2017 Preakness Preview and Saturday Stakes Selections

This week, the eyes of horse racing turn to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes.  ALWAYS DREAMING dominated the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.  Nine others passed the entry box with hopes of toppling his Triple Crown hopes.

Can any of them do it?

Here, Nicolle Neulist (NN) and Paul Mazur (PM) discuss each horse in the Preakness field individually.  Below, you will also find a table of each of our selections for the stakes races at Pimlico on Preakness day.

NBC Sports Network will broadcast the Preakness undercard from 2:30pm-5:00pm EDT; flagship NBC will broadcast the Preakness from 5:00pm-7:15pm EDT.  These broadcasts are also available live streaming on the NBC website.  Horse Racing Radio Network will also broadcast audio coverage: 2:00pm-5:00pm EST on their website, and 5:00pm-7:00pm EST both on their website and on Sirius/XM 93.

Saturday, May 20: Pimlico Race Course

Race 13: Preakness Stakes (G1), three-year-olds, one and three sixteenths miles on the dirt, post time 6:48pm EST

#1 MULTIPLIER (30/1)

PM: It's not reflected in the past performances, but there was an ownership change between his Illinois Derby win and him drawing the rail in the Preakness. Thus, the rider move to Rosario instead of James Graham. He made a good inside-outside run at Hawthorne and did so in a snappy time. I know it's a home team pick, but if Rosario rides him the way he was steered in the Illinois Derby, he could get on the podium.

NN: MULTIPLIER is good at the right time, and he won the Illinois Derby the right way.  He runs like a horse worth trying at a mile and three sixteenths, despite Trippi being his damsire.  He's a closer who fires reliably, and he proved at Hawthorne that he can handle a rail draw just fine.  My biggest worry with MULTIPLIER is the pace -- which is to say, the lack thereof.  He has shown the ability to close even if the pace does not fall apart, but getting all the way there is difficult to see.  That said, could MULTIPLIER very well hit the trifecta or superfecta at nice odds?  He could, indeed.

#2 CLOUD COMPUTING (12/1)

NN: CLOUD COMPUTING is the closest thing to a wild card that I see in the Preakness field.  He only has three starts under him, and they've all been reasonably good.  He won first out sprinting, and hit the board in two of the NY preps.  That said, he still hasn't yet proven he's the class of his best foes here in the Preakness -- at least, not yet.  So lightly raced, the Chad Brown trainee has room to improve.  But, you can't use everyone in a ten-horse field.  He's the horse I'm most nervous about leaving off my tickets, but I'm going to bet he still needs a bit of development.

PM: CLOUD COMPUTING made an okay run during the final stages of the Wood Memorial, but Irish War Cry came out of that race and needed a tow truck at the top of the Derby stretch. He had that nice figure in the Gotham but J Boys Echo got things to break right in that race. He could get the cozy pocket trip to make a run at a two-speed number, but I like the horse to his left at double the odds to be the recipient of a pick-up-the-pieces trip. CLOUD COMPUTING is a great idea for your office network, but on my tickets? Error 404.

#3 HENCE (20/1)

NN: HENCE came into the Derby as the wise guys' darling after the Sunland Derby shook out so live.  But, HENCE had a cracking pace to run at in the Land of Enchantment, and he'll find the setup less enchanting here.  Yes, HENCE's trip in the Kentucky Derby was less than ideal.  But, even with a better trip?  It's hard to like this closer when the pace is CONQUEST MO MONEY, ALWAYS DREAMING, and the rest nowhere.  And, even in the context of just clunking up for a share?  HENCE still isn't for me here.  MULTIPLIER will not only be a longer price, but I trust him a bit more without a pace collapse in front of him.

PM: I toyed with using HENCE, but he ran evenly badly over the Churchill oval that was a lot like peanut butter. I disagree it was wet fast; more a tiring, demanding muddy two Saturdays ago. He gets a pass for that, but he drew into a field that projects a two-speed number and a cat-and-mouse game on the front end. Given he's not the only one the inside fighting for a garden pocket trip spot, I see him getting shuffled out and compromised. Save him for another day, but not using him at Hi Ho Pimlico.

#4 ALWAYS DREAMING (4/5)

PM: We learned everything we wanted to know and more about draw reins in the last two weeks with ALWAYS DREAMING. We also learned that he wasn't falling apart at the seams. Sure, he got the Firing Line/Nyquist trip in the Derby. But he's drawn a superb spot with respect to pace: he's one of only two speeds in the race and I don't think Pletcher/Velazquez are going to play chicken and let the other lollygag on the front end. He makes sense in here, and though my selection is presented by Crayola - I think he's the more tactical of the two speeds and they could choke the closers out.

