2019 Preakness Stakes Predictions
Well, it's all over but this. Over the last two weeks, I have broken down what is a very strange Preakness from all sorts of angles . I've dissected, poked and prodded the race from more angles than there are horses. Now, all we can do is distill down everything we have talked about and make a few Preakness predictions. I'm not going to give it all away - you can pay for that . But here's a pretty good idea of how I see the race breaking down and what I expect from the middle jewel of this year's decidedly tarnished Triple Crown.
The pace won't be blazing: There are two horses that are very likely to contend for the lead - Warrior's Charge in the three hole and Alwaysmining in the seven. Both of those positions are such that they should be able to move forward out of the gate if they hit the start. And there are a couple other horses that could potentially challenge the pace if it made sense for them - including the two favorites, Improbable and War of Will. All of that, though, shouldn't boil down into crazy early fractions.
There won't be suicidal pace in the opening half mile here. Why? A few reasons. First, Improbable or War of Will would only make a move forward if they broke well and if they could control things, so if that happens it won't be fast. And the connections of both Alwaysmining and Warrior's Charge seem to think they have a chance here - perhaps more than they should. They will be looking to lead, then, but they know that going too fast early will go badly for them. No one wins a speed duel with quality horses behind. It should be a fairly tentative time of feeling each other out early, then, and that will turn into reasonable fractions. Not slow - this isn't the Florida Derby - but not blazing, either. That's not great news for the group of closers here, but then the winner wasn't going to come from the back in this field unless things really blew up, anyway.
Alwaysmining is in for a wakeup call: This horse is red hot, having won six straight. Five of the wins are in stakes races, and three have been by more than six lengths. And he has been in the lead at all but one call overall. He's a well-bred, formidable horse. But there is a very big difference between winning ungraded stakes against small fields at Laurel Park and beating 13 horses in a Triple Crown race. He has been able to dominate the races he has had in part because he has been able to set the tone, and the other horses have followed. Horses of the caliber of Improbable or War of Will are nothing like he has seen before, though, and things are not going to be the same. It's like a pitcher who has dominant stuff in the minors, but when he gets called up to the show he suddenly finds out that his tricks aren't so tricky. I'm not saying that the local favorite has no chance here. I'm just saying that he will have to prove that he is a much more special horse than he has ever shown so far to contend. And because he needs to elevate so much, the price he will likely go off at is just far too low.
Everfast is going to do something odd: This horse being here couldn't make any less sense if it tried. He is 10 races into his career and hasn't won since his debut. That maiden win was at Ellis Park, which isn't exactly the big time. And since then he has been in seven graded stakes races and has been entirely a non-factor in six. The only exception was the Holy Bull, and that was one of the oddest prep races all year. The two leaders killed each other up front in that one, opening the door for two crazy long shots - a 30/1 horse won, and this horse was second at 129/1. A $1 exacta paid more than $1100. This horse flat out isn't good enough to be here. Not even close. And he was entered at the last minute as a total surprise. His connections are respectable, but they have to know that the only way they can contend at all is to do something crazy.
Warrior's Charge is going to be...something?: This horse is infinitely better and more competitive than Everfast, but in a typical situation he would be easy to discard. He has won two in a row, but they have been in a maiden race and an allowance. So, he is making his stakes debut here. He likes to lead, but he has never done so through aggressive fractions. He doesn't shape up as a huge threat. And his trainer, Brad Cox, also trains Owendale. That colt is a closer, so you could argue that this horse is in the race to ensure the strong early pace closers need. But there are a couple of things that make this odd - and worth more attention. First, while he has the same trainer as Owendale, he has different owners, which makes it much less likely that he is entered as a rabbit. And second, he was not Triple Crown nominated, so his owners had to pay $150,000 to enter him here. Either they really wanted to come to Baltimore with a rooting interest, or they see more from this horse than we can see on paper. I'm far from entirely sold, but I'm not going to toss him, either.
We know the winner pretty well: I won't say who I think the winner will be, but I will say that I think that he ran two weeks ago in a state that likes bourbon and crispy chicken.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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