Will Nyquist keep his Triple Crown hopes alive?
The second leg of the Triple Crown is finally here as Nyquist tries to make it one step closer to back-to-back Crowns for the first time since 1978. An interesting race this year as we’re going to have the most horses (11) in a Preakness field since 2012. Ironically, 2012 was the year of I’ll Have Another who was another Triple Crown hopeful trained by Doug O’Neill. This tells me two things: we have a deep crop of three year olds this year and there are a lot of trainers who still don’t respect Nyquist. Last year we saw a small field because many were afraid to face American Pharoah at the distance. Can’t say the same for our reigning Kentucky Derby champ. But why? I can’t remember the last time a horse this accomplished was this disrespected. And actually we’ve never had a horse who was THIS accomplished heading into the Preakness. All he does is win and yet people still look for excuses to downplay his efforts. Well, you can count me in as one of those people as I will be looking to beat the favorite on Saturday. Nyquist ran fantastic in Kentucky but you can’t deny that closers like Exaggerator and Suddenbreakingnews (my Derby pick) were coming late. I realize this race is shorter than the Derby but if the right horse gets the right trip, I’m convinced Nyquist can be beat. We have a bunch of new faces in this one so let’s breakdown the field:
#1 Cherry Wine (20-1) – This guy is a personal favorite just because he has the same sire as my racehorse. Trained by Dale Romans, this horse enters the Preakness after running 3rd in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes. 2 lifetime wins in 8 starts for Cherry Wine but never better than 3rd in a graded stakes race. This horse is a classic closer where he will sit in back of the pack most of the race and make one big run late. I’m not crazy about the 1 post but at the very least he will save ground around the first turn and hopefully get a clear shot to make his run.
#2 Uncle Lino (20-1) – Heads into the Preakness with a little buzz. Uncle Lino is coming off just his second career win but it was in the California Chromes Stakes where he posted a 95 Beyer figure and set the track record previously held by Dortmund in 1:40.82. Hard to tell if it was just a fast track or if this horse is finding his best running at the moment. Uncle Lino’s trainer, Gary Sherlock, was quoted in an interview earlier this week that he’s just hoping to get second. Never like lack of confidence from a trainer. He has already been beaten twice by the second favorite, Exaggerator, in previous races but he is sure to be heavily included in exotics. I picture Uncle Lino sitting midpack as he’s going to be outmuscled for position down near the rail.
#3 Nyquist (3-5) – What more can be said about the undefeated, Kentucky Derby winner? He is the cream of the 3-year old crop but that doesn’t mean he is a shoo-in to win this race. The 3 post could be tricky as he is on the inside of a lot of horses. It also doesn’t help that almost every speed horse is outside him including the potential pace-setter directly next to him. Some people may also worry about returning after only 2 weeks. He may not get an ideal trip but if he is the real deal, he should still find a way to win this race.
#4 Awesome Speed (30-1) – The horse I mentioned above as one who will challenge the early pace. Awesome Speed runs exactly like his name. Has early speed and he’s either been the pace-setter or sat right along side the pace-setter in all of his starts. He is a talented colt who has won 4 of his 6 career races. Coming off a 1st place finish in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park but a deceiving 1st place. He was actually run down by Governor Malibu in the stretch but Governor Malibu was DQ’d for interference. I’m also not a fan of young jockeys who haven’t been in these big races before. Jevian Toledo is a nice jockey though and he does know the Pimilco track well. Awesome Speed’s running style is tough for this race but if he has enough left in the tank at the end, could still hit the board if the closers aren’t up for it.
#5 Exaggerator (3-1) – The second place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Keith Desormeaux was set on bringing this horse back to challenge Nyquist again. The problem is Exaggerator has this bad habit of running second to the Champ. He gets a nice post here as he should be able to get in comfortable position and bide his time toward the back. He will be close to last on the back stretch and just like the Derby, going to try and make one big run to get by Nyquist. He has an experienced jockey in Kent Desormeaux who has won this race multiple times. I just think something needs to go terribly wrong with Nyquist for Exaggerator to beat him. Seems like there is an alpha thing going on here as Nyquist has never let Exaggerator pass him, even when galloping out past the wire. Exaggerator should be a good play in exotics, however.
#6 Lani (30-1) – Lani is the wildcard of the race per usual. The son of Tapit and the horse from Japan, this horse is both talented and wildly entertaining. Stories about his work ethic (or lack thereof) and his, well, “excitement” around other horses made him the laughing stock of the Kentucky Derby. Many trainers (particularly Pletcher and Maker) were nervous about their horses being even near Lani. This was confirmed when they showed poor Lani just shortly before the Derby hanging around the starting gate all by himself. But if Lani could ever keep it in his pants, there’s no doubt he could win a race like this. He actually ran a very good 9th in the Kentucky Derby after getting an awful trip most of the way. Racing’s bad boy silenced some of his critics with that effort and I think he has a good shot to hit the board here. Lani will most likely sit anywhere from midpack to last and try to come from off the pace. Lani backers will hope for the pace to fall apart.
