2014 Preakness Stakes Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/15/2014
The post positions are set for the Preakness Stakes. Now all there is left to do is try to figure out how the 10-horse field is going to shake out in the end. With a massive favorite - California Chrome was installed at 3/5 on the morning line - it is going to take some time to figure out how to best bet this race. While I am unsure what the bets will ultimately look like, here are six predictions about the race that I feel pretty good about:
California Chrome will have no friends: There is no secret that California Chrome is the best horse in the field and unquestionably the one to beat. All the other trainers and jockeys also know that part of the reason that he made it look so easy in the Derby was because the pace was so slow early on, so he didn't have to work and had plenty left in the tank for his move. While it's not reasonable to expect a trainer or jockey to ruin his chances to try to stop California Chrome, you can certainly expect that horses won't make it at all easy for the favorite to run at his best.
There are a couple of ways that that could happen here. For starters, since California Chrome is most comfortable near the early pace, we should see a much more aggressive early pace than in the Derby. That forces the favorite to make a decision - he can either stick with the leaders and hope he doesn't get burnt out or sit back in a less-comfortable position and hope he doesn't leave himself too much work to do late. Either way, it could knock him out of his comfort zone. Second, since the horse drew the three hole, it's a good bet that horses outside of him will look to force him to the rail early and make it hard for him to find room. In the Derby he enjoyed an absolutely perfect trip, and no one else wants to see that happen again.
Pablo Del Monte will set the early pace: Social Inclusion and Pablo Del Monte are the two speed horses most likely to be looking for the lead. Of the two, I expect Pablo Del Monte to take the lead and set the early fractions. He has very little chance of winning the race, but running away with it could be his only chance. Social Inclusion, meanwhile, is one of the two or three most talented horses in the field, and his connections won't want him to be burned out early since he has the talent to make things interesting at the end.
Bayern will try something new: Bayern has been a front-runner through his career. In his last two outings, though, he has definitely been struggling in the stretch - and neither race was as long as this one is. The early pace should be fairly swift this time around, and I expect Bayern to let others contest it. He won't suddenly become a closer, but you can expect to see him more in the second pack of horses - near California Chrome - than up front.
Ria Antonia will be embarrassing: There is absolutely no reason for this filly to be in this race. She looked well below average in the Kentucky Oaks, and she has had a desperate and bizarre trainer change since. Running her perfect race wouldn't put her within eight or 10 lengths of the best of this field. This is a bad joke.
Ride On Curlin will be a much bigger factor than in the Derby: Calvin Borel has three Kentucky Derby wins, and all have come by riding the rail Unfortunately, that has led him to believe that the only place to run the race is on the rail. To get to the rail in the Derby he too this horse to the very back of the field, which is really not where he wants to be. It was a horrible ride, and it took the horse out of contention. He still ran well in the end, but his jockey had ruined things for him. In this race he mercifully has a new rider, he is more rested than a lot of horses typically are coming out of the Derby because he didn't push himself in that race, and he should be much better positioned early on than he was last time. Don't let the underwhelming Derby outing cause you to write this horse off.
General A Rod will look good - until he doesn't:
This horse originally wasn't expected to run back in this race after the Derby, but he came out of the race so well that he is being given a shot. I like
that. The problem, though, is that I just don't think he can handle the distance. He has looked weak beyond about 8.5 furlongs, and the brisk pace and
reasonably tough competition here won't make things any easier for him. He should be a factor earlier on, but he'll run out of gas in the stretch.
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