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) 9 runners set to go to the post. There are six 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), and GOLDENCENTS (17th). 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 9 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.
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AND THEN THERE WERE NINE: A PRELIMINARY PREAKNESS PREVIEW
As we approach the last few days of preparation let’s take a brief overview look at the nine three-year olds that will draw post positions on Wednesday for the 2013 Preakness Stakes.
DEPARTING – The Al Stall trained son of War Front has only had one glitch on an otherwise perfect 5 race career. That glitch was a far from discouraging third place finish in the Grade II Louisiana Derby back on March 30. In that race he was 4 wide on the second turn and 5 wide into the stretch yet was only beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Revolutionary who came back to run third in the Kentucky derby and MYLUTE, who was a quite decent 5th in the Kentucky Derby and returns to try and conquer the Preakness. In his most recent try DEPARTING handled what might be considered less than Triple Drown level foes in the Grade III Illinois Derby four weeks back, but did so in such dominating form that he is being considered by a number of analysts as the most formidable prospect of the three runners who will run on Saturday after skipping the Kentucky Derby. DEPARTING, who breezed a half mile at Churchill Downs on Sunday has been a consistent stalker who has never broken slowly and been further than 2 ¾ lengths back by second call in any of his career races so should have little trouble measuring any kind of pace in the Preakness. He will be ridden by Brian Hernandez who has been aboard for all 5 of his career races.
GOLDENCENTS – If you watched the Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third favorite (behind ORB and Revolutionary) gain a brief early lead, settle in second and by the far turn begin the process that would see him eased up the rest of the way you will likely line up behind one of two conclusions: he either doesn’t have the foundation to run that far and didn’t like mixing it up on the front end, or more likely, never got his true footing over a sloppy race track that he had never before experienced. The evidence of his six race career prior to the Derby would suggest that he is definitely not afraid of a little pace contention. In winning four of his first six starts, including the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Grade III Sham and Grade III Delta Jackpot he was (in all six races) either first or second and no further off the pace than a length at the start, first call and second call. Trainer Doug O’Neill has just as much confidence as he had going into the Kentucky Derby and why not after watching the colt’s strong gallop on Tuesday morning at Pimlico. In retrospect, the fact that jockey Kevin Krigger realized that GOLDENCENTS was through by the time they reached the far turn in the Derby and decided to wrap him up could turn out to be a key energy saving maneuver that also left the colt on edge and hungry. We’ll find out on Saturday.
GOVENOR CHARLIE – Following a sharp 6 furlong work in 1:10 4/5 at Churchill Downs on Monday, trainer Bob Baffert, who must be chomping at his own bit after not having a single entry in this year’s Kentucky Derby, said that Grade III Sunland Derby winner GOVERNOR CHARLIE is on track to be shipped to Baltimore on Wednesday. The son of Midnight Lute (by Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet) has turned in three blistering works at CD since his March 24 triumph at Sunland Park and only missed the derby because of minor hoof problems. His lack of experience seems to be his only question mark at this point, having raced only 3 times in his career. He broke his maiden at Santa Anita on February 17 before conquering the Sunland Derby. He has good tactical speed, so will probably be in the early mix with GOLDENCENTS, ITSMYLUCKYDAY and TITLETOWN FIVE. If regular jockey Martin Garcia manages to settle him just off the afore-mentioned three he would have first crack from his stalking position. However, with the possibility of the class jumping TITLETOWN FIVE running out to the early lead, it is very possible that we could see and interesting cat-and-mouse jockey-for-early-position scenario from the other three. Pace will definitely make this race, so a relaxed tactical speed horse like GOVERNOR CHARLIE could become a player.
ITMYLUCKYDAY – The son of Lawyer Ron was another who disappointed greatly in the Kentucky Derby. One of the top four favorites at 9.3-1, the Eddie Pleas trained colt was tracking in the second wave early on, made a brief run on the second turn and backed out just as quickly. Like GOLDENCENTS he never seemed to take hold of the sloppy race track, but unlike that one might not have the off-going as an excuse seeing that he easily triumphed over a sloppy oval in winning the Fasig Tipton Dash at Calder as a juvenile. Certainly his connections remain convinced that he is still capable of handling this kind. After jogging at Monmouth Park the other day, Plesa said that the colt will be vanned to Pimlico and arrive Wednesday morning. If he turns in the effort that got him back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park in the Gulfstream Park Derby (January 1) and the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes (January 26) and a strong place finish behind ORB in the Florida Derby he is once again a player. On the other hand, he was no match for either GOLDENCENTS or MYLUTE in the Grade III Delta Jackpot last November 17 and in his last four races his speed figures have declined, So he becomes a bit of a challenge if you consider that he might at best be a horse-for-the-Gulfstream-course.
