Eclipse Stakes Results
Royal North Stakes
In 2015 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, then things went back to normal with three different horses winning the Triple Crown races both in 2016 and 2017. Then in 2019 Justify broke all the rules by not only winning the Derby without racing as a juvenile, but completing the Triple Crown sweep before retiring after only six starts. Once again we will 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. However, in recent years, Rombauer (2021), Swiss Skydiver (2020), Cloud Computing (2017), and then a gap back to Rachel Alexandra (2009) pulled off the feat, however Oaks runner-up Swiss Skydiver may have been helped by the COVID-adjusted Triple Crown schedule that year. It should come as no surprise that two of the top 3 horses in the analysis all ran in the Derby, with the Oaks winner ranked second. With longshot Derby winner Rich Strike (disqualified to 17th) staying out, this race looks like easy pickings for beaten Derby favorite, second place finisher Epicenter but Secret Oath makes it interesting. Although Pimlico is often called a speed-favoring oval, in recent years it tends to favor stalkers so we want a horse that stays close to the pace 3 to 4 lengths off rather than setting it.
We also recommend checking workout patterns in the final week since these are a good indicator of who is ready. Not having a work between the Derby and the Preakness used to be a negative, but several recent winners including Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah did not have a timed work during the 2 week layoff so this is no longer worthy of consideration. But note again that all of them lacking timed works came out of the Derby, so with that short layoff a timed work may be unnecessary. Horses not coming from the Derby nor from a similarly short layoff (such as Armagnac off a 13 day break) definitely need a timed work.
Where there is a tie in points we will list the horses in alphabetical order. You can view free past performances here from BRISnet.com (looks for Creative Minister).
Epicenter ranked on top, as expected for the 6-5 morning line favorite. He scored on all but one factor and will probably be bet down even lower. Coming out of the Derby scores double since that is such a strong factor, and finishing a close second as the favorite to surprise winner Rich Strike gives him a sharp prep 2 weeks out (the limit is 30 days). He does have two stakes wins as a three-year-old and one as a juvenile (we only need an in-the-money finish at 2). A new factor this year requires finishing first or second in any graded stakes, which clearly he has done. On BRIS speed he ran 101's in the Derby and Louisiana Derby, and a 95 (right at par) when breaking his maiden at 2. The only negative is that he usually races close to the pace, although in the Derby he "closed" from 6 lengths out but this was due to the unusually fast early pace that collapsed. With a more typical pace scenario in the Preakness he'll be sent to lead by regular rider Joel Rosario from post 8 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Secret Oath ranked second as the 9-2 third choice for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The Kentucky Oaks winner looks to repeat the feat of Rachel Alexandra and definitely can do it. By not coming out of the Derby she misses out on the 2 points but some might argue the Oaks win should be worth 1 point; even with that point she would still rank in second. The Oaks is clearly a sharp prep 15 days out, and qualifies as a stakes win at 3 (and a graded stakes win lifetime). On speed figures she ran a 95 in an allowance on December 31, just making the cut on the last day of her juvenile season, and a 103 in the Oaks. She can stalk the pace to victory which is preferred here. Other than missing the Derby her only knock is she did not finish in the money in a stakes race at 2, her only juvenile stakes being a fifth in the Golden Rod. Luis Saez, who rode her for the first time in the Oaks, retains the ride out of post 4.
Simplification ranked third as the 6-1 morning line fourth choice. He finished fourth in the Derby which gives him the two points but doesn't qualify on sharp prep. He won the Fountain of Youth to satisfy that important requirement. His 99 figure in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream was short of par for his 3-year-old season, but he ran way over par with a 103 when breaking his maiden as a juvenile. He lacks stakes competition as a juvenile and he usually runs on or close to the pace, alhough like Epicenter he "rallied" from 11 lengths off in the Derby due to the crazy pace. New jockey John Velazquez picks up the mount, drawing the rail for trainer Antonio Sano.
