Ten Thoughts About the Preakness Lineup
by Trevor Whenham - 05/16/2008
After almost two weeks of speculation and hand-wringing the field is finally set for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. The story is as we expected it would be from soon after the Kentucky Derby - we have one outstanding horse, and a bunch of others that don't seem to measure up on paper. The one surprise given the dominance of Big Brown is that the field is as big as it is - the 13 horses that will enter the starting gate is just one horse below the maximum allowed in the race.
Ten initial thoughts about the race:
1. If there is one thing tat is odd about this race it is that Big Brown didn't manage to scare more horses off. I guess that they all figure that second in a Triple Crown race is pretty good, but I would have expected that more have them would have looked elsewhere. Beyond Gayego and Behindatthebar this is a long way from being an impressive field.
2. I'm not going to waste a second worrying about post position. By winning comfortably from the 20th hole in the Derby Big Brown showed that it doesn't matter to him where he starts. The sample size is small, but so far we have seen Big Brown make the trip he wants regardless of the circumstances.
3. No matter how good Big Brown is, and I think he is pretty darned special, a horse with a morning line of 1/2 and likely post time odds below that, scares the heck out of me in a 13-horse Preakness field. A lot of bad stuff can happen in a race that big.
4. Unsure of how important winning a Triple Crown race is for jockeys? There are a lot of very good jockeys in this race on pretty average horses just so that they can have a shot to get it done.
5. In the end there are 13 different trainers in the race. That should work in Big Brown's favor - horses will be less likely to work together to try to get the favorite in a tough spot if they are alone.
6. Gayego is again interesting. He was a popular pick at a mid-range price in the Derby after a convincing win in the Arkansas Derby on the dirt. The big race was a disaster - he never found his running room and ended up an uncomfortable 17th. That wasn't good, but the fact that he came back in this race was a bit of a surprise and it's a solid clue that his connections are willing to write off that effort. He's a pretty clear second choice, and would provide reasonable value if he stayed at his morning line of 8/1.
7. It's hard to like any of the 30/1 horses, but Riley Tucker is the one that sticks out as being particularly out of place. He hasn't won since breaking his maiden first time out last July. He's finished behind less than overwhelming horses in second-level stakes races. Zayat Stables had too horses in the Derby - Z Humor and Z Fortune - that weren't exactly a threat to win it, and they have another one here.
8. Speaking of horses that aren't at all attractive at their price - Kentucky Bear. This horse has only run three times. He broke his maiden in January, was a non-factor in the Fountain of Youth, and then finished third in the Blue Grass. The Derby showed us that that last race wasn't particularly impressive - the winner, Monba, was last of 20 in Louisville. See anything there that makes you want to jump on this horse at this (or any) price? I sure don't.
9. I'm not going to pick a longshot to bet on, but if I did it would be Hey Byrn. He's one of the few horses in this field coming in off a win, and that came at 9.5 furlongs (the same as the Preakness) in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream. He was reasonably competitive in the Florida Derby, and he looks like he is comfortable with distance. Beyond Big Brown this is a pretty even class, and this horse balances talent and price as well as any horse.
10. The more I look at it, the more difficulty I have imagining Big Brown losing. It's entirely up to him.