2014 Preakness Field Handicapping: Early Look
by Trevor Whenham - 5/6/2014
It's still early, but at this point - just a couple of days after the Kentucky Derby - it looks like a small field is going to line up to face California Chrome in the Preakness as the Derby winner looks to take another step towards the Triple Crown. Right now there are just 10 horses that seem possible, and it would be shocking if all 10 made it all the way to the race (odds to win the Preakness are from Sportsbook.ag):
California Chrome (-120): The champ is definitely back for more, and he'll be ready. Winning the Derby is never easy, but it was easier on him than most. He was not forced to run hard early, and he did not have to exert himself to the wire. He'll likely have to deal with a much crisper early pace in the Preakness, but he'll be the best horse in the field. The question for bettors is whether being the best is good enough given this price.
Danza (+600): Danza is the only one of the four Todd Pletcher horses in the Derby who is considering returning for more. He is not certain to go as of yet, though - he is back at Pletcher's base at Belmont awaiting a Preakness decision. Early in the Derby he was hit very hard by stablemate Vinceremos, and he still finished third in the race. There could be some upside here. My gut tells me that he isn't running in the Preakness, but if he does he would likely be the second choice.
Social Inclusion (+1200): This horse had a huge amount of hype as he headed into the Wood Memorial unbeaten and off an eye-opening win. He faded late and only finished third. He should have learned from that, though, and has talent. He will be fighting for the early lead, and he won't let the pace be as slow as it was in the Derby in the early fractions.
Bayern (+1400): This is Bob Baffert's only horse pointed at this race after a very rocky spring. He'll also be looking to set the early pace. He was pointed towards the Derby, but getting a spot in the starting gate was a question, so he went in the Derby Trial the week prior instead. He won the race, but thanks to a poor ride he was disqualified. Like Social Inclusion, he was unbeaten and hyped despite being lightly-raced heading into his last major prep in the Arkansas Derby.
Ride On Curlin (+1600): There were a lot of bad rides and bad trips in the Derby, but I don't think any rider had a worse day than Calvin Borel aboard this horse. The horse likes to be not far off the leaders, but Borel took him to the very back of the pack early. It destroyed the race for the horse. The good news, though, is that the horse really didn't have to run much as a result, so he comes into this race fresh and sharp - and with a new rider.
Kid Cruz (+1600): This horse has home-field advantage. In his last race he was dominant in winning the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico - the home of the Preakness. It was the second time in a row that he has won a stakes race in impressive fashion, but he is taking a massive step up in class here. No horse has won the Preakness after winning the Tesio since 1983, though Ruler On Ice pulled off the Tesio-Belmont double in 2011.
Dynamic Impact (+1800): Dynamic Impact emerged on the scene by beating Midnight Hawk, a Bob Baffert-trainee who skipped the Kentucky Derby despite having enough points to make the field, by just a nose in the Illinois Derby last time out. He chased frontrunner Midnight Hawk in that race, but he will face a much bigger task chasing all the speed in this one.
Ring Weekend (+2000): This horse was headed to the Derby, but was scratched in the week leading up to the race because of a fever. That scratch let second-place finisher Commanding Curve into the Derby field. I didn't like his chances at all heading into the Derby, and I am only slightly more optimistic heading into this race. This is an easy toss-out.
Pablo Del Monte (+3000): The ownership group of this horse is a bunch of divas. They insisted they wanted a spot in the Derby, got their wish when Hoppertunity was a late scratch, but then didn't take it because they didn't want an outside post - something they should have known they would get as an also-eligible. Trainer Wesley Ward is really talking big about this horse. Since he is also the part owner and the breeder, though, he can hardly be trusted for objectivity. His last prep race - dead last in the Blue Grass - was almost impossibly bad, and it's hard to share the love Ward has for his steed.
This was a surprise that popped up on Tuesday morning. This filly, who was an underwhelming sixth in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby, is now
being pointed at the Preakness. With the news comes yet more drama in an ongoing soap opera. Jeremiah Englehart trained the filly last year, and he won the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with her (she actually finished second, but was moved up due to a disqualification). Owner Ron Paolucci wasn't content,
though, and moved the horse to Bob Baffert's barn in February. After the Oaks, Paolucci made a move again as the horse now resides in the barn of Tom
Amoss. It seems like a big part of the issue was that Baffert didn't want to run in the Preakness. In this regard, among others, Baffert is a very smart
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