MYLUTE – No one could argue with a bettor who believes, in reference to MYLUTE, that sooner or later it becomes the “turn” of a good race horse to catch the break. Another son of Midnight Lute (the BC Sprint Champion who has turned into a formidable distance sire) the Tom Amoss trained colt has only run one bad race in his 10 race career and that was back in early September when he faltered over the synthetic surface in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity. After wrapping up his juvenile season with a third place finish behind GOLDENCENTS in the Grade III Delta Jackpot he made his first start as a three-year old in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds on February 26 and was caught wide in the lane when beaten just 3 ¼ lengths in that wild 7 horse blanket finish inside the sixteenth pole. Next up MYLUTE was a neck back of Revolutionary when he claimed the place spot following a strong rally in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and of course made another sneaky good run in the Derby to finish 5th after getting steadied noticeably in the early stages of the race. He finished well to a half length behind the third place finisher Revolutionary and just 3 ¾ lengths behind ORB. It is also worth noting that the colt easily handled third place finisher DEPARTING in the Louisiana Derby and that he also broke closer to the pace when not obstructed the only other time (than the Derby) that Rosie Napravnik was aboard. If she can get him away a bit earlier this could very well wind up being his “Turn.”
ORB – And the beat goes on. The son of Malibu Moon came out of the Kentucky Derby in fine order, is already on the grounds at Pimlico and continues to work exceptionally well. Before vanning down from Belmont on Monday, the colt effortlessly breezed a half mile in :47 flat over the fast main track. The champ has now won five straight races since breaking his maiden in the final start of his juvenile season and what must be truly scary for the opposition is that ORB isn’t just winning races he is winning in the exact same fashion. He simply settles into stride, measures the front runners when asked by Joel Rosario who is in the irons again on Saturday or John Velazquez (the two times that one was aboard) and draws clear in the final stage. There are no “what-if’s” with this guy…he is the horse to beat and the favorite to head to Belmont with the Triple Crown on the line. If he once more runs his race any number of the other contenders will have to run the best of their careers to beat him.
OXBOW – One of three Wayne Lukas entrants, the son of Awesome Again was close up in the early going in the Kentucky Derby, was bumped while along the inside and came up short when continuing on with his bid. He did stay on (so to speak) and finished in sixth place. But there was a 5 lengths gap between he and fifth place finisher MYLUTE so the colt is going to have to reverse the form that has seen him in search of stamina in the late going of both the Kentucky Derby and the Arkansas Derby prior to that. His past performance line does show that he has the ability to be in the early mix, but should he be asked to do that by jockey Gary Stevens, who was aboard for his last two he will have to mix it up with the likes of GOLDENCENTS and ITSMYLUCKYDAY, who based on their lines appear to have quicker speed on the front end or pressing the pace. It is difficult to imagine OXBOPW as ever being able to relax should he choose the front end route. The colt arrived at Pimlico on Tuesday afternoon after a long 12+ hour van trip from Churchill along with stable mates WILL TAKE CHARGE AND TITLETOWN FIVE after breezing a half mile in :49 4/5 on Monday. As the saying goes, he looks to be in a bit deep again…but it is Wayne Lukas.
TITLETOWN FIVE – Part two of the Lukas Trilogy the speedy son of Tiznow enters following a non-involved fourth place finish in the Grade III Derby Trial one week before the Kentucky derby. The colt broke his maiden on his fourth try, finished second in the 60K Gazebo Stakes (6 furlong sprint) at Oaklawn following that and was then up the track when well behind MYLUTE and DEPARTING in the Grade II Louisiana Derby. Lukas has never hesitated throwing his runners in the deep end and on rare occasions has actually pulled off the unexpected upset. But with stable mate OXBOW likely to be a stalker and other stable mate WILL TAKE CHARGE expected to make a late run it is very difficult to make the case that this guy is anything but a rabbit for those two. He is the one runner in the Preakness that it is extremely difficult to make a case for…but it is Wayne Lukas.
