Atypical probably best describes Saturday’s 144th running of the Preakness Stakes. For the first time since 1951, none of the top three finishers from the Kentucky Derby will run back two weeks later at Pimlico. Maximum Security, who led at every call but one before being disqualified, was also withdrawn from consideration.
It’s also unusual to see so much pace in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The 1 3/16-mile race typically features a softer tempo than the Kentucky Derby but after witnessing moderate internal fractions at Churchill Downs, I’m expecting a faster pace and legitimate set-up for late runners.
Thirteen are entered and confirmed front-running longshots Warrior’s Charge and Market King will be sent from the starting gate. Alwaysmining, a wire-to-wire winner in five of his last six starts, showed tractability last time when rating against a short field of overmatched rivals but it’s difficult to envision the speedy Maryland-based gelding settling off the pace behind rivals. All three are candidates to be showing the way with another wave of speedy foes looking to pounce by the far turn.
Anothertwistafate and Bodexpress remain candidates to be sent but appear more likely to be pressing the action; they’ll try to make their presence felt before the stretch drive. War of Will must be considered an enigma after receiving the innermost post for the second straight race. He was pulling hard during the early stages after failing to break on top in the Kentucky Derby and may try to seize the initiative from the start Saturday.
The Preakness should set up favorably for my choice.
1st Selection: #2 BOURBON WAR will launch his rally on the far turn and mow down rivals in the stretch to win the Preakness. The Tapit colt just missed stamping his Kentucky Derby ticket with a fast-closing second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) two back, running out of room on the wire at the shortened 1 1/16-mile configuration, and was extremely unfortunate to catch the most paceless running in Florida Derby (G1) history when fourth last time.
The Florida Derby remains this year’s most valuable prep race, producing the horses who finished first and third in the Kentucky Derby, and Bourbon War will continue to flatter it. Trainer Mark Hennig adds short-cup blinkers to keep his focus during the latter stages and regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. keeps the assignment. Bourbon War has produced BRIS Late Pace ratings of 117, 108 and 107 in his last four starts and should be saving ground from an inside post before launching his bid.
2nd Selection: #7 ALWAYSMINING received a good post, allowing jockey Daniel Centeno options aboard the speedy sophomore, and is eligible to sit an outside trip in the clear just off the early speed. It’s easy to be impressed by his improving form and Alwaysmining’s BRIS Speed ratings have risen nicely during his present six-race win streak. Kelly Rubley figures to have the son of Stay Thirsty ready for his best.
3rd Selection: #5 OWENDALE appeared to have a bright future when posting a sharp allowance tally at Fair Grounds in mid-January but expectations dimmed following a disappointing eighth in the Risen Star (G2) a month later. Brad Cox freshened his pupil a couple of months afterward and Owendale came back with a much-improved showing in the April 13 Lexington (G3) at Keeneland, closing powerfully to win by nearly two lengths, and netted career-best BRIS Speed (99) and Late Pace (106) numbers. Owendale is a candidate to carry his form forward with another strong showing from off the pace.
Bourbon War will be played straight (Win & Place) and I’ll key him first and second in exactas and trifectas, adding #8 Signalman, #9 Bodexpress, #12 Anothertwistafate and #13 Win Win Win to the third slot in the trifecta. I’ll take a stand against Kentucky Derby alumni War of Will and Improbable.
$25 Win & Place 2 ($50)
$10 Exactas: 2 over 5,7 ($20)
$5 Exactas: 5,7 over 2 ($10)
$1 Trifecta: 2 over 5,7 over 5,7,8,9,12,13 ($10)
$1 Trifecta: 5,7 over 2 over 5,7,8,9,12,13 ($10)