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The Preakness field is set, the morning line odds are in place, Barbaro fever has whipped to a frenzy and all we can do now is wait until a couple minutes after the 6:15 p.m. EST post time on Saturday to see if this year's wonder horse is as wonderful as people are saying he is. The field kept growing and changing over the last ten days, until in the end nine horses were entered on Wednesday for the middle jewel in the Triple Crown.
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Barbaro, not surprisingly, was installed as the early heavy favorite, at even money on the morning line. The other two Derby horses in the field, Brother Derek at 3-1 and Sweetnothernsaint at 4-1, are the other two horses at low odds. Bernardini, the Withers winner, is the only other horse in single digits at 8-1. People who love the longshot will be looking at Platinum Couple - 50-1 to start, he may end up higher. Here's a final look at the field and their post positions:
Post 1 - Like Now (12-1) - This horse will be looking for the lead from the start. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin intentionally picked the inside post so that he could get to the first turn before Brother Derek. If you are looking for some reason to like this horse, check out his second to last start. He won the Gotham over 1 1/16 miles, beating Sweetnorthernsaint. He comes in fresh, having a four-week break since finishing second in the Coolmore Lexington to Derby also-ran Showing Up.
Post 2 - Platinum Couple (50-1) - There's that old saying - you get credit just for showing up. That's about all the credit this horse is going to get. There is a nice storyline - Joe Lostritto has been training for 20 years, but he will be making his first Triple Crown start with a horse owned by him and his children. Nice story. No hope in the race, but nice story.
Post 3 - Hemingway's Key (30-1) - You have to respect Nick Zito. He's likeable and he's had a remarkable training career. He says his lucky number is 3 because Babe Ruth wore number 3, so the post makes him happy. Can you tell I am grasping at straws when it comes to things to say about this horse?
Post 4 - Greeley's Legacy (20-1) - This horse didn't fire in either the Wood Memorial or the Coolmore Lexington. He was on no one's radar for this race until he turned in a bullet work at Belmont on Sunday. Trainer George Weaver had the first choice of posts, so there will be no excuses there. The horse is young, being foaled on April 29, so he is behind many of his peers in maturity. If that bullet was a sign of bigger things, then a piece of the triactor isn't completely out of the question.
Post 5 - Brother Derek (3-1) - A good horse coming back from a terrible trip in the Derby deserves all the attention he is getting. He's feeling good and ready for another shot. The big field affected him more than any other horse in the Derby, so the smaller Preakness field is a luxury that will benefit him. His connections have to be happy having Barbaro to the outside of him. It's still up for debate whether this horse is in the class of Barbaro, but hopefully he won't have bad luck two races in a row, and we can see which horse is truly ready to win. Anyone who isn't gushing over Barbaro seems to be picking a Derek victory.
Post 6 - Barbaro (1-1) - What can you say about this horse that hasn't been said a thousand times before in the last couple of weeks? Trainer Michael Matz wanted post 4 so badly that he tried to pick it even though it was already gone. He'll have to settle for the sixth gate, though that isn't all bad - more winners have broke from that spot than any other in the Preakness. Obviously, every horse in the field will be gunning for him, especially since he is bred so well for the Belmont that this is likely the last chance to rip the Triple Crown from his head. Barbaro benefited from a slow opening pace in the Derby. This race could set up faster on the front end, which would present a different challenge. In the end, it will come down to the trip the horse gets. If he stays out of trouble, it's hard to imagine him getting beat.
Post 7 - Sweetnorthernsaint (4-1) - The Derby favorite is another horse coming off a terrible Derby trip. The smaller field might help him here, as will the field that isn't nearly as deep as the Derby was. Coming into the Preakness as the Derby favorite makes him an excellent choice for the tri (12 of the last 14 Derby faves have hit the Preakness tri). Bettors narrowly thought he was better than Barbaro in the Derby, but don't seem as impressed in the Preakness. He might not be good enough to win, but he will almost certainly be a major factor in the race.
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Post 8 - Bernardini (8-1) - This is the fourth horse in a race widely thought to have only three real horses in it. His preparations at Belmont were affected by the heavy rains that kept him off the track for a couple of days. This is only his fourth start, but the last two have been impressive victories, though admittedly against lesser horses. His connections feel that this may be the only chance to beat Barbaro. This isn't the best spot for the horse, but it will be a test to see if his obvious class can overcome his inexperience and the jump in class.
Post 9 - Diabolical (30-1) - Here's all you need to know about this horse - his trainer, Steve Klesaris, has been quoted in the last couple days saying more nice things about Barbaro than anyone other than the favorite's own trainer. The horse's past race history is spotty, the post position is a disaster, and the trainer is clearly feeling outclassed. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me want to bet on him.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's Preakness picks service.