WILL TAKE CHARGE – The third of the three uncoupled Wayne Lukas runners, the son of Unbridled’s Song has shown flashes of top level capability, but is also a colt that brings with him hair-pulling inconsistency. If you are going to suppose that he will reverse his 8th place finish in the Kentucky Derby you can at least find some evidence to back him. The Derby was his first race in 7 weeks and that followed a well-earned head victory as a 28-1 outsider in the Grade II Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn). It is also worth noting that WILL TAKE CHARGE was moving 5 wide in the Derby when he was checked at the 3/16ths pole in what was a mitigating factor. But this is also a colt that wanted no part of the action when beaten 18 lengths by runaway Grade III Southwest Stakes (Oaklawn) winner Super Ninety Nine after showing sharp earlier speed in winning the Smarty Jones Stakes in Arkansas back in January. And speaking of inconsistency, this colt followed a convincing MSW victory at Keeneland with a 25 ½ length beating in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at CD and then bounced back to finish second in the Springboard Stakes at Remington Park two weeks later. Like his stable mates, the colt worked a half mile at CD (sharp :48 1/5 breeze) before getting on the van and if it was only the slop that turned him into a pumpkin in both the Kentucky Derby and the Southwest Stakes, then he could turn out to be the most formidable of the Lukas troika. OH YEAH…he will also have a new jockey, as Mike Smith has decided to take the assignment. If there is ever anything certain in horse racing, let us posit this. Smith won’t have WILL TAKE CHARGE on a five lengths lead heading into the clubhouse turn.
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TABBING A NON-DERBY STARTER TO WIN THE PREAKNESS
IS DEPARTING FROM THE NORM!
If there are no last minute entrants or declarations, it would appear as though the 2013 Preakness Stakes will have a field of 9 runners. From that group there are six runners who ran in the Kentucky Derby and there are three newcomers to the Triple Crown festivities. The six runners returning from the Derby are:
ORB – WINNER
MYLUTE – 5TH
OXBOW – 6TH
WILL TAKE CHARGE – 8TH
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – 15TH
GOLDENCENTS – 17TH
The three newcomers are:
DEPARTING – Last out Winner of the Grade III Illinois Derby (4/20)
GOVENOR CHARLIE – Last out Winner of the Grade III Sunland Derby (3/24)
TITLETOWN FIVE – Last out 4th place finish in the Grade III Derby Trial (4/27)
A few days out from the running of the second jewel of this year’s Triple Crown the media, pundits and part time racing public are of course on track with another hopeful holdout for the first Triple Crown Winner since Affirmed in 1978. Once past the ORB watch the conversation gets around to whether or not Normandy Invasion’s rally can be timed better, MYLUTE’S tricky good late rally is a buy sign, if either ITSMYLUCKY DAY or GOLDENCENTS will rediscover their good tactical speed in Baltimore and what to do with the Wayne Lukas three-headed entry of OXBOW, WILL TAKE CHARGE and TITLETOWN FIVE. Let’s focus on the chances of the three newcomers.
It is safe to say that of the three under consideration, DEPARTING, off his dominant Illinois Derby victory and GOVENOR CHARLIE following his decisive win in the Sunland Derby is each getting the most coverage.
DEPARTING went into the Grade II Louisiana Derby undefeated from three starts and the Albert Stall trained son of War Front certainly proved worthy with a strong rally for the show spot behind winner REVOLUTIONARY (3rd in the Kentucky Derby) and runner-up MYLUTE (5th in the Kentucky Derby.) He the shipped to Hawthorne three weeks later and moved 6 wide and circled 4 wide as he swallowed up and ran away from his Illinois Derby rivals on way to a 3 ½ length victory.
GOVENOR CHARLIE was just as impressive at Sunland Park on March 24. The Bob Baffert trained son of Midnight Lute (sire of MYLUTE) was making only his third career start and first after breaking his maiden at Santa Anita 5 weeks earlier and certainly backed up the conditioners’ high regard for the colt by pressing the pace of the 9 furlong Sunland Derby and drawing off by 6 lengths when cued.
Both DEPARTING and GOVERNOR CHARLIE have continued to work forwardly towards next Saturday, particularly the latter, who turned in a pair of blistering breezes at CD on May 2 and May 7.
So the question then becomes; how should they and TITLETOWN FIVE be considered when matched up against the Kentucky Derby veterans.
To answer that question a good starting point would be to take a look at past newcomers vs previous Preakness runners who exited the Kentucky Derby. For purposes of that comparison I began last year and went back to 1991.
First, the raw numbers: for those of you who are as math challenged as I am there have been 22 Preakness’s since 1991. The 22 races have been won 19 times by a three-year old exiting the Kentucky Derby and 3 times by a newcomer.
