There was a time when we used to see a large number of horses that had run in the Kentucky Derby come back two weeks later for the Preakness. It was the Triple Crown, and horses took on the challenge from beginning to end. That has changed significantly now. It is far more common these days to see a horse drop off the Triple Crown trail entirely or to skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont than it is to head right from Louisville to Baltimore.
It's a shame - even if it is probably the best long-term decision for some of the horses. This year is shaping up as fairly typical compared to recent years - six Derby horses are under consideration for the Preakness, and we will likely see three or four in the starting gate. Last year we saw five Derby horses head to Baltimore, so we have work to do to match that level.
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All But Certain
Nyquist: The champ is coming back for more. No shock there. He slept at Pimlico on Monday night, so he wasted no time heading to the site of his next planned conquest. There is obviously no reason at all why he shouldn't head to this race. He ran a nearly perfect race in Kentucky, challenging an aggressive early pace yet still having enough in reserve to keep the lead late. He has run eight times, against some very strong fields, and he has never lost. He has proven to be reasonably versatile in running style. Frankly, he's just better than the rest of the horses in this field. He's going to be a massive favorite in this race as so many Derby champs before him have been, and he's far more likely than not to head to Belmont with a chance at glory. What happens there is a bigger question, but that's a story for a later time.
Exaggerator: The horse wasn't even back at his barn after the Derby yet when trainer Keith Desormeaux said that his horse would be back for the Preakness. It seems like the right decision. The horse ran a very good race to finish second and was foiled because the early rapid pace didn't blow up like you normally would expect it to. If he ran the race he ran against most fields he would be wearing roses right now. He has struggled to beat Nyquist, but the pace scenario again seems to be setting up reasonably well for closers in the Preakness, so it's worth a shot. The biggest issue he faces, though, might be history. Just twice since 1962 have we seen horses bounce back from a second-place finish in the Derby to win the Preakness.
Lani: It's not often these days you see the ninth-place finisher in the Derby named as a likely Preakness starter the day after the race. That's the case with this Japanese runner, though. Maybe the connections figure that they might as well stick around for a while after the long flight over here. Given the horrible start the horse had and his very underwhelming first half mile, the race the horse had for the final half mile was actually pretty impressive. He covered some ground and passed some horses. It's something to build on at least.
Gun Runner: Like Nyquist, this horse pushed the early pace set by Danzig Candy and then held on to finish a respectable third. You can argue with yourselves over whether that is a sign of his quality or if he and Nyquist both benefitted from a speed bias that had been present for two days at the track. The result was also a little flattering for the horse - he would have been passed likely twice in the next two strides if the race was just a little longer. Still, he gave Nyquist a good challenge, and a slightly shorter race could be to his advantage. If I was making the decisions I'd enter him.
Suddenbreakingnews: This horse was absolutely flying late in the Derby and would have been third with just a little more distance. He had a rough trip early on, so his ability to overcome that and finish strong is to his credit. With a cleaner trip and some luck - and an early pace that doesn't hold up quite as well - this horse could really be interesting. I'm really hoping he heads to Pimlico.
Brody's Cause: Trainer Dale Romans already plans to send Cherry Wine, who was an also-eligible for the Derby who didn't make the field, to the Preakness. If he's sending one then maybe he'll feel like he should send two. Brody's Cause was in the middle pack early on in the Derby, well back of the pace setters. He lost some ground in the middle portion of the race but was moving forward nicely at the end and moved up to finish seventh. It wasn't an overwhelming or particularly exciting race by him, but t was professional and didn't cause too many concerns. I'd have no problem with seeing him again - though I doubt we will.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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