Almost every year in the Preakness there is a horse you need to be aware of - one called the crab cake factor by many. Maryland is really only relevant to elite national racing one or two days of the year. The rest of the time it is a lower-level circuit - a good circuit, but not a top one. When a local horse is entered in the Preakness, then, it becomes a bit of an event - a chance to show the world that Maryland racing has some game.
These horses often - almost always, really - get much more betting attention than they would otherwise deserve. Typically the crab cake horse is the winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes, which is known locally as the Preakness Trial and which was run at Laurel this year after previously being at Pimlico. New this year the winner of the race was guaranteed a spot in the Preakness, and Awesome Speed has claimed that spot. There hasn't been a winner of that race that has won the Preakness in recent times, but five horses from the Tesio since 1986 have gone on to finish second in the Preakness, and they have done so at huge, exotics-inflating odds. Ruler On Ice also went on from finishing second in the Tesio in 2011 to win the Belmont. Deputed Testamony in 1983 is the last winner of the Tesio-Preakness double.
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So, can Awesome Speed use the Tesio as a springboard to do some damage and fatten the trifecta and superfecta - which could be badly needed if Nyquist wins? Or is he outclassed here?
Last race: Awesome Speed got the winning purse for the Tesio, but he didn't actually cross the finish line first. He was a nose behind General Malibu at the wire, but Awesome Speed was hit hard by General Malibu in the stretch, so General Malibu was disqualified. It was a fair result as it seemed in the replay that Awesome Speed would have indeed won if he hadn't been hit and forced to change leads. He had led the whole way through slow fractions and was trying to hold off General Malibu when the contact happened. We got a glimpse last weekend of what the result meant when General Malibu came back in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont against a solid field and was a hard-charging second behind undefeated Unified, who we could possibly see in the Belmont. All in all it was a solid result, albeit in a non-graded stakes against a field that looked like they were where they belonged.
Prior experience: The colt had a disastrous debut in August at Parx. He was at the back of the pack early in that race, and he has been on or at the lead every time since. He bounced back well to win in October at Laurel in a maiden race and then again a month later in an ungraded stakes. He then headed down to Florida, winning another ungraded stakes at Gulfstream. He took his first leap up to the big time in the Fountain of Youth - a key prep for the Florida Derby - but it was too much for him and he was a non-threatening fourth. Then it was back down to the lower levels where he clearly fits better for the Tesio.
The good news is that he has won at a mile and an eighth and around two turns. The bad news is that he is taking a massive step up in class, and the last time he tried a smaller step it went poorly. He's also one of several horses that will be looking to be on or near the pace, so it could get both busy and fast early on - and neither work to his advantage. Even worse, one of those other horses is heavy favorite Nyquist, so it's hard to imagine that if both get their trip that Awesome Speed would have a change.
Trainer: Alan Goldberg is a Maryland-based trainer that has been training with success since 1980 and who has passed the $1 million mark in annual earnings 19 times, including the last 16 straight years. He knows his stuff. He has most had lower-level runners but has had his share of stakes breakthroughs over the years - none bigger than sprinter Safely Kept, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 1990 and was second the year before.
He's a realist about his chances here, but he knows his stuff and will have his horse ready. This is his second Tesio winner.
Jockey: Jevian Toledo will certainly not be the most experienced jockey in the field. The 21 year old has only been riding since 2013 in North America and only briefly rode in Puerto Rico prior to that. He has just one graded stakes victory to his credit - the 2014 Charles Town Oaks. He was fourth in the jockey standings in the recently-concluded Laurel Park meet.
He's a solid jockey, but hasn't seen anything like what he is in for here, and he's not an asset for this horse in this setting - when the horse could very badly use an asset to give him any chance at all.
Breeding: The biggest thing this horse has going for him is his breeding. Sire Awesome Again won the Breeders' Cup Classic, and so did his son Ghostzapper. Another son, Oxbow, won the Preakness in 2013. Damsire Aptitude was second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont and won the mile and a quarter Jockey Club Gold Cup by a stunning 10 lengths - one of the more impressive races I have ever witnessed.
The point of it all is this - there is a stunning amount of stamina in this pedigree, and there is no real reason to doubt his ability to handle this distance.
Odds: At +5500 BetOnline has Awesome Speed tabbed as the longest shot on the board. There is a good chance he won't be that way once the Maryland bettors get their hands on him.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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