2013 Preakness Stakes Picks Profile: Departing
by Trevor Whenham - 5/13/2013
Last race: Departing will gain a lot of attention from bettors as the best of the new contenders joining the six horses from the Derby that are giving the Triple Crown a second try.
He comes into the race off of a strong win in the Illinois Derby on April 20. After settling well off the pace early on, he made his move around the final turn, was in the lead by the top of the stretch, and only strengthened that lead down the stretch, though jockey Brian Hernandez never let up the pressure on the horse. The only real problem with the win was that even though he beat a large 14-horse field, it was far from a strong field. He was the strong favorite, and no other horse was a real national figure this spring.
He’s taking a massive step up in class here.
Career highlights: Departing has four wins and a third in five career starts. It is that third that is the most significant here, though. It came in the Louisiana Derby when he came home behind Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Revolutionary and Preakness entrant and Derby fifth-place finisher Mylute. He got caught wide around the last turn after again settling off the pace early on, and he made a solid, sustained move down the stretch that wasn’t good enough to threaten the top two. He did finish a spot ahead of surprise second-place Derby finisher Golden Soul.
Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr. Hernandez is a 27-year-old rider who was the Eclipse Award winner for top apprentice jockey in 2004. Though he has mostly been a competent journeyman throughout his career, he does have two notable claims to fame in recent years. First, he was the rider aboard all-time great Rachel Alexandra for her first two victories. More significantly, he was aboard Fort Larned last November when he upset the Breeders’ Cup Classic as the fifth choice in the 12-horse field.
Trainer: Al Stall, Jr. If Stall wins this race, he will definitely be acting as a spoiler for all those who dream of Triple Crown glory for Orb.
Spoiler is a role that Stall knows well. When he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2010 with Blame, he dealt Zenyatta the only loss in her 20-race career.
While Stall does have the experience of winning the richest race in North America, this is only his second Triple Crown entrant, and his first appearance in 2009 was hardly remarkable.
Pedigree: Departing has breeding that isn’t certain to handle the distance, but it is fairly solid. Sire War Front produces reasonable distance, though he seems stronger on turf or synthetics than dirt — as his son Lines of Battle proved with an underwhelming Derby showing. Damsire Pulpit produces reasonable distance, and as a son of A.P. Indy he has more stamina to draw on as well.
Distance isn’t a real concern for Departing though he will be running further than he has before in the Preakness.
Running style: Departing will likely look to be well off the pace, though he isn’t likely to want to be right at the very back of the field. He’s a typical mid-deep closer. He’ll show patience until the time is right, look to make a move somewhere around the final turn, and try to build a lead down the stretch.
His challenge is that others, most notably Orb, will be looking to do the same thing and are perhaps better at it. On the plus side, with Goldencents and Govenor Charlie in the field, the early pace should be swift enough to give the closers a chance.
Ownership note: there is an interesting subplot with this horse. He is partly owned by Claiborne Farms, one of the top stallion operations in the country. Orb is owned by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps family. Janney and the Phipps have long been very good clients of Claiborne Farms, and Orb is more than likely to be heading to Claiborne after his career is done.
Departing would not only be spoiling a Triple Crown shot, then, but also damaging the stud career of a valued client for his owners.
Preakness prognosis: There is a lot of buzz building around this horse, and there is a decent chance that he will be the second choice by post time — though he’ll be far behind heavy-favorite Orb.
I’m not really buying the hype. The Illinois Derby win was against a hopeless group of runners, so I don’t give it much credit. He was clearly no better than third best in the Louisiana Derby, and the horse that was second is back again here. Unless the price is surprising at post time, I would tend to look to beat this horse rather than bet on him.
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