PREPARING FOR THE PREAKNESS
PREPARING FOR THE PREAKNESS
YES...THE RACE HAS BEEN FORMFUL
NO...THAT DOES NOT MEAN MONEY CAN'T BE MADE
This Saturday at Pimlico ORB will attempt to become the 13th Kentucky Derby winner since 1978, when Affirmed last won the Triple Crown, to at least keep hope alive for finally having by adding the Preakness Stakes to accomplishments.
As often happens following the "shakeout" that is the Kentucky Derby, many of that races' participants decide to take a break and regroup while a less number of newcomers than you might expect come forward. This year that pattern has left the Preakness with (as of this writing) 10 runners set to go to the post. There are seven refugees from the Kentucky Derby and three first time hopefuls.
In addition to ORB, moving forward from the Derby are MYLUTE (5th), OXBOW (6th), WILL TAKE CHARGE (8th) ITSMYLUCKYDAY (15th), GOLDENCENTS (17th) and VYJACK (18th). The newcomers are DEPARTING (Last out Winner of the Grade III Illinois Derby - 4/20), GOVERNOR CHARLIE (Last out Winner of the Grade III Sunland Derby 3/24) and TITLETOWN FIVE (Last out 4th place finish in the Grade III Derby Trial 4/27.)
Obviously a concise field of 10 demands an entirely different manner of handicapping than does the full field of the Kentucky Derby. Rest assured I am fully aware that the history of the Preakness is one that presents itself as being considerably more "formful" than the Derby, so finding the true value is of utmost importance. And believe me that there is VALUE to be found even if the history of the Preakness is more formful.
Just take a look at the average numbers over the course of the last 13 years since 2000.
Average Field Size - 11 Horses
Favorites Have Won 7 Of 13 Races
Second Favorites Have Won 4 Of 13 Races
Favorites Finished Second 3 Times...Out Only Twice (Once When Barbaro Broke Down)
Longshots Won The Other 2 Races
Average Win Payoff - $9.80
Average Exacta Payoff* - $101.70
Average Trifecta Payoff* - $1,015.30
- Here is what I mean by FINDING VALUE and making money even in those years when the Favorite did win. In 2008, despite the odds-on Big Brown Winning and paying only $2.80, the Exacta returned $36.00 and the Trifecta $336.80. In 2004 when favored Smarty Jones paid $3.40 and all the price horses ran out the Exacta still returned $24.60 and the Trifecta $177.00. In 2003 Funny Cide paid only $5.80 as the winner but the Exacta returned $120.00 and the Trifecta $684.20, and last but certainly not least, in 2002 with favored War Emblem on top the Exacta still came back at $327.00 and the Trifecta a rousing $2,311.00.
So don't get discouraged when you hear all that talk about the "short fields" and "formful results" of the Preakness. With the RIGHT COMBINATION THERE IS PLENTY OF PROFIT TO BE HAD.
Walkwithapurpose looks for home-court advantage in Black-Eyed Susan
Five weeks after a disappointing loss in her graded stakes debut, Walkwithapurpose returns to more familiar surroundings in Friday's Grade 2, $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.
Foaled at Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland, a half-hour's drive from Pimlico, Walkwithapurpose will take on eight challengers in the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan, led by Grade 1 winner and 9-5 program favorite Emollient.
One of Pimlico's oldest stakes races, first run as the Pimlico Oaks in 1919, the Black-Eyed Susan will be contested 10th on a 13-race card that features seven stakes, including the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special, which returned from a four-year hiatus in 2012.
Also on Friday's card is the Jockey Challenge, newly formatted to pit four each of the top male and female riders in competition, and the Lady Legends for the Cure IV. A pari-mutuel event with eight retired female riding pioneers, the race is run as part of joint effort between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization.
Walkwithapurpose, a bay daughter of Candy Ride, took a five-race win streak into the Gazelle on April 6 at Aqueduct, her first race outside of Maryland. Despite some early trouble, she raced near the lead before drifting wide in the stretch and finishing third, beaten seven lengths.
"The saddle slipped coming out of the gate," trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Correas said. "I don't know what she hit or what happened, but it slipped. It was the first time she was going a mile and an eighth, the first time going two turns, the first time for a lot of stuff.
"Being locals, we are home, so she already has experience over the track. I think that's a different thing. There's some very good competitors in the race, but it should be better this time. She's been doing very good."
Though Walkwithapurpose has never raced at Pimlico, she has trained daily over the track since Correas moved his string from Laurel Park in late March, including a bullet half-mile breeze in :47 2/5 on last Friday.
"Compared to the way she went into the Gazelle, I would say she is more comfortable now here at Pimlico," Correas said. "We moved from Laurel to Pimlico like 15 days before the Gazelle, and she didn't really enjoy the change that much. But, now, she feels at home again, and she's training really good."
Third in her debut last September at Timonium, Walkwithapurpose reeled off three straight wins to end her two-year-old season, capped by an eight-length romp in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship December 31 at Laurel Park.
This year, she extended her win streak to five with victories in the Wide Country Stakes and the Caesar's Wish Stakes, both at Laurel, by 14 1/4 lengths combined.
"We knew that she had talent. I cannot tell you that from the get-go I knew she was going to be the kind of filly that she is," Correas said. "I said after the Maryland (JFC) that we will point to the Black-Eyed Susan, because she hinted enough at that point to think that it was doable. I think we are participating in this race in a good spot. She could be here and not be as good as she is, but she is a very, very nice filly."