#7 Collected (10-1) – Very interesting runner here. Trained by Bob Baffert the Triple Crown winner, Collected has caught the attention of many entering the Preakness. He is coming off two stellar victories in the Sunland Park Stakes and the Grade III Lexington Stakes. You can question the competition in both but just know that Collected ran his 1 1/8 mile faster than Nyquist did in the Florida Derby. Obviously that’s not the deciding factor in handicapping but it is enough to take notice. Collected may have just found his stride after finishing 4th in the Southwest Stakes as the favorite. He didn’t get a good trip in that one, and when looking at his full body of work – he’s won 4 and finished 2nd in 6 career starts. You erase one bad race after one bad trip and you’d be looking at the 2nd favorite in this race. I’m going to watch his odds closely as he’s a great play in trifectas, superfectas, and beyond. Look for Collected to be forwardly placed sitting about 3rd or 4th early on.
#8 Laoban (30-1) – The longest shot on the board, it’s hard to make a case for this horse. He is still a Maiden and yet to win a race. Yet he’s never finished worse than 4th in a graded stakes race. He is the likely pace setter in this field so it really depends on what kind of fractions he’s allowed to set by his opposition. If the pace stays honest and he doesn’t get much resistance, maybe this horse has enough to hold on and stay in the exotics. It’s unlikely but anyone playing him is going to get very nice price. I just won’t be one of them.
#9 Abiding Star (30-1) – Half-brother to Nyquist, Abiding Star enters Saturday an undefeated 5-0 as a 3 year old. He is a stakes winner but he is not a graded stakes winner. He didn’t even break his maiden until January of this year on his 7th try. But maybe all it took was getting that first win under his belt because he hasn’t lost since. This is just a huge step-up in class for this horse and I’m not sure he can handle it. I also don’t think he can get the distance. He’s another one who is going to be jockeying for position as the pace setter and I don’t think he’s good enough to get there from the 9 post. If he can’t run his race, he has no shot. But he had no shot anyway and if this horse doesn’t come in last, he will be close to it.
#10 Fellowship (30-1) – Fellowship is a horse who was on the Kentucky Derby trail for a while and just couldn’t muster up enough results to get into the field of 20. He’s never finished worse than 4th in a graded stakes race but he’s never finished better than 3rd either. He’s one of those colts where the results look okay on paper but he’s mostly non-competitive or a threat in any of his recent races. He has a very good trainer in Mark Casse but it’s hard to picture where he fits in this field. He might come from off the pace; it also wouldn’t shock me if jockey Jose Lezcano tries to go right to the front as he tends to do from time-to-time. Already well beaten by Nyquist in the Florida Derby and at best you’re looking at this horse to get into your superfectas or Hi-5’s late.
#11 Stadivari (8-1) – The intriguing unknown in the Preakness field. Stradivari is a lightly raced horse trained by Todd Pletcher. Only 3 career races for this guy but he’s won 2 and finished second in his first start. Stradivari is the horse that is going to take the most play just because we don’t know what he is. Is he a superstar in the making or is he just an allowance horse? There’s no doubt wherever he lands, he’s going to be overbet. He’s the third choice in the ML odds because of the nature of his two victories. He won his maiden and an allowance race by 11 1/4 lengths and 14 1/2 lengths. Many are comparing him to Bernardini who was another horse that skipped the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness (though due to unfortunate cirucmstances with Barbaro). I see him more as Liam’s Map, another Pletcher trained star. A horse who can carry speed over long distances. I’m very bullish on him, just as I was with Liam’s Map early on his career. Look for this horse to be forwardly placed, likely alongside Nyquist. Which reminds me…
Pick: #11 Stradivari 8/1 ML odds
I know what you’re thinking. This has all the makings of a “bet against” horse. He’s going to be overbet, he hasn’t faced anybody, and this is only his 4th race. I just can’t help myself. This horse is an absolute monster. He has a strong pedigree fathered by Medaglia d’Oro who is the 10th leading sire in 2016. He ran his 1 1/8 mile faster than any horse in this field and he posted the best Equibase speed figure of any horse in this field (though not Beyer). The way he turned it on in the stretch his last 2 races, I have no doubt he can get the 1 3/16 miles. I don’t think Todd Pletcher enters this horse in this race if he doesn’t genuinely think he has a chance to win it. I’m not crazy about the 11 post as I think he will be hung out wide on the first turn but he should at least get a clean break from the gate. Predicting a hot pace with Nyquist and Stradivari sitting just off it, side-by-side, and we will see Stradavari is the horse with more in the tank down the stretch. He’ll win going away while too out of reach for the closers.
- #11 Stradivari
- #3 Nyquist
- #7 Collected
- #5 Exaggerator
- #6 Lani
11-3-7-5-6 Trifecta, Superfecta, Super Hi-5 Box.