Preakness Card Preview

After Nyquist left the field for dead in round one of the Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby), all eyes turn to Pimlico this weekend for round two, The Preakness.

But before we look at the big one, Pimlico has put on a solid undercard of three graded races and four $100k open stakes races so let’s look at the other graded stakes in turn. Please note that rain is forecast and going descriptions are as at 9 am ET.

Race: R5 Maryland Sprint Handicap

Grade: Grade 3

Age: 3 year old and up

Distance: 6 furlongs (Dirt – sloppy)

Purse: $150,000

A disappointing field of just 7 runners will be racing for this valuable grade 3 sprint. Salutos Amigos is a hot Morning Line favorite at evens and comes here in fine form. However, the best of his form is almost exclusively at Aqueduct, where he has an 80% strike rate while his form elsewhere is much more modest.

Always Sunshine looks a viable alternative to the favorite. Admittedly he was beaten by Salutos Amigos in the Tom Fool but he didn’t get the best of runs and Salutos Amigos was unstoppable that day and got a fantastic clear run in the stretch. Always Sunshine is improving and ran a Beyer of 102 last time out and receives a handy 6 pounds from the favorite.

Race: R10 Gallorette Handicap

Grade: Grade 3

Age: 3 year old and up fillies and mares

Distance: 1 1/16 miles (Turf – good)

Purse: $150,000

I have to say that this grade 3 turf race for the distaff side does not stir the blood. It is very competitive with the Morning Line going 7/2 the field of 11 runners (4 Camille Claudel is scratched) but the call of Royal Ascot in June has denuded the race.

If you are keen on a wager in this race, Josdesanimaux might fit the bill. She is improving and ran a career best Beyer of 90 last time out. A repeat of that performance will see her go close.

Race: R12 Longines Dixie Stakes

Grade: Grade 2

Age: 3 year old and up

Distance: 1 1/16 miles (Turf – good)

Purse: $250,000

13 runners face the starter for this fascinating turf race. Fascinating not just for quality, but also because virtually the whole field would be inconvenienced if the forecast rain gets into the turf.

In a competitive field, the Morning Line makes Grand Arch the 4/1 favorite. The horse finished last season with two graded wins and a third to the mighty Tepin in the Breeders Cup. The horse has taken a little time to come to hand but has been working extremely well of late. He looks to have a fine chance but could well be pulled out if the ground goes soft.

Force The Pass is another with ground concerns. He comes here on the back of a good second in the Appleton and the form of that race is working out. He should come on for that race and will run so long as the race stays on turf.

Other horses that will not like soft ground and would probably be withdrawn in that scenario are Long On Value, Take The Stand and Za Approval.

With so much confusion, it is difficult to approach this race with confidence. One who will handle the ground is Takeover Target, who won a Grade 3 on soft last year.

Race: R13 Preakness Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 year old

Distance: 1 3/16 miles (Dirt – sloppy)

Purse: $1.5m

So we come to the big one, the Preakness, second leg of the ultra-tough Triple Crown. Not surprisingly, Nyquist has frightened off most of the horses he dispatched in the Kentucky Derby. He is a ML price of 3/5 for this race and could well go shorter if the Pimlico public really stick into him.

This race differs quite significantly from the Kentucky Derby in that there will be a real speed battle early on. In the Kentucky Derby, Danzing Candy was going to make the pace so Nyquist had an easy target. Here four or five runners will go for the gun from the start, which could create pace problems for Nyquist’s jockey Gutierrez. Hence, I wouldn’t go shorter than the Morning Line price.

This could play into the hands of Exaggerator, the Morning Line second favorite at 3/1, which seems reasonable. No doubt, if the race doesn’t come too soon (also applies to Nyquist) he will be finishing to good effect. Others who will be finishing to good effect if the pace is suicidal are Fellowship, lani and Cherry Wine.

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