The horses are entered, the post positions are drawn , and now all that is left to do is for us to wait until post time for the Preakness . I've broken down the field countless times and played the race out in my mind more times than I should admit. I haven't entirely decided who I think will win the race - there's still time for that - but there are five 2017 Preakness Stakes predictions that I feel pretty good about at this point:
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The early fractions won't be crazy: There are only two horses that are likely to look to lead - Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money. Neither one is a pure speed horse and neither is desperate to have the lead. So we are unlikely to get a speed duel. One will take the lead, and the other will settle right behind him. My strong suspicion is that it will be Conquest Mo Money who takes the lead, because John Velazquez knows how effective letting someone else do the work early on was in the Derby. The connections of Conquest Mo Money think that he is a legitimate contender, though - and they aren't wrong. They won't be interested in trying to run away with the race because that will burn their horse out, and there is enough quality behind him that they know they can't escape. The incentive for speed won't be high, so it seems reasonable to expect a half mile of about 47 seconds - not much faster. That is well within the comfort zone of the two favorites and the top contenders.
Four horses will control the pace: We know who the two leaders are likely to be, and we also know which two horses are likely to be behind them - Classic Empire and Cloud Computing are the two logical stalkers. Am I the only one who likes that the four likely leaders are also the first four horses alphabetically in the field? Ya, it's just me. Anyway, these four horses also happen to be the most talented in the group. There is little incentive for them to run fast early on because it would strain them and set things up for the herd of closers behind them. If they keep things reasonable early then they can dominate late. There is a very good chance that those four horses will make up the exacta in the end.
Hence will have a better day: I don't think a closer is going to win this race, and I don't really think one will make the exacta. Still, Hence should have a better day than he did in the Derby. That won't be hard. In the Derby he didn't like the track, and he really didn't like taking mud in his face. We never got to see him run his race in the Derby. The forecast is much better for the Preakness than it was for the Derby. Combine that with a smaller field and he should show more of what he is capable of. That could be enough to allow him to wind up as the top closer in the field. At the very least he should have the better result of the two Steve Asmussen horses.
Term of Art will finish last: This is the least impressive horse in this field, he's an underwhelming closer who won't be positioned as well as others if things do set up for the closers, and he just doesn't have the talent to chase down anyone in the field who is having a decent day. He is the best bet to finish last and would need a whole lot of help from several horses to wind up a factor in this one. The only two things he has going for him are respectable breeding and a strong jockey, but that won't be enough.
The winning margin will be narrow: The race sets up for Always Dreaming, Classic Empire and Cloud Computing to all be positioned to have a good trip and have room to move when the final stretch drive begins. They all have class and talent, and the much smaller field compared to the Derby makes it less likely that these horses will encounter massive trouble - like Classic Empire did in the Derby. So, when good horses face a favorable race set up and have room to move in the stretch it's unlikely that one will win decisively. It should be a battle right up to the wire.
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