Those three newcomers to win the Preakness without running in the Derby were:
- 2009 – RACHEL ALEXANDRA…the filly who of course was just as brilliant in winning the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby.
- 2006 – BERNARDINI…one of the fastest of his generation, he got a late start to his career and didn’t break his maiden until March and followed that up with a convincing win in the Withers Stakes one week before the Derby.
- 2000 – RED BULLET…a live runner who ran second to eventual Derby winner FUSAICHI PEGASUS when they met in the Wood Memorial and then after skipping the Derby returned to beat FUSAICHI in the second leg when the Derby winner got pinched badly at the start and had to settle for the place spot.
First off, as good as DEPARTING and GOVERNOR CHARLIE looked in winning there last races, it is worth noting that of the three to have won in the last twenty two years, RACHEL ALEXANDRA and BERNARDINI were Hall Of Fame class horses while RED BULLET wasn’t far behind.
There is even more evidence that breaking the Kentucky Derby experience standards is rather difficult. Since 1991 there have been eight Kentucky Derby winners who have repeated as Preakness winners.
- 2012 – I’LL HAVE ANOTHER
- 2008 – BIG BROWN
- 2004 – SMARTY JONES
- 2003 – FUNNY CIDE
- 2002 – WAR EMBLAM
- 1999 – CHARISMATIC
- 1998 – REAL QUIET
- 1997 – SILVER CHARM
As to the non-winners of the Derby who came back to vindicate themselves in the Preakness there are:
- 2011 – SHACKLEFORD…4th in Derby
- 2010 – LOOKIN AT LUCKY…6th in Derby
- 2007 – CURLIN…3rd in Derby
- 2005 – AFLEET ALEX...3rd in Derby
- 2001 – POINT GIVEN…5th in Derby
- 1996 - LOUIS QUATORZE…16th in Derby
- 1995 – TIMBER COUNTRY…3rd in Derby
- 1994 – TABASCO CAT…6th in Derby
- 1993 – PRAIRE BAYOU…2nd in Derby
- 1992 – PINE BLUFF…5th in Derby
- 1991 – HANSEL…10th in Derby
And as to the Derby winners that did not repeat in the Preakness:
- 2011 – ANIMAL KINGDOM…2nd in Preakness
- 2010 – SUPER SAVER…8th in the Preakness
- 2009 – MINE THAT BIRD…2nd in the Preakness
- 2007 – STREET SENSE…2nd in the Preakness
- 2006 – BARBARO…broke down in Preakness
- 2005 – GIACOMO…3rd in Preakness
- 2001 – MONARCHOS…6th in Preakness
- 2000 – FUSAICHI PEGASUS…2nd in Preakness
- 1996 – GRINDSTONE…injured, did not run in Preakness
- 1995 – THUNDER GULCH…3rd in Preakness
- 1994 – GO FOR GIN…2nd in Preakness
- 1993 – SEA HERO…5th in Preakness
- 1992 – LIL E. TEE…5th in Preakness
- 1991 – STRIKE THE GOLD…6th in Preakness
That means that of the 20 Derby winners in the last 22 years (Grindstone didn’t run and Barbaro broke down) 8 repeated in the Preakness and another 5 finished second.
And the value of Kentucky derby experience goes even deeper. For a bettor, going from Win through Superfecta, there were 88 spots available in the last 22 Preakness’s. Those 88 spots were taken by 61 horses who exited the Kentucky Derby.
Obviously these are tough standards for any of the four newcomers to buck in 2013. But for those of you who might be looking for a silver lining I’ll leave you with the following.
In addition to the winning performances by RACHEL ALEXANDRA, BERNARDINI and RED BULLT, there have been 8 non-Kentucky derby runners who finished second in the Preakness in the past 22 editions.
- 2010 – FIRST DUDE…at 24-1
- 2005 – SCRAPPY T….at 13-1
- 2004 – ROCK HARD TEN…at 7-1
- 2003 – MIDWAY ROAD…at 20-1
- 2002 – MAGIC WEISNER…at 46-1
- 1995 – OLIVER’S TWIST…at 25-1
- 1993 – CHEROKEE RUN…at 9-1
- 1992 – ALYDEED…at 5-1
Does any of this information stand alone when it comes to identifying the meaningful Preakness Stakes contenders? Of course not. But what it does tell you is that you should have more than a “feeling” or a “hunch” that a horse that did not run in the Kentucky Derby is a potentially strong Preakness winner. Until next time.