2015 Preakness Point/Counterpoint

Picks and Ponderings turned its attention to Pimlico Race Course for Friday's Black-Eyed Susan Day card, and keeps its eyes turned eastward for Preakness Day.

Will AMERICAN PHAROAH continue his sojourn toward Triple Crown glory?  Will his stablemate DORTMUND turn the tables?  Will someone else spoil Bob Baffert's party altogether?  To answer that question here, both parts of the Picks and Ponderings alliance go horse by horse to figure out who has a chance on Saturday.

NBC Sports Network will begin coverage of Pimlico at 2:30pm EDT, and coverage will shift to the flagship NBC station from 4:30pm-6:30pm EDT.  Horse Racing Radio Network will also stream Preakness undercard races from 2:00pm-4:00pm EDT on Sirius 92 and their website, as well as stream the Preakness proper on XM 92, Sirius 92, and their website.

Preakness Stakes (GI), three-year-olds, one and three sixteenths miles on the dirt, post time 6:18pm EDT

#1 AMERICAN PHAROAH (4/5)

Paul Mazur (PM) - He needs no introduction.  He won the Derby.  We know he ran off the TV screen in his Arkansas preps.  We know that Derby form translates pretty well to Preakness form.  This is a scenario where I can’t come up with a good reason to topple him, but on the other hand, I don’t want to get caught in a trap scenario.  He’s way too talented, way too in form, to not be on the podium.  Does AMERICAN PHAROAH win?  He probably does.  He is one of the two likely winners in my book.  4/5 tastes like the Mucinex I just took.  I can’t come up with a convincing reason he’ll win, but if I toss him, I’ll look like a complete idiot.

Nicolle Neulist (NN) - I agree that Derby form holds well in the Preakness, and he is fast and very well in form.  Given that he drew the rail, he should be more likely to send than he did last out from the 18 hole.  Due to his draw, he seems most likely to be on the lead.  But, he did prove last out that he can rate off of horses better than Bridget's Big Luvy.  AMERICAN PHAROAH is one of the two likely winners of this race — he is too fast and too good to toss.  But, the price will most certainly be an underlay.

#2 DORTMUND (7/2)

PM - The certainty in this year’s Preakness is that Bob Baffert is your winning trainer.  The uncertainty is which of his wins.  If it’s true that he had stomach issues in the Derby, he ran a heck of a Derby.  For him to set 47 and change, 1:11 and change, and still hit the podium?  Maybe I was wrong to think he was the next Declan’s Moon.  Maybe he’s the next Point Given.  I think it’s him or AMERICAN PHAROAH who wins, but I don’t know what side the coin falls on.  He keeps earning my respect for the way he’s been running, after I felt he’d disappear early in his three-year-old career.

NN - The $1,500,000 question is whether DORTMUND will rate.  I would rather see DORTMUND set off the pace, especially with MR. Z and FIRING LINE likely to send — and very possibly AMERICAN PHAROAH as well, given that he drew the rail, can show so much speed, and save ground.  I agree — if he had stomach issues going into the Derby, his Derby was a monster.  Either way, the cutback to a mile and three sixteenths will help him along.  He will be a significantly better price than AMERICAN PHAROAH here, and looks like the far better bet between the two most likely winners.

#3 MR. Z (20/1)

NN - Oh, MR. Z.  Exhausted sigh.  I think a lot of people are overreacting — he’s not unsound, and he’s not being raced to death.  But, I think he’s tired.  He just doesn’t seem to be in the same sharp form that he was in through the fall and winter — in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Delta Jackpot, the Los Al Futurity.  He was clearly competitive then.  He’s still a good horse now, but he has shown enough of a decline in form since then that I can’t see him being competitive with the likes of DORTMUND and AMERICAN PHAROAH at this point in time.

PM - There’s a lot of jibber-jabber with MR. Z.  Some of it is true, some of it isn’t. The idea that he's a tired horse is furthest thing from the truth.  I think he hasn’t matured from two to three, or hasn’t matured as fast as others.  For all the talk that he’s still eligible for an a-other-than, he could hit the bottom spot of the podium, because the short field will give him a cleaner trip.  He did not have a fun trip in the Derby, and even though there’s the idea of Coach Lukas wanting to run him for new owners Calumet…they pulled the same thing with Oxbow two years back.  Oxbow was too close to the pace two years back, and when the Preakness pace became an overreaction, Oxbow got to lead everyone around the carousel.  Here, MR. Z is the speed horse who needs the lead less than any of the other ones.  Maybe I’m trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice, but I think MR. Z could hit the bottom of the board.

#4 DANZIG MOON (15/1)

PM - I tossed him in my caboose crew last time, and he tossed egg on me since he finished a respectable fifth in the Derby.  I’m putting him back in my caboose crew.  The Derby was a case of "he who wheezes least wheezes best."  They crawled home in the Derby: 26 and 3 for the last quarter.  DANZIG MOON lost ground.  If you’re losing ground in a 26 and 3 final quarter and you’re a dead closer?  NO.  TOSS.

NN - He ran a better Derby than I thought he would, having finished a respectable fifth. I considered him here because he is one of the few off-pace types in the field.  Still, losing ground in the final fraction of the Derby is a huge strike against this closer -- his late pace will not be enough here.  DANZIG MOON is a particularly bad bet since there’s another horse in this field who could show better late pace at a far better price.  I have to stand against DANZIG MOON here.