The next two horses tied in points so are ranked in morning line odds order.
Early Voting is the 7-2 second choice and did not run in the Derby despite finishing a close second in the Wood Memorial, earning a 111 BRIS figure. So he loses the 2 points, but does have a sharp prep however he is running here off a 6 week layoff. He only raced once as a juvenile, winning his debut but not in stakes company and with a short-of-par 86 BRIS figure. He does have the required stakes win and graded stakes 1st or 2nd (winning the Withers and second in the Wood). Finally he is the expected speed in the race, clearly needing the lead and will probably duel Epicenter most of the way. Regular rider Jose Ortiz retains the ride from the 5 post for trainer Chad Brown.
Creative Minister is 10-1 on the morning line. Like Early Voting he will also be making his 4th lifetime start in the Preakness, coming here off an allowance win on the Derby undercard where he ran a 101 BRIS figure. This gives him a sharp prep 2 weeks out but not the Derby. He is a confirmed stalker, sitting 4 lengths off, which is the recommended style for the Preakness. However, he never raced at 2 nor in any stakes company, so he fails on juvenile stakes, 3-year-old stakes win, and graded stakes win or place. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. stays in the irons for trainer Ken McPeek out of post 2.
The next two horses tied in points so are ranked in morning line odds order.
Skippylongstocking is 20-1 on the morning line drawing the far outside post 9 for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and regular rider Junior Alvarado. He was third in the Wood giving him a sharp prep and met par with his 107 BRIS figure, but is coming off a 6 week layoff having skipped the Derby. He lacks a stakes win at 3 and also lacks an in-the-money finish in any stakes at 2, finishing 4th in the Street Sense, and since the Wood was his only graded start his 3rd place finish doesn't qualify (we need a win or second place). His best figure at 2 was an 89 on December 5, 1 point off par. He is rated "E/P 3" by BRIS meaning he presses the pace (he broke his maiden gate to wire but generally does not lead).
Happy Jack is a 30-1 longshot. Although he comes here off the Derby where he finished 14th beaten 19 lengths, earning him the two points, plus the point for coming in off a 2 week layoff, he did not score on any of the other factors. Clearly the Derby was not a sharp prep, and before that he finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby earning a 97 figure, short of par and still lacking a stakes win. He never raced as a juvenile so no points for BRIS pars nor stakes placings, and he has never finished better than third in graded stakes company. Finally he is a confirmed closer, generally sitting well back before rallying. New rider Tyler Gaffalione picks up the ride from post 6 for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Armagnac sits alone ranked eighth and is 12-1 on the morning line for trainer Tim Yakteen. He won an allowance on May 8 at Santa Anita scoring a 97 BRIS figure, so a sharp prep 13 days out (the shortest layoff in the field) but short of par in speed. Before that race he was 6th in the San Felipe and 4th in the Santa Anita Derby, meaning he failed to get a stakes win at 3 nor a graded stakes win or second placing. His only start as a juvenile was a 3rd place finish on New Year's Eve with a 76 figure, so not meeting par nor was a stakes in-the-money. New rider Irad Ortiz Jr. will be in the irons from post 7.
Fenwick ranked last and, for the first time since we have done these Triple Crown analyses, is totally shut out in the points, justifying his 50-1 odds despite a short field. After needing 5 tries to break his maiden earning a career best 90 figure on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, he finished 11th beaten 36 lengths in the Blue Grass Stakes, clearly not a sharp prep and off a 6 week layoff. His debut in October was his best race as a juvenile, finishing second but with an 83 figure, also short of par and lacking stakes competition at 2. Finally, he is a confirmed front-runner, as his only win was gate-to-wire and unless up close to the pace (as he was in his debut) he finishes well back, although he also faded badly in the Blue Grass despite sitting 2 lengths off. Clearly he does not belong in this spot. New jockey Florent Geroux picks up the ride from post 3 for trainer Kevin McKathan.
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