Signalman Odds to Win the 2019 Preakness Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Every fall, people who love the Triple Crown like I do start to sort through the colts out there and figure out which ones are going to be the ones they attach a piece of their heart to heading into the spring and the start of the prep season. Sometimes it is very easy - despite the very annoying misspelling in his name, I was all aboard the American Pharoah bandwagon by September of his two-year-old year. Much more often it goes poorly - the list of long since forgotten horses that I was once in love with is far too long to even think about. Signalman is no American Pharoah and will obviously never be. But he is a colt I locked my eyes on to early. And it remains to be seen if he will be a slow-burning horse who will pay me back for my loyalty later on - In 1996, for example, I fell hard for Smoke Glacken, who disappeared as a young three-year-old but came back to be the champion sprinter at four - or if he will fade into the crevices of my memory like so many.
Last race: Sometimes you can have a decent result, but the result is more impressive than the effort was. Signalman was third in the Blue Grass Stakes, a result in a major prep race that didn't get him enough points to make the Derby but obviously left him on the Triple Crown trail. But it was as if he was just out for a run, and the race was happening around him. He wasn't a part of the effort. He was third early on, and stayed there despite never truly threatening winner Vekoma, who disappointed me in the Derby, or runner-up Win Win Win, who he will face again here. It was just a race - not awful, but not great, either.
Prior experience: The colt will celebrate his one-year anniversary as a race horse the day before the Preakness. Back on May 17 of 2018, he made his debut at Churchill, finishing a well-beaten second in a maiden race. He wasn't seen again until the tail end of the Saratoga meet at the start of September, narrowly winning what turned out to be a pretty tough maiden race. That was enough to earn him a jump up to stakes territory. His first try was in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, where he was second. Then it was the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where I really got into him. He finished a nice third. In both of those stakes races, he was right behind Knicks Go, but I felt like he was the better horse. Then he closed out his two-year-old year by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in what is, to this point, a career effort. Second that day was UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait, who had a rough go of the Derby this year. I thought it was the start of big things. But he had different ideas when he returned to action in March. He was a lousy seventh in the Fountain of Youth - a race that he looked like he had no interest in running. And then came that Blue Grass. I'm still waiting for him to show he's the horse at three he was at two.
Trainer: Kenny McPeek is a long-time trainer who is easy to respect. His stable isn't always loaded with top-level horses, but when he gets one he knows what to do with it. He does have a Triple Crown race win to his credit, and it was one for the record books. In 2002, his Sarava ended War Emblem's Triple Crown bid, winning the Belmont at a record price of 70/1.
Jockey: Like the trainer, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. is a guy who doesn't always ride the top tier of horses, but who knows how to take care of them when he does. Best known for winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2012 on Fort Larned, he won 13 graded stakes last year. That's pretty solid for a guy below the true elite of the sport. He has been on this colt since he has been running in stakes races.
Breeding: Signalman is a son of General Quarters, who won the Blue Grass in 2009 but had rough days in both the Derby and the Preakness. His stud career has been a bit of an adventure - he spent his first two years in Florida, then was in Kentucky for two years, and has been in Turkey since 2016. This is his best colt to date. General Quarters is a son of Sky Mesa, who is in turn a son of Pulpit, another winner of the Blue Grass and the sire of the great sire Tapit. In perhaps a bad omen for this colt, Sky Mesa peaked when winning two huge stakes at two but was an also-ran in three races at three. Signalman's damsire is Trippi, who was 11th in the Derby in 2000, and had his best races as a sprinter. All in all, it's a fine pedigree, but a long way form the best in the race.
Odds: BetOnline has Signalman at +1400 to win the Preakness, which has him as the ninth choice in the prospective 11-horse field.
Can Signalman Win the 2019 Preakness Stakes?: My heart wants to say yes. And at his best he could be a threat. By my head tells me that we might never see the progression from the track he was on last fall. I'll have a little something on him, but I won't blame you at all if you don't join me.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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