Founded in 1925, Sagamore Farm was brought to prominence by A.G. Vanderbilt during more than five decades under his guidance, ending in 1986. In 2007, the farm was purchased by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, a native of Maryland.
"I think it would be a dream come true for all of us," Correas said of a Black-Eyed Susan victory. "For Kevin, he's a big fan of Maryland, so it would be an honor. For us, it's a very big race. This is only the second crop that we bred. The fact that we are there already makes the farm proud, and being there with a shot. Winning would be a cherry on the top."
Emollient, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for owner Juddmonte Farms, has won two of three starts this year, most recently going gate to wire in the Ashland over the Polytrack at Keeneland on April 6. Second in the Demoiselle at Aqueduct last November, she was an allowance winner to begin her three-year-old campaign.
The bay is working well leading up to the race as shown by her four-furlong bullet she fired at Belmont Park on Monday in :46 4/5, which was the best of 96 works at the distance on the fast main track. Mike Smith will retain the mount after getting the call for the first time in her Ashland victory.
Fiftyshadesofhay, winner of the Santa Ysabel on a wet-fast surface at Santa Anita on January 26, tuned up for the Black-Eyed Susan with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00 1/5 on Friday at Churchill Downs, the fastest of 27 horses.
"We shipped her to Kentucky, but she really didn't ship well. Now, she's doing really well," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. "She's had a couple of works. Her last work was nice, so we decided to take a shot at it."
Fiftyshadesofhay is coming off a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks and has hit the board in all three of her starts against graded company. Joel Rosario will pick up the mount.
Manuka Honey, runner-up in the Fantasy over a sloppy Oaklawn Park track last month, prepared for Friday's race with a five-furlong work in :59 3/5 at Belmont on Monday. Two starts back, the John Terranova trainee romped in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs.
Other contenders include Marathon Lady, who just missed in the Bourbonette Oaks two back and was most recently third in the Fantasy; stakes winner Lady Banks, who aims to rebound off a pair of poor performances; and stakes debutante Maracuya, who steps up in class after winning her first two career starts.
Richard's Kid makes homecoming for Pimlico Special
When the field for Friday's Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special appeared to come up short, trainer Doug O'Neill considered two options: to enter both Richard's Kid and Handsome Mike or place the latter in a different spot.
Some late additions to the Special enlarged the lineup to seven and made the decision for O'Neill. Only Richard's Kid will vie for the $180,000 top share in the Special. It is an appropriate homecoming spot for Richard's Kid, a Maryland-bred by Lemon Drop Kid out of Tough Broad originally under the tutelage of trainer Dickie Small.
After a victory in the John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel in 2009 and two more races, the grandson of Broad Brush moved on to the barn of Bob Baffert and became a three-time winner of Grade 1 stakes in California.
Another ownership change brought the horse, now eight years old, to O'Neill, who burst into national prominence last year as the trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champion I'll Have Another.
After eight starts under O'Neill, Richard's Kid, who has lifetime earnings of $2,332,259, has yet to reach the winner's circle.
"I really think he's been a lucky trip or two away," O'Neill said. " He could have had a big Breeders' Cup Classic(finished fifth) and it's been a little bit challenging to find good spots for him."
O'Neill said he will remove the blinkers from his charge for the Special after sending his horses directly to Pimlico from Churchill Downs after the Derby.
"All of them have settled in well," he said. "Richard's Kid is quite a professional. It would be quite an honor if he goes off as the favorite."
Former Maryland riding star Rosie Napravnik, who rode Richard's Kid in his first start on November 8, 2007 at Laurel, has the assignment.
The morning line odds list him as the third choice at 7-to-2 behind Last Gunfighter (7-5) and local favorite Eighttofasttocatch (9-5), who is coming into the race off an impressive gate-to-wire score in the Henry Clark Stakes here last month where the Tim Keefe trainee earned a career-best 109 BRIS Speed figure.
"He came out of the race in fantastic order and is training phenomenally," Keefe said. "He has put two of his best races together back-to-back. Coley (Pimlico stakes coordinator Coley Blind) told me the race was coming up lighter than they would have liked so I went to Arnold (Heft, husband of owner Sylvia Heft) and he encouraged me to do the best for the horse so I told him I would enter and take a look at it. I see no reason not to give it another shot."
Eighttofasttocatch will be going up against graded company for the first time since his ninth-place finish in last year's running of the race. The seven-year-old gelding looks to maintain the same form he showed in his stakes victory last out and Forest Bryce will be in the saddle again.
Last Gunfighter exits a nice score in the Excelsior on March 23 at Aqueduct in his graded stakes debut. The four-year-old colt was switched over to Chad Brown's barn after his first four starts and has been undefeated ever since. He enters in here on a five-race win streak but will be making his first start over the Pimlico track and will have Javier Castellano aboard for the first time.
The field is completed by Concealed Identity, third-place finisher in the Henry Clark; Indian Dance, recent victor of an optional claimer here last month; Brimstone Island, winner of his last three races; and Avenida Paseo, who sports a win over the track in an optional claimer last year.
As for Handsome Mike, he will go instead in the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap on Preakness Day, almost a half-mile shorter than the 1 3/16 mile Special.
"He's a horse who can run just about any distance," O'Neill said.
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