2014 Preakness Stakes Picks & Ponderings

The Preakness Stakes.  The Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

A big thank you to all the readers and twitter followers that found "Picks and Ponderings" for Kentucky Derby week.  The readership numbers were high and you readers made "Picks and Ponderings" a top-read site in the broad ChicagoNow network.

Even if the picks and views were wrong.

So whether this is your first time reading or your hundredth time, we hope you have fun with the picks and enjoy the ponderings.  Onward and upward.

Update, May 15: Corrected some minor typos (post time and Social Inclusion's last out).

Pimlico Race Course -- Race 12 -- G1 Preakness Stakes -- 1 3/16 miles on dirt -- post time 6:18 pm ET (on NBC)

This year's Preakness is on May 17th.  Typically the Preakness pace is an overcompensation of what happened the Kentucky Derby, making it a complete opposite.  There was a mild to slow pace that day.  Think back to last year: a pace meltdown in the Derby leads to a slow pace and Oxbow dictating all the terms.  If you make the same overcompensation argument this year, you're left with a projected moderate-to-fast pace and CALIFORNIA CHROME forced to rate on the inside against the speed to the outside.  It's a challenge, but not insurmountable.  Yet he doesn't need the lead, as shown last time in the Derby and that ability to stalk could be quite useful.  Then again, the jockeys could all overcompensate, and CALIFORNIA CHROME leads them on a merry chase.  But his morning line quote is 3/5 for a reason.

It should also be noted that there was a fair amount of discussion over the speed figure and whether or not wind was a factor.  I think people were turned off at the fact the Derby looked visually unappealing.  I think people saw the clock time and went into a panic.  Yet yours truly earlier in the year, be it in Derby Dozen panels or on social media, was frustrated and apathetic with this group of three-year-olds. Taken together, the Derby was won by a horse that beat the opposition on the square and exposed the questionable qualities of the opposition before him. CALIFORNIA CHROME was best that day, and now the mediocre three-year-olds plan for the Iowa Derby.

The new shooters hold more weight this time around.    Those that pique the interest are SOCIAL INCLUSION, second third in the Wood and projected as the speed of the speed, and BAYERN, who is beautifully bred for the distance and was first across the line in the Derby Trial before a disqualification, as well as takes off blinkers.  I like SOCIAL INCLUSION more, as he came into the Wood as the "oh look, I beat Honor Code!" hype horse that turned in a credible second third behind Wicked Strong (himself fourth in the Kentucky Derby).  Think his outside draw puts him on the engine, and he's faster than PABLO DEL MONTE from the outset.  He could be Oxbow 2.0, but he won't get a free lunch on the front.  BAYERN deserves mention off the breeding and for the solid miler speed.  Blinkers off could help, but getting Napravnik (who cut her teeth on the Maryland circuit) to ride may depress the price.

In the end, these three-year-olds may still be an odious lot.  And CALIFORNIA CHROME may still be the most talented, even if the pedigree says he needs a respirator at this distance.  But he won the Derby fair and square, and he's the Preakness pick.  There will be some speed on the inside with GENERAL a ROD, plenty of it on the outside, and he doesn't need the lead.  He showed he can stalk on the outside, now the question is if he can do it on the inside.  That's not hard to answer, and that's why he's the play.  It's a horrible bet, but sometimes the best horse is best.




#5 BAYERN (10/1)

Longshot: It's 2002 all over again.  You can get your music on Napster (shhhh, don't tell the man!).  Hollywood Park is still racing.  Synthetics are a fancy kind of motor oil.  And Victor Espinoza is riding in the Preakness aboard a Kentucky Derby winner. In that year's Preakness, a Maryland-based runner named Magic Weisner jumped into the exacta at long odds.  Espinoza won that Preakness, too.  Ten years later, in these eyes, Espinoza wins another Preakness and a Maryland-based runner busts the exotics.  #7 KID CRUZ (20/1) got on my radar as a potential Illinois Derby horse.  Scoff at the slow times in Private Terms and the Tesio.  But those aren't reflective, as the Maryland circuit tends to play slow to the clock (Laurel, especially).   He's got some long-distance breeding.  And if they go too fast on the front end, he can certainly light some lights on the Pimlico toteboard.  He could project the lone closer in a speed-rich field.