#5 TALE OF VERVE (30/1)

NN - TALE OF VERVE is the Dallas Stewart Spoiler, and there are several things to recommend him here.  He will be the longest shot on the board, and the one who is motoring in at the end.  He already has a victory at a mile and three sixteenths, and he was able to close into fractions that were not overly fast, to boot.  These horses will be tougher, but if AMERICAN PHAROAH or DORTMUND are a bit tired from the Derby, and the likes of FIRING LINE or MR. Z soften them up too much on the front end, TALE OF VERVE will be the one mowing them down.  I don’t see him winning, but getting up for second or third?  It could happen, and the price will be too good to leave him out of the exotics.

PM - I agree with you — if you’re going to use a closer, you should use him, and not DANZIG MOON.  Primarily, he’ll be going second off the layoff, and these are connections that have spoiled the Triple Crown before.  This is team Golden Soul.  Class is the main issue.  It took him six tries to get his maiden win, but he needed the distance to do it.  If the pace melts down, he’s the one who benefits.  But, in the Derby, people thought the pace would melt down, but three horses just did better than everyone else.  I don’t think he finishes last, but I don’t think he wins either.

#6 BODHISATTVA (20/1)

PM - Every year at Preakness time, we play a drinking game with things like “new shooter” and “tight turns”.  This year, he is the DRINK new shooter who did well on the DRINK "tight turns" at Pimlico.  Every year, Maryland horse who comes in, leaves with his tail between his legs, and wins a 75k stakes at Laurel next out.  This one, I actually give a chance to.  He probably has the best ten-furlong breeding of the field, being by Student Council, who himself was a multiple ten-furlong winner.  The fact that he could not keep up with Bridget's Big Luvy in the Private Terms, I’m going to attribute that to the wet track.  I like the fact that he had some fight in him.  That’s going to be important in a race like the Preakness where you have the two closers at the back, and a sort of chess match on the front end.  I get the feeling like this is a lot like 2002 Preakness, where War Emblem wins at odds-on, and then a horse comes in second at about a squillion to one.

NN - He is my click-to-pick for the caboose crew, and I could not toss him fast enough.  He is not fast enough early to contend for the lead, and not fast enough late to come moving in near the end.  He would have to run the race of his life, from start to finish, to even hit the board against this company, and I’m not seeing that kind of improvement.

#7 DIVINING ROD (12/1)

NN -  The Bafferts are the most likely winners of this race, but if anyone upsets them, it is going to be DIVINING ROD.  Going into the Lexington, it remained to be seen if he could rate.  He honestly rated there.  DIVINING ROD sat off the pace along the rail, angled out in the stretch, and beat that field as strongly as a legitimate Preakness contender should have.  Having shown he can do that, he should be able to sit off the speedy contingent here, get one of the earlier runs, and be game enough to give them a run for their money.

PM -  There are two wishes I have with DIVINING ROD.  One, I wish his name were Carbon Rod so I could give him an employee-of-the-month award.  Two, I want him to go on the grass.  He is bred for it.  He tried it once, ran okay, and then found life on the dirt.  There is a sort of karma in the race, Lael Stables having owned Barbaro.  Problem is, they’ve got a horse who is not bred for 1 3/16 miles on the dirt.  There’s the whole thing about Tapits past nine and a half furlongs, but Precious Kitten on the bottom is even more of a liability.  I disagree with how bullish you are on DIVINING ROD, and I think he’s going to burn a lot of money.

#8 FIRING LINE (4/1)

PM - I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Derby.  The only saving grace was that Firing Line didn’t win, because then I would have gone home with a 55 gallon drum of Humble Pie on my face.  I think Gary Stevens gave FIRING LINE the perfect ride on FIRING LINE.  I also think Gary Stevens is grandstanding a bit saying that ‘I got this horse around DORTMUND, now i have to figure out how to get this horse around AMERICAN PHAROAH’.  I’ve always doubted FIRING LINE’s ability to go further than a mile and a sixteenth, not to mention a mile and three sixteenth.  Considering there’s going to be more pace in this event from AMERICAN PHAROAH, from perhaps DIVINING ROD, from perhaps the local Maryland-based entrant, from perhaps MR. Z?  I think the FIRING LINE I didn’t like comes back into play.  I am taking a stand against him, thinking he will perhaps be too close to a pace that is too hot.

NN - I’m right there with you — swinging against, mainly on pace.  He has been so close to the pace in all of his route race efforts to date, and there is no suggestion that Gary Stevens is going to keep him off the pace this time.  My third slot was a tight call between FIRING LINE and DIVINING ROD, but after what he showed in the Lexington, DIVINING ROD seems that much more likely to sit a bit off the hot pace, and will be a better price to boot.  FIRING LINE is a good horse — he deserves a lot of credit between keeping DORTMUND honest all winter, demolishing the Sunland Derby, and finishing such a competitive second in the Derby.  But, with even more speed likely here in the Preakness, it seems the end of his Cinderella story.

Nicolle's Selections:

#2 DORTMUND (7/2)

#1 AMERICAN PHAROAH (4/5)

#7 DIVINING ROD (12/1)

Longshot:  #5 TALE OF VERVE (30/1)

Paul's Selections:

#1 AMERICAN PHAROAH (4/5)

#2 DORTMUND (7/2)

#3 MR. Z (20/1)

Longshot:  #6 BODHISATTVA (20/1)

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Comments

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  • Nice Simpsons ref, Paul...

  • In reply to NBII:

    It's become a sort of tradition since Dullahan (Lisa needs braces, Dullahan,...) in the 2012 Derby to, when doing the Point/Counterpoint pieces, to throw a Simpsons reference in. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not. --PM

  • In Rod Paul Trusts.

  • Heh. A Simpsons reference is always a good thing! Now back to the music - I prefer to listen to Cheap Trick.

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