New shooters in the Preakness Stakes often face the same criticism - that they are hard to take seriously because if they were good enough to contend with Derby horses then they would have made the Derby field. This year, though, things are a little more interesting. Both Cloud Computing and Conquest Mo Money had the points to race in the Derby but opted out - Cloud Computing due to inexperience, and Conquest Mo Money because of the cost of supplementing him for the race. So now we have two fresh Preakness horses that are more interesting than the typical group here (and we would have had a third in Royal Mo, who was the last horse out for the Derby, before he was tragically injured in training this week).
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Cloud Computing is the most interesting of the group. He's very raw but has outstanding connections, strong breeding, and seemingly endless potential. So, can he make himself a factor here and throw a wrench into what many think is a battle royale between Derby champ Always Dreaming and two-year-old champ Classic Empire?
Last race: He was third in the Wood Memorial behind winner Irish War Cry, who would be my pick for biggest disappointment in the Kentucky Derby after a no-show performance. In that race Cloud Computing showed just how raw he is. He got forced three wide on the first turn, was weaving his way around the second turn, and seemed unfocused down the stretch. He wound up third in the eight-horse field and was never better than his finishing position. He never presented a real threat to the top two. It wasn't a horrible effort, but if you watched that and thought he was ready for the Derby then you have different tastes than I do. The connections made the right choice out of that race.
Prior experience: Like I have said multiple times already, this is an extremely raw horse. He only made his debut on Feb. 11. He had some trouble early on and generally made getting around the track more of an adventure than it ideally would be, but in the end he mounted a strong chase down the stretch and ended up in front by just short of two lengths. Impressive performance, but very immature. And then he jumped up to stakes action for the Gotham Stakes. He again showed immaturity, really struggling to pick a lane and stay in it, but he was second best on the day behind J Boys Echo - another horse that didn't have a great day in the Derby. And that's it. The horse has run only three times and hasn't run a complete, strong race yet. There have been things to like in each but also things you hope he outgrows in a hurry.
Trainer: Chad Brown is the real deal. He won the Eclipse Award as top trainer last year after leading the nation in earnings, and he sits fourth nationally this year. He'll climb, too, as he is at his best on the turf, and that season really gets rolling through the summer and fall. He has yet to win a Triple Crown race, but it's just a matter of time for him. He's among the very best in the sport.
Jockey: Javier Castellano made a bold decision here, opting off of Derby mount Gunnevera to ride this colt. It's particularly striking because he won three graded stakes on Gunnevera and has never been on this horse before. He obviously sees something in the colt and in the relationship with Brown. And as the Eclipse Award-winning jockey each of the last four years, that is good enough for me. His presence is a boost for the colt. Castellano earned his lone Triple Crown win in the 2006 Preakness aboard Bernardini.
Breeding: Sire Maclean's Music won his only start back in 2011. And it was a heck of a win - the 114 Beyer speed rating he earned was the highest ever for a debut. It was spectacular, but he was never healthy enough to race again. He's very well bred, though, so the talent was no fluke. His sire Distorted Humor sired, among many others, 2003 Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and 2010 Belmont and 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer. And Maclean's Music's damsire was Unbridled's Song, who had much success as a sire, capped by the great Arrogate. This colt gets a lot of class from his sire side. And his dame side is no slouch, either - his damsire is none other than the great A.P. Indy. This is a regally-bred colt very well suited to this challenge.
Odds: At BetOnline this colt is at +1200 to win the Preakness. That makes him the fifth choice is the race but the favorite amongst the fresh shooters. How you view that price depends upon your view of how much he has been able to mature since his last outing. The colt we have seen on the track so far isn't ready for this test, but if he can run to his pedigree then there is some value in this price - at least in terms of exotics. I really like the way he has been working up to this race, and I like the Castellano move, so he'll be a real part of my considerations in this one.
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