There are three types of horses that typically join the Triple Crown trail at the Preakness stage. The first is a highly-talented horse that wasn't quite mature enough to try the Derby. Bernardini or Bayern come to mind. Next are the no-hope horses, often with local connections, that are just looking to take a shot at a miracle. It rarely ends well for them. Finally, there are horses like Divining Rod - decent horses with some things to like that weren't quite good enough to stick on the Derby trail but which have accomplished enough that they don't seem out of place in this race.
They often don't really get the pulse racing - Divining Rod certainly doesn't set my heart aflutter - but if they have a good day and keep progressing then they can get a piece of the pie. Potentially useful horses for exotics bettors, in other words. That could certainly be the case if Divining Rod stays near his current 20/1 price at Bovada. Can Divining Rod win the Preakness? Probably not - not unless the race really falls apart. He's still worth paying attention to, though.
Lexington Stakes: The Lexington Stakes is technically a Kentucky Derby prep race, but the place on the calendar and the lower number of points being offered to the winner has made it less relevant on that front. Charismatic back in 1999 was the last to pull off the Lexington/Derby double (or the Lexington/Derby/Preakness triple, for that matter). Divining Rod is looking to use a win there as a springboard to Triple Crown glory once again. He rated off a fairly modest early pace, made his move around the final turn, and confidently and professionally pulled away to win by three. He was the third betting choice in the field, so he exceeded expectations somewhat.
Prior experience: Unlike a couple of the new entrants to the Triple Crown trail in this race, Divining Rod has had a reasonably logical path to this point. He broke his maiden in first asking last fall at Laurel Park in Maryland and then headed to Tampa Bay. He was a strong second in the Sam F. Davis at more than 28/1. He led much of the way and was only passed by a neck at the line. If he had built on that experience then we might have seen him in Kentucky, but the next outing in the Tampa Bay Derby was a bit of a disappointment. He again led much of the way but ran out of gas in the stretch and limped home fourth. He was badly outclassed by winner Carpe Diem, but it's worth noting that he finished one place ahead of Danzig Moon, who he will face again here.
Trainer: It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that, given his name, Arnaud Delacour is originally from France. He worked there and in Argentina before coming to California to work for Christophe Clement. Now he is based in Maryland in the summer and Tampa Bay in winter and trains as a team with his wife, Leigh, who is a former top assistant for Graham Motion, the trainer of Derby winner Animal Kingdom. The two have had some decent success, but it hasn't come at this level. They are making their Triple Crown debut here.
Jockey: Javier Castellano is on board, but that was far from certain. He only committed to this ride for sure on the Tuesday before the race when Todd Pletcher chose not to enter any horses in the field. Given his experience and level of success, Castellano has not ridden in the Preakness as much as you might guess. He has made it count, though - he won in 2006 aboard Bernardini in a race that will mostly be remembered as the one in which Barbaro was injured. He has won the last two Eclipse Awards as top jockey in the country, so he is obviously an asset for this horse. It's worth noting, though, that Castellano is the fourth different jockey to ride this horse in his four stakes appearances.
Breeding: Divining Rod is a son of Tapit. That's not a bad thing - he was the leading sire last year and has sired four Breeders' Cup winners, a Kentucky Oaks winner, and last year's Belmont winner Tonalist among many others. Tapit is a grandson of the great A.P. Indy, out of an Unbridled mare, so stamina is not a concern at all from the sire side. Divining Rod's damsire is Catienus, a well-bred journeyman sire best known for siring millionaire Precious Kitten. His influence isn't outstanding on the stamina front, but that doesn't much matter given the sire side. The horse has a reasonable chance of getting the distance as long as he runs a smart race.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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