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  • When touting ROC for the Kentucky Derby you cited his having turned a corner in Arkansas, where he beat Bayern. Now not even a mention - what's changed?

  • In reply to neocaine:


    I thought that RIDE ON CURLIN (ROC) did turn a corner when he rated in the Arkansas Derby and finished ahead of BAYERN. I discarded him this time around for three reasons.

    1) BAYERN's equipment change. Taking blinkers off of BAYERN might get Bayern to make the same kind of move that RIDE ON CURLIN made, where he is taken off the pace a little bit. That's expected to be a quick pace with the likes of SOCIAL INCLUSION, PABLO DEL MONTE, and perhaps GENERAL a ROD all wanting near the front. Even CALIFORNIA CHROME can work from the front if no one wants the lead. Moreover, the trainer has a high strike rate when taking off blinkers.

    2) Overestimating RIDE ON CURLIN. A lot of people will look at RIDE ON CURLIN getting the rider switch to Rosario as a positive point. So will the closing he did on the rail in the Derby. That's fine, but it's possible that too many people are jumping on the bandwagon because of Rosario, because he's one of the few brave enough to come back in two weeks after the Derby.

    3) Pace and post dynamics. SOCIAL INCLUSION projects, to me, the speed of the speed. I think Rosario takes RIDE ON CURLIN back, but the issue in him becomes him getting stuck three wide on the turn (never a good thing), or he wastes the horse trying to out-gun SOCIAL INCLUSION to the front. The draw did not do RIDE ON CURLIN (or Illinois Derby winner DYNAMIC IMPACT, for that matter, given how posts 1 and 2 have been in recent years) no favors and takes him out of his element as a grinder/plodder who can break well, settle mid-pack, and wear down the rest.

  • In reply to Paul Mazur:

    Thanks Paul, appreciate your analysis.

  • In reply to neocaine:


    Happy to help and answer. Thanks for reading!

  • I think you have the time wrong. I believe it's 5:18 CT.

  • In reply to NBII:


    I put the wrong time zone. Oops. This change was noted and corrected.

  • I am trying to place the 2nd group of 3 in Preakness. Right now I have Ride On Curlin, Kid Cruz and Pablo Del Monte. The former two horses because of their closing abilities and the latter because if he gets out quick with Social Inclusion and Bayern, although he'll likely be caught he'll may stop up near the top. I have Dynamic Impact and General A Rod 7 and 8 because they will have difficulty moving out from the rail and GAR has no closing speed at least from what I have seen. Ring Weekend and Ria Antonia at the back. Curious who you foresee in the 4, 5 and 6 spots.

  • In reply to evenmoney:


    I'll second your thought of RING WEEKEND and RIA ANTONIA as the caboose crew.

    So to expound on your strategy, trying to nab the fourth place finisher, it sounds like you see the race as CALIFORNIA CHROME/SOCIAL INCLUSION/BAYERN as the "top three tier". I definitiely see SOCIAL INCLUSION ahead of BAYERN. SOCIAL INCLUSION is the speed of the speed and I think the blinkers-off move is to get BAYERN to press/stalk from the head of the second flight.

    I do think DYNAMIC IMPACT can run well here, but his rail draw does him no favors on a track where you want to be maybe in the two-path or the three-path. I think RIDE ON CURLIN (see further comments to others) is compromised by an outside draw, but he can gallop along for a mid-pack finish.

    To circle back to the question, I'd go with CALIFORNIA CHROME in the win column (duh), SOCIAL INCLUSION and KID CRUZ as the 2-3 tier (see the "longshot to watch" section for why I tout him), and the 2-6 tier to be SOCIAL INCLUSION, KID CRUZ, BAYERN, DYNAMIC IMPACT, and RIDE ON CURLIN. I think you have the right strategy of trying to use CALIFORNIA CHROME as a building block and try to hit the trifecta/superfectas that are depressed due to the strong favorite.

  • Thanks for the insight Paul, much appreciated. Enjoy the race!

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