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Preakness Poll
Who will win the 2024 Preakness?

Uncle Heavy
Catching Freedom
Mystic Dan
Seize the Grey
Just Steel
Tuscan Gold

Analyzing the Preakness Contenders

Date: 05/14/2024

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 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, this angle may have fallen by the wayside after some recent winners, including last year's winner National Treasure, were able to win the Black-Eyed Susans without running for the Roses 2 weeks before.

This year's short field of 9 is disappointing, with just 3 Derby horses (including upset winner Mystik Dan) making the trip to Maryland.

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 Pat Day Mile winner Seize the Grey) definitely need a timed work.

Where there is a tie in points we will list the horses in morning line odds order as the tiebreaker. You can view free past performances from here (look for Muth).

Mystik Dan leads this year's analysis but he does not check all of the boxes. He gets the two points for coming out of the Derby (as the winner), but even without the bonus point he would still be the top scoring horse. The Derby win gives him a sharp prep inside 30 days, a stakes win at 3, and a graded stakes 1st or 2nd. He only ran a 97 BRIS figure in the Derby but did run a 101 when he won the Southwest Stakes, satisfying that requirement. Given his runstyle shown in the Southwest and Kentucky Derby we will credit him as a stalker despite BRIS still rating him a "P 2" presser. However he did not run a 95 figure as a juvenile (his best was a 94 when breaking his maiden) and he did not compete in stakes as a juvenile. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. retains the ride for trainer Ken McPeek out of post 5 aboard the 5-2 second choice.

Just Steel ranks second. He gets the two points for coming out of the Derby, a prep inside 30 days, but finishing 17th clearly not sharp. He has finished second in graded stakes company (Southwest and Arkansas Derby), ran a 97 figure in his debut as a juvenile, and can stalk the pace. He still has yet to run a triple digit figure or win a stakes race this year. Joel Rosario, who last rode him in November, gets back aboard the 15-1 longshot for trainer D. Wayne Lukas from post 7.

The next two horses scored equal points so are ranked in morning line odds order.

Catching Freedom is the third ranked horse and comes here off a fourth place finish in the Derby, not a sharp prep but within the 30 day window. He does have a graded stakes win and a 100 figure this year (Louisiana Derby). However he did not compete in stakes as a juvenile nor run a 95 figure, and he is a deep closer (BRIS runstyle "S 0"). Regular jockey Flavien Prat rides from post 3 aboard the 6-1 chance for trainer Brad Cox.

Seize the Grey won the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard, giving him a sharp prep and stakes win 2 weeks out. He also finished in the money in stakes company at 2 (third in the Skidmore at Saratoga), and can stalk the pace (BRIS "E/P 4"). On the negative side he did not run in the Derby and has not met either BRIS speed figure par, his best as a juvenile being an 89 in his maiden win and this year 92 in the Pat Day Mile. Jaime Torres retains the ride for trainer D. Wayne Lukas on the 15-1 outsider from post 6.

Muth won the Arkansas Derby, satisfying the stakes win and graded stakes requirements, but missed the Derby due to the ongoing suspension of trainer Bob Baffert by Churchill Downs. So he does have a sharp prep however he is running off a 7 week layoff. He also has a stakes win as a juvenile, the American Pharoah at Santa Anita. On speed figures his best as a juvenile was a 105, well above par, but this year he ran a 99 at Oaklawn, just a point slow. Finally, he tends to run on or close to the lead (BRIS "E/P 7"). Regular rider Juan Hernandez gets the call on the 8-5 morning line favorite from post 4.

Uncle Heavy is another new shooter to the Triple Crown, coming here off a 5th place finish beaten 11 lengths in the Wood Memorial, clearly not a sharp prep and off a 6 week layoff. He does have a graded stakes win this year in the Withers, butt he ran a career best 94 figure, short of par for this year as well as last. He does have a stakes win as a juvenile, the Wait For It Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx in December. He does stalk the pace (BRIS "P 3") which is preferred here. New rider Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mounts aboard the 20-1 longshot from post 2 for trainer Butch Reid Jr.

Imagination comes here off a close second in the Santa Anita Derby, a sharp prep but 6 weeks out, and short of par with a BRIS figure of 97. He won the San Felipe giving him the required stakes win at 3 (and graded stakes placing). He did not compete in stakes as a juvenile and ran a best figure of 94, one point off par. Finally, he looks to be a need-the-lead type (BRIS "E 7") and may well be in this race as a pacesetter for stablemate Muth if he cannot steal the win on the front end. Regular rider Frankie Dettori gets the call for trainer Bob Baffert from the outside 9 post aboard the 6-1 shot.

Tuscan Gold comes here off a third place finish in the Louisiana Derby, a sharp prep but a whopping 8 weeks out, by far the longest layoff in the field, and a 98 figure, short of par. He only ran once as a juvenile, finishing 4th in a maiden event with an 81 figure, so well short of par and lacking the required stakes placing at 2. He does stalk the pace given his BRIS "P 5" runstyle rating. Regular rider Tyler Gaffalione retains the mount for trainer Chad Brown from post at morning line odds of 8-1.

Mugatu scored no points at all as he did not qualify on any of the factors. He finished fifth in the Blue Grass, not a sharp prep, run at a slow 93 BRIS figure, and a 6 week layoff. He has never finished in the money in stakes company (let alone graded), did not compete in any stakes as a juvenile with a best figure last year of 73, well short of par), and usually comes from off the pace despite his "P 2" rating, so we consider him a closer rather than stalker. Joe Bravo, who rode him for one start at Gulfstream back in November, takes over from regular rider Joe Talamo for trainer Jeff Engler, drawing the rail aboard the 20-1 longshot.

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