Handicapping the Kentucky Derby Horses in the 2019 Preakness Stakes
It has taken me much longer than usual this year to get to this article because we have been less certain of what is going to happen than we are used to seeing. The Maximum Security disqualification, and the circus that has been left in the wake of it, has caused all sorts of confusion about which Derby horses will move forward to the Preakness.
On Tuesday, we learned that Derby winner Country House would be skipping the Preakness - the first time since Grindstone was injured in 1996 that the Derby winner hasn't headed to the Preakness - because a minor cough suggested that he could be getting sick. If you have ever wanted to see what an excuse from a trainer who really doesn't want to run in a race looks like, your search is over. And on Wednesday we learned that Maximum Security allegedly wouldn't have run in the Preakness even if he won the Derby because of cuts he received on his hind legs in the race - though the fact that the owner thinks that those cuts somehow bolster the case for his appeal is obviously not a coincidence.
So, the race has been robbed of any rematch or redemption storyline we might have hoped for. On top of that, second-place finisher Code of Honor had been aimed at the Preakness, but on Tuesday we learned that trainer Shug McGaughey had changed his mind - or that the rumor was no good in the first place. So, three Derby horses we would like to see in the Preakness aren't going to be there, but we are still going to see some horses from the first race head to the second - potentially as many as four at this point:
Improbable: Bob Baffert's big three didn't get it done in the Derby, and he'll be reduced to just one in the Preakness. It's a bit of an odd story on this front, too - though nothing like the ones we discussed at the start. On Sunday Baffert seemed very lukewarm in his comments about the chances of any of his horses moving on to this race. He said he would take time to look at it, and reading between the lines it seemed like he would wait for the Belmont. But then on Monday morning he not only said that this colt was possible for the Preakness, but confirmed that he was going, and named Mike Smith as the rider. That's an interesting 180 and one I am happy to see. The colt has seen sloppy tracks in his last two races, and I really don't think he loves them. He's immensely talented, and I hope for a dry, fast track so we can finally see if he is as good as we have imagined him to be. If the Derby winner, or neither of the Derby winners in this case, is heading to the Preakness, at least we are going to have the Derby favorite.
War of Will: There are some horses that just seem built for the Preakness. Even before the Derby, I had felt that he would run his best race here - especially after he drew the inside post in the Derby. And nothing about the Derby has changed my feelings. I have watched that final turn of that race about a million times now, and each time I have become more aware of just how much War of Will got screwed. He may not have won, but he was on the move and well positioned when he got knocked sideways - after he brushed Maximum Security's legs a couple of times. That he didn't go down was a miracle, and it derailed his race entirely. He deserves another shot, and it seems like he will get it here. He's now two races away from a great effort, but hopefully the Derby at least knocked off some rust and has him ready for a big run.
Win Win Win: The defection of Country House and Maximum Security opens things up in this race, and Win Win Win is the first horse to reconsider and step up. The colt gained real attention when he won the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in record time. It was an impressive outing, but he has failed to live up to it since. He was third in the Tampa Bay Derby behind Tacitus then second in the Blue Grass behind Vekoma, nipping likely Preakness entrant Signalman narrowly. He's another horse who really didn't take to the slop at Churchill, finishing five lengths back of Improbable while never really being a factor. He's not at the level of the two we have already discussed, but there is upside here if the conditions suit him, and he's a solid addition.
Bodexpress: This, on the other hand, is not a solid addition. He's a maiden, and horses that have not won a race do not belong on a Triple Crown race - and certainly don't belong in two of them. Easy, easy pass.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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