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GQ: 2018 Preakness horse-by-horse

by | May 18, 2018 | Breaking, Featured Races, Handicapping, Top Stories, Triple Crown Trail |

Justify. Photo by Dottie Miller.

by Gary Quill

Two weeks ago, twenty three-year-old colts lined-up in the starting gate at Churchill Downs hoping to become the 144th winner of the Kentucky Derby. After covering the 1 1/4 miles in just under a pedestrian two minutes and five seconds, Justify  prevailed as the Post Time favorite.

The Preakness Stakes and seven rivals now await him as he tries to become the fifth Bob Baffert trained Derby winner to capture the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. He may have to do it under similar sloppy or muddy track conditions as the forecast for the Baltimore area through Saturday calls for mostly cloudy skies, with a chance of showers and temperatures in the upper-70s.

On Wednesday, post positions were drawn for the field of eight three-year-olds. Based on my analysis, here’s how the field stacks up as far as their running style…

  • 3 – runners with early speed
  • 2 – runners with tactical speed (stalkers)
  • 2 – mid-pack runners (plodders)
  • 1 – deep closers

Here’s HOW I SEE IT (the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes) playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish.

Odds shown are the morning line odds. Keep in mind I’m picking horses over 72 hours BEFORE they walk out onto the track. If possible, you should not make your wager until you’ve seen the horses in the Post Parade (12 minutes before the start). When horses reach the track, their physical appearance and body language can tip you off on which one(s) to include in your Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta or simply WIN, PLACE and/or SHOW bet. Good luck!

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

  1. #7 Justify
  2. #2 Lone Sailor
  3. #1 Quip
  4. #6 Tenfold
  5. #5 Good Magic
  6. #8 Bravazo
  7. #3 Sporting Chance
  8. #4 Diamond King

Based on my analysis of the Preakness, I’ll put just $48 into the race and play…

  • $2 EXACTA BOX on #1 (Quip), #2 (Lone Sailor), #6 (Tenfold), #7 (Justify) cost: $24
  • $1 TRIFECTA BOX on #1 (Quip), #2 (Lone Sailor), #7 (Justify) cost: $6
  • $1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #6, #7 with #2 (Lone Sailor in the 2nd spot) with ALL cost: $18

ANALYSIS

1st – #7 – Justify (1-2)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): Bob Baffert / Mike Smith (16:1-2-4)
  • Running Style: Early speed

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Convincingly won the KY Derby a by two-and-one-half-lengths after racing just off a very quick opening half-mile (45.77), has yet to taste defeat (4 for 4) and is the only runner in this field to have earned four (4) triple-digit Brisnet speed figures. Prior to this year, his trainer’s four (4) previous KY Derby winners, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah – have all won the Preakness. There’s some serious “smart money” that has faith in him because after just two career races, a maiden and allowance, the Vegas odds on him winning the Triple Crown was insanely low (15-1)!

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

One day after winning the KY Derby he appeared to be lame in his left hind foot and was reported to have a bruise and a cracked heel. The firestorm of speculation on the colts’ ability to run in the Preakness was eased four days later when he galloped over the CD surface. Still, if he’s less than 100% on Saturday, that opens to door for his rivals. His Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, has just one previous Preakness victory (Prairie Bayou in 1993) from 16 mounts. The previous two Derby winners Nyquist (‘16) and Always Dreaming (’17) year, who both won in similar fashion failed win the Preakness as prohibitive favorites, finishing third and eighth, respectively.

2nd – #2 – Lone Sailor (15-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): Tom Amoss / Irad Ortiz, Jr. (1st Preakness)
  • Running Style: Closer

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Finished eighth in the KY Derby after being runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (G2) in which he took a huge (18 point) leap in his Brisnet speed figure. Therefore, he could have “bounced” (aka regression in form) in the Derby. Troubled trip in the KY Derby per the chart caller comments, “…was stymied in traffic from the seven-sixteenths to inside the three-furlong marker, got through and stayed on the rail to the stretch, shifted out late and kept on to the wire” Connections are leaving no stone unturned as they switch riders, getting the jockey who had the most wins in 2017 and is the current leader (146 wins) in 2018.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

Just one win from nine starts and that one came on a sloppy track. Gets sixth different rider for his tenth career start, though new rider is among the best in the country, this will be his first Preakness mount. Pedigree suggests he’s better suited competing in races at shorter distances.

3rd – #1 – Quip (12-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): Rodolphe Brisset / Florent Geroux (2:0-0-0)
  • Running Style: Early Speed

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Might be peaking as the Preakness will be his third start of the year, first winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) followed by a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G2). He was eligible to run in the KY Derby but his trainer felt he needed more time between races, so he was pointed to run in the Preakness saying, “We have a horse that will come back fresh. He worked very good last week, and I wouldn’t trade my place.”

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

The horse who beat him in the Arkansas Derby finished nineteenth in the KY Derby. Quip’s owners, WinStar Farm and China Horse Club International, also own KY Derby winner Justify. That might seem odd — why take the chance on beating your own horse — but what is more likely is that Quip’s limited ability will not allow him to beat the KY Derby winner. Elliott Walden, president of co-owner WinStar Farm stated, “If Justify is supposed to win the Triple Crown, he’ll beat Quip.”

