Doug O'Neill won his second Kentucky Derby last year, but he has had troubles recapturing that magic this year. His top contender, Iliad, was prematurely retired. Irap was a shocking winner of the Blue Grass Stakes but was a dismal 18th in the Derby. And now he made the late decision to bring Term of Art to the Preakness - he was the last horse added to the field. And this colt is quite likely to be the longest shot on the board in this race. So, I feel like I already know the answer, but I still have to ask - can O'Neill win his second Preakness with this horse?
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Last race: The performance by this horse in the Santa Anita Derby was so underwhelming that it came as a complete shock that O'Neill aimed the horse here. He was dead last in the 13-horse field early on and just one spot better than that later on. He made a mild move down the stretch - mostly just maintaining his speed well enough to pass fading runners - but was a totally irrelevant seventh at the wire. It was far from a great performance. The winner, Gormley, hardly inspired, so finishing well behind him is a big concern. It's not like it was a real surprise, though - the horse went off at 24/1 in the race and was the ninth choice in the field, so he actually outperformed his odds slightly.
Prior experience: Experience isn't an issue - the Santa Anita Derby was the ninth race for this colt. The issue, though, is that a lot of those races just weren't very good. He made his maiden debut in July but didn't break that maiden until the third start. From there the connections made the odd choice to jump him right into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It went about as well as you would expect - he was a non-competitive ninth. After that he was entered in a grade 3 turf race at Del Mar. He won that race, but it was moved off the turf and onto dirt. That was the last race of his two year old season and his last win. At three he took a standard California prep path to the Santa Anita Derby - the Sham, Robert B. Lewis and San Felipe. He was fifth, fourth and third, respectively. So the long odds and the underwhelming performance in the Santa Anita Derby were no surprise.
Trainer: If you have read my racing writing over the years you know I have no love for Doug O'Neill. He's a confirmed drug cheat who is shady far too often, and he lacks consistency in big races to a suspicious degree. I have less respect for him than anyone else in racing. He has won this race, though - with Derby winner I'll Have Another, who was subsequently scratched from the Belmont. He is capable of winning this race, but he is not typically capable of getting huge performances out of secondary horses on big stages. Needless to say, if he gets elected to the hall of fame someday I won't be making his induction speech.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz sits second in the nation in earnings and first among riders who ride a full schedule - Mike Smith, the king of big-day racing, leads thanks to the success of Arrogate and others, but he has ridden just 93 races compared to 468 for Ortiz. This is a very good jockey. Neither he nor his equally-talented brother Irad have won a Triple Crown race, but it's just a matter of time. The family will have several to their credit before they are done. Ortiz is just a mercenary in this spot. He's an East Coast rider, and this is a West Coast horse. Ortiz has no regular ties to O'Neill, either. He just wanted to be in the race, and this is the saddle he could get. He's an asset for the horse, and the best jockey he has had, but this change isn't enough to turn the horse into a real contender.
Breeding: The best thing this horse has going for him is the breeding. He is a son of Horse of the Year Tiznow, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2000 and 2001. He has sired horses like shocking 2005 long shot Belmont winner Da' Tara, Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, and champion filly Folklore. He contributes solid stamina. Term of Art's damsire is the great Storm Cat. He is the damsire of Bodemeister, who sired Derby winner Always Dreaming and the great Shared Belief. He is also the damsire or Folklore, so the Tiznow - Storm Cat combination has had strong success before. Storm Cat is also the great-grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. This breeding is more than adequate to handle the challenge of this race.
Odds: Bovada has Term of Art at +2500 to win the Preakness, which ties him with Senior Investment as the longest shot on the board. At least in relative terms I struggle to see any value in that. I won't be betting him at this or any price - and not just because of his trainer.
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