2014 Preakness Stakes Trainers: Handicapping and Analysis
by Trevor Whenham - 5/13/2014
As we get ready for the Preakness Stakes, we have to look at the trainers. Those men and women are responsible for having their horses ready, so they play an absolutely vital role in the outcome of this race and are therefore key for handicappers. Here are six of the more interesting Preakness Stakes trainers storylines for this year:
Art Sherman, California Chrome: By now we are all probably familiar with the crazy story that is Art Sherman's. The 77-year-old has a perfect 1-for-1 record as a trainer in the Kentucky Derby, and he's 2-for-2 in the race with horses he worked with - he was an exercise rider for Swaps in 1955. He trains a small stable out of the Southern California spotlight at Los Alamitos, and he is just as old school as you would expect a 77-year-old trainer to be. I was quite concerned about his ability to handle the stress and pressure of the Triple Crown trail, but he has been fine so far, and he has wisely let his assistant trainer son handle more of the day-to-day demands of training the Derby winner.
Manny Azpurua, Social Inclusion: Sherman is virtually a teenager compared to Azpurua, the 85-year-old Venezuelan who is, like Sherman, making his Preakness debut. He hit the Triple Crown trail before Sherman did, though - he had Ravelo's Boy in the 2012 Belmont. Azpurua is far from young, but he had his most successful year last year, so age is just a number in his case. He has been training in the U.S. since 1978, and his brother was a trainer who also had Triple Crown starters. It's impossible to know how to judge an 85-year-old rookie, so I won't even try.
Bob Baffert, Bayern: Baffert is no stranger to this race. He has won it five times - most recently in 2010 with Lookin At Lucky. He's back with another decent chance this year, but it comes in the midst of an odd and rough Triple Crown year for the veteran. He had a very strong juvenile class last year, but the stars were injured and are out of action. Leading into the Derby he had Chitu and Midnight Hawk pointing at the race along with Bayern. It seemed like he had no confidence in anything, though, because he considered many different options for the horses. Midnight Hawk ran in the Illinois Derby even though he had the points to run in the Kentucky Derby. Bayern ran in the Derby Trial the week before the Derby. Chitu was pointed at that race as well, but he ultimately stayed in the Derby. Given the odd path, it's hard to have quite as much faith in this horse as you otherwise might in a Baffert trainee in Baltimore.
Tom Amoss, Ria Antonia: This is one strange soap opera - and another chapter in the odd spring Bob Baffert has had. Baffert trained this filly until last week. Jeremy Englehart had trained the horse last fall, and he had won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile fillies with her (by disqualification after originally finishing second). He lost the horse over the winter, though, when ownership didn't like the progress. Baffert made some progress, but she was a disappointing sixth in the Kentucky Oaks. Reports indicate that he and the owner clashed over the wisdom of trying the Preakness, so Tom Amoss took over as trainer last week. Now he has just two weeks to get the horse ready for this race - not enough time to have any real impact. It's an odd challenge, and it's another reason that this horse is very tough to evaluate. This is the third time Amoss has been at the Preakness and the second year in a row - he was third with Mylute last year.
Wesley Ward, Pablo Del Monte: Ward has a lot at stake with this horse. Not only is he the trainer, but he also bred the horse and owns 25 percent of it. That obviously means that he is more involved and personally invested than most trainers, and that was evident in the Derby. The horse had earned a spot in the field after entering as an also-eligible, but Ward ultimately turned down the opportunity. He thinks this is a better spot, but I still need to be convinced. He has had two previous Preakness starters, but he has never finished better than 10th.
Linda Rice, Kid Cruz: Rice is on track to be just the 15th woman to saddle a Preakness starter. She could also be the first woman to win the race - Nancy Alberts was second in 2002. She is new to this race, but she is far from an inexperienced trainer. She has won the meet title at Saratoga, and you don't do that unless you are very good. She has had more success on turf, but she clearly has a strong connection with this horse, and he is a live long shot.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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