year the race is a bit more open, so we will attempt to handicap the probable Preakness field using angles that have pointed at the winner in past years. It is well known that to win the Preakness, you have to have raced in the Kentucky Derby, and if the Derby is not in the horse's past performances he is an immediate toss for the win. In recent years, only Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, and Rachel Alexandra in 2009 skipped the Derby to win, although some would argue Rachel Alexandra was good enough to win the Derby had her original owner entered her. Although Pimlico is always called a speed-favoring oval, about half of the Preakness winners came from off the pace, while 1/3 of winners stalk. Horses more than 10 lengths off the pace after half a mile generally don't win the Black Eyed Susans and closers need to be in contention at the top of the stretch.
We also recommend checking workout patterns in the final week since these are a good indicator of who is ready. Preferably you're looking for horses that came out of the Derby and only had one (no more, no less) workout between starts, not necessarily at Pimlico. Not having a work between the Derby and the Preakness used to be a negative, but perhaps this angle has been negated as recent winners American Pharoah, California Chrome, I'll Have Another, Shackleford, and Lookin at Lucky (5 of the last 6) all did not post a timed work during the 2 week layoff. (2013 winner Oxbow did, en route to his upset of Derby winner Orb). But note again that all of them came out of the Derby.
Where there is a tie in points we will list the horses in alphabetical order.
Exaggerator winning the Santa Anita Derby.
Exaggerator hit on every factor we were looking for. We want to see at least a 102 BRIS speed figure, which he earned in the Santa Anita Derby and then bettered that with a 103 in the Kentucky Derby, a sub-30 day layoff coming in (in his case 14 days since the Derby), a stakes win this year, a stakes placing (top 3) as a juvenile (he won the Delta Jackpot), 2 or more starts last year (he had 6) and 3-6 starts this year (he has 4). Finally he needs a sharp prep (runner-up in the Derby), and two points for coming out of the Kentucky Derby since that factor is strongest of all. Derby also-rans have a better chance at winning at Pimlico than a winner from anywhere else last out.
Nyquist is still undefeated after romping in the Kentucky Derby for win number 8. Needless to say he too hit on every factor like Exaggerator, but will probably be bet down to odds-on Saturday. We fully expect the win streak to continue to 9 given his domination of this class, and the cutback to 1 3/16 miles will only help him.
Lani probably will surprise you by ranking this high up but only failed on two factors. His 9th place finish in the Derby beaten 10 lengths clearly isn't a sharp prep for the Preakness, and he has not run a BRIS 103 (or equivalent rating when he raced in Japan and Dubai). It is worth noting that the UAE Derby is the same distance as the Preakness. It is worth noting that Gun Runner, declared out of the race as of Tuesday, scored the same number of points as Lani.
The next four horses were tied in points.
Abiding Star is in the third grouping of horses in our analysis despite being a last minute addition to the field. He comes here off his win in the Parx Derby run on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, so he earns a sharp prep inside 30 days, but doesn't score the 2 points due to missing the Run for the Roses. Two starts back he earned a 103 BRIS figure in an allowance so he also qualifies there. He also lacks a stakes win at 2.
Awesome Speed also managed to join the third division. His best speed figure is the 97 earned when he finished second in the Federico Tesio, not up to par but still qualified as a sharp prep. However, by ducking the Derby he missed out on those crucial 2 points here. Again, horses that don't run in the Derby are at a huge disadvantage here.
Collected also skipped the Derby, but unlike Awesome Speed, he did earn a 102 speed figure when he won the Sunland Festival of Racing Stakes. His second knock is the 5 week layoff, coming to Baltimore off a win in the April 16 Lexington at Keeneland.
Uncle Lino comes to Pimlico off a win in the California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos earning him a 109 BRIS figure, the highest of any horse entered here. He skipped the Derby and also lacks a stakes placing (in fact, any stakes starts at all) as a juvenile. He scored on the same factors as Abiding Star.
Fellowship stands alone with four points. He comes here off a fourth place finish in the Pat Day Mile on Derby day, which is not a sharp prep but is 2 weeks out. He still lacks a stakes win this year and his best BRIS figure is the 95 earned in the Fountain of Youth.
Cherry Wine stands alone with three points. The Blue Grass third place finisher was an also-eligible for the Derby but failed to draw in. He earns a sharp prep and has enough starts at 2 and 3 but fails on all other factors, including a top BRIS figure of 93 earned in the Rebel and running here off a 6 week layoff.
The final two horses were tied in points.
Laoban only scored on two factors, starts at 2 and starts at 3. He is still a maiden so lacks a stakes win this year. His best figure is a 92 earned in the Gotham, and he did not compete in any stakes races as a juvenile.
Stradivari understandibly ranks low as he only has 3 starts lifetime (2 as a juvenile, which earned him a point, and 1 this year) and will be makingh his stakes debut in the Preakness. His only other point scored on was his sharp prep, an 11 length romp in a 1 1/8 mile allowance at Keeneland on April 17, almost 5 weeks out. He just missed on speed figures with his 101.
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