Looking for a Preakness Longshot
by Trevor Whenham - 05/16/2007
Conventional wisdom would indicate that the Preakness winner is likely to be one of the top three finishers from the Derby - Street Sense, Hard Spun or Curlin - given their clear class advantage over the rest of the starters. Though I tend to believe that to be true, conventional wisdom is no way to get rich quickly in this case. To do that you are going to have to find a longshot you like, and then get really lucky. That's easier said than done. Here's my best attempt at making a case for the longshots in the 2007 Preakness field.
Circular Quay (8/1) - It's hard to call a horse a longshot at 8/1, but he fits the bill in the sense that he has a lot to overcome to win here. On the negative side, his race in Kentucky clearly wasn't good enough to contend, and he hasn't put up speed figures at any point in his career that would lead you to believe that he is at the same level as the top horses. He's also burdened by being a deep closer in a race that historically hasn't treated such horses particularly kindly. On the other hand, though, he was well viewed by some going into the Derby, and he was obviously working well enough since that race to warrant a late entry here. More importantly, he is trained by Todd Pletcher. Though his Triple Crown record is almost comically bad, we can't forget that he is still the best trainer in the country by a large margin, and has made virtually every notable race outside of the three Triple Crown tilts his personal playground for the last few years. He has the deepest stable around, and he is good enough to make a decent horse good. Circular Quay deserves more attention than if he were trained by Joe Schmoe.
King of the Roxy (12/1) - On the surface it is hard to get behind this horse. He was a fading second to Tiago in the Santa Anita Derby, and that half-brother of Giacomo was only good enough to end up a non-threatening seventh in the Derby. That was only his second race of the year, though, and the first time he had gone around two turns. He'll have learned a lot from that effort, and he has had six weeks to mature. He'll need to be much better than he has been before to win, but it's not entirely impossible that he could be. He also has the same Todd Pletcher factor going for him that Circular Quay does, and Pletcher is an absolute master (outside of the Triple Crown) at having horses ready to win off a layoff. When he won the Hutcheson against a solid field earlier in the year he did it by stalking and pouncing, and that is the style shared by most Preakness winners. A win here is far from a foregone conclusion, but it could happen.
Xchanger (15/1) - This is the kind of longshot horse that can make things interesting. Though the running style is different. he's somewhat reminiscent of Magic Weisner, the Maryland-based gelding that came from essentially nowhere to finish a solid second to War Emblem in the 2002 Preakness. Like that horse, Xchanger hasn't done a lot against tough competition, but he has won over the Pimlico track (no other horse in the field has even seen the track), and he improved greatly in that race after a disappointing seventh in Curlin's Rebel. His biggest knock, besides obvious class issues, is that he likes the lead, and he will be pressed at the front by Hard Spun. If he fights to hard to be in front early then there is no way that he will be there late. If all goes well, though, the horse could certainly provide a juicy price in the lower part of the exotics.
CP West (20/1) - On the plus side, this horse is well trained by Nick Zito, and he has a ton of potential talent. The problem is that his talent hasn't been realized. He's made just two starts this year - an allowance and a weak Withers - and he was only good enough for second in each. His speed figures don't measure up, he's never won a stakes race, the only time he ran further than a mile it didn't go well and he's very green. I'm supposed to be positive here, though, so let's give him some credit. He has rallied nicely in his last two races, and he is well ridden by Edgar Prado. If anyone deserves a break at Pimlico, it's the jockey of Barbaro.
Flying First Class (20/1) - I learned long ago that you should never count a D. Wayne Lukas horse out of the Triple Crown trail. Before the Derby his Charismatic looked like a total pretender, not a horse that would come within a late fractured leg of a Triple Crown. That being said, I feel safe in my assertion that Flying First Class is no Charismatic. There are signs of promise, though. He faced a mediocre field last time out in the Derby Trial, but he made it look easy. More impressive was his maiden breaking effort in February at Oaklawn. He won by a commanding eight lengths, and posted a mind-boggling 107 Beyer. He's never even come close to replicating that performance, and he has struggled in races of any distance. However, the fact remains that a huge race is inside the horse if he chooses to find it. Jockey Mark Guidry got more than was expected out of Imawildandcrazyguy in the Derby, and he's one of racing's good guys.
Mint Slewlep (30/1) - I could try for a month and I couldn't come up with anything nice to say about this horse in this spot. He's only won crappy races against crappy competition at second-rate tracks, and there is no way that he belongs here. If he wins I'll eat my hat, and then I'll probably never write about the Preakness again. The nicest thing I can say about this horse is that his grandsire is Seattle Slew, and that horse had a pretty decent showing at the Preakness in his day.