 

4th – #6 – Tenfold (20-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): Steve Asmussen / Ricardo Santana, Jr. (1st Preakness)
  • Running Style: Mid pack

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Fits the mold of non-Derby starters who have won the Preakness. Over the past 30 years, only three colts (Cloud Computing in ’17, Bernardini in ‘06, Red Bullet in 2000) have won the Preakness without having raced in the KY Derby. Cloud Computing and Bernardini both did it in their fourth career start, while Red Bullet was making his fifth. Tenfold has only raced three times, winning his first two races then most recently was fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, with Curlin (2007) and with Rachel Alexandra (2009). “He’s a very nice horse that is getting better,” Asmussen said. “We’re expecting big things from him. I was a touch disappointed (in his Arkansas Derby). He’s better than that.”

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

Putting his toughest race, the Arkansas Derby into perspective, he finished four-and-one-half-lengths behind the winner who finished in nineteenth-place in the KY Derby. His best Brisnet speed figure is a 94 which is the lowest among his rivals in the Preakness.

5th – #5 – Good Magic (5-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): Chad Brown / Jose Ortiz (1:0-0-0)
  • Running Style: Tactical speed

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

This will be the fourth consecutive year that the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby have a rematch in the Preakness. In each of the last two years, the Derby runner-up finished ahead of the Derby winner in the Preakness. With more early speed types entered in the second jewel of the Triple Crown compared to the KY Derby, it should give him a better shot at catching the leg-weary leaders. His trainer won with his only Preakness starter, Cloud Computing in 2017.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

His trainer is not accustomed to running horses back in two weeks and said, ”We’re going to need to close the gap on him somehow. We’re going to need to improve. Even though our horse ran an excellent race in the Derby… he needs to again move forward and we need to have Justify come back to us a little bit.” Sounds like too many “ifs” to feel confident that his horse will turn the tables on the Derby winner.

6th – #8 – Bravazo (15-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): D. Wayne Lukas / Luis Saez (1st Preakness)
  • Running Style: Tactical speed

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

What he has is a lot of heart as he won his first two starts of 2018 by a neck and a nose, after doing most of the dirty work dueling for the lead in both events. His Hall of Fame trainer looks at it this way,  “Realistically it’s Justify’s race to lose, just that simple. He’s the best horse. Not always the best horse wins in the Kentucky Derby, and this year the best horse won. To go into Baltimore and take him back on is definitely going to be a challenge. I’ll never be afraid, but I’m realistic enough to know he’ll be very difficult to beat. But you can’t mail it in. They run and things happen. We’ve been there before. I mean, Oxbow (who finished sixth in the KY Derby in ’13) wasn’t supposed to beat those horses either, and he did easy.”

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

His name in Spanish means “excellent” but finished sixth in the Derby. After a troubled start, he raced wide along the first turn and backstretch before making a solid run on the far turn and into the stretch before tiring. Could do the same here. Nine career starts and has yet to record a triple-digit Brisnet speed-figure.

7th – #3 – Sporting Chance (30-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): D. Wayne Lukas / Luis Contreras (1:0-0-1)
  • Running Style: Mid pack

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Though fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on Derby Day, according to his six-time Preakness winning trainer, the Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, “[H]e got roughed up pretty good about the half-mile pole. A horse came over and hit him in the hip and spun him around and the rider darn near came off. But then he recovered and finished well.” He gets a vote of confidence from his jock who is willing to ride him back in here, and he’s one of just three Grade 1 winners in the group, having won the Hopeful last September.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

Appears to be classic distance-challenged due to  the fact he tired in the final furlong in the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass (G2), the longest race of his career, as he ducked out into the path of a rival and was disqualified from third and placed fourth. He’ll be at a disadvantage if the track is sloppy or muddy because his two worst efforts came on those type of track conditions.

8th – #4 – Diamond King (30-1)

  • Trainer / Jockey (Preakness Mounts W-P-S): John Servis / Javier Castellano (6:2-0-1)
  • Running Style: Early speed

Why he COULD win the Preakness:

Earned an automatic bid into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown by winning the 1 1/8 mile Federico Tesio at Laurel in his most recent start. Trainer John Servis, who saddled KY Derby winner Smarty Jones for a victory in the 2004 Preakness, is known as a horseman who only enters races in which he strongly feels his runners have a shot. He entered Diamond King in last Saturday’s G3 Peter Pan at Belmont but scratched him, opting to run in the Preakness saying, “This horse is legit.” His pilot is not only one of the best riders in the country, he has won the Preakness twice (Bernardini in ’06 and Cloud Computing in ’17).

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Preakness:

Only race against Triple Crown caliber foes came to a disastrous end early in the G2 KY Jockey Cup last November when he clipped heels and fell on the first turn. The 126 lb. he’ll carry will be 5 lb. more than he has ever carried in his career. Bad karma, as Frankie Pennington, winner of over 2,200 races has been Diamond King’s regular rider in all six starts (6:4-0-1) as well as working the horse in the morning s been gets replaced.

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