NN: There's not much clever to say here about the Derby winner.  I took a complete stand against him in Louisville; I can do no such thing here.   ALWAYS DREAMING looks to get a sweet pace setup.  He can take the initiative or sit off CONQUEST MO MONEY should the latter get the front.  ALWAYS DREAMING will be sponsored by Crayola Sidewalk Chalk, but he is one of the two Crist-ian "A" horses in the Preakness.  My win money will go elsewhere, but ALWAYS DREAMING will also figure prominently on my tickets.

PM: For the multi race players, "Take two and call me in the morning." For this race, I'm leaning to a Triple Crown chase in three weeks.

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (3/1)

PM: CLASSIC EMPIRE got roughed up worse than the villain of the week on "The Wire" in the Derby. Yes, Mark Casse after the race bellyached over the supposed no passing zone on the inside of the Churchill track. But your horse finished fourth and that's with a start-stop campaign. In this spot he does get a chance to make amends on a dry oval and he has every intention to fire. He makes sense as the second choice, but I think he's closer to 2/1 come post time based on people treating the Derby as an off track aberration. To me: he gets third by default: he's the only other presser other than CLOUD COMPUTING to want early interest in a race and the two weeks isn't as burdensome as people make it to be.

NN: Despite a rocky prep season, Classic Empire has stayed on the rails over the last two months.  He ran down CONQUEST MO MONEY in Arkansas, and then overcame a rotten start to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby.  CLASSIC EMPIRE has shown the ability to be a bit more tactical than some of these dead-on closers he faces.  Between that, his speed, and his class, he is very likely to hit the board.  But, I tend to agree with PM that he's a "third by default" type -- the least tactically challenged of the horses off the front end.

#6 GUNNEVERA (15/1)

NN: I feel like a broken record, but I can't get excited about a closer here.  Yes, GUNNEVERA is consistent enough that he should be making up some ground at the end.  But, even with the jockey change to Big Money Mike Smith, GUNNEVERA still seems too likely to drop well off the going and have too much to do late.

PM: You know what's missing from this year's Preakness field? Some overmatched crabcake that won a listed stakes at Laurel and is being tried here in the Preakness. Some local to try the tight turns and be a new shooter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Those crab cake/tight turns/new shooter jokes are stale, and so is GUNNEVERA. He's a closer in a closer-laden field. Sure, the move to Mike Smith means a perk of interest. But I think he's an over-the-top closer. Yes, he had traffic trouble during the Derby but his ground gain wasn't too wonderful in the Florida Derby two back or in the Kentucky Derby last out. Toss.

#7 TERM OF ART (30/1)

NN: This year, we don't have the overmatched crabcake from Maryland.  Instead, the obligatory Overmatched Preakness Entrant comes from California.  Yes, I know, those were famous last words for anyone who tossed Irap from the Blue Grass.  But?  TERM OF ART is too slow for this set, and he's yet another closer in a closer-laden field.  He has to take a huge step up, plus either invert his running style or hope a speed duel comes out of thin air.  Artless as my phrasing may be, I have one term for the chances of this horse: nope.

PM: TERM OF ART will be a swing-wide closer that drew an okay post for his style. His style would be fine if there were a pace meltdown but that's not in the forecast for this year's Preakness. Sure, O'Neill has won a Preakness and was second last year - but he was coming in with tactical horses not face-in-the-crowd closers. TERM OF ART may be better used down the line in Del Mar's sophomore turf series or if Doug O'Neill wants to ship to Arlington for their three-year-old turf series. In this race, no thank you.

#8 SENIOR INVESTMENT (30/1)

NN: SENIOR INVESTMENT is a bit more tactical than most of the closers here, as he suggested in some of his maiden-level efforts, and he will be a big price.  But, he still has some major questions.  This is a serious step up in class from the Lexington he won last out, and he needs to run the best race of his life to contend here.  Furthermore, his flat performance in the Louisiana Derby even with Girvin's rabbit in front of him makes me wonder whether he is going to take the step forward he needs.  Toss.

PM: After an awful trip in the Louisiana Derby, SENIOR INVESTMENT annexed the G3 Lexington Stakes last out. He at least showed he could rally with a moderate pace when he won the Lexington Stakes. Toss out that effort two back and he fits in here as one of the better on-paper closers in a field. However, the male pedigree doesn't give me too much confidence for nine and a half furlongs, either. Not the worst closer in this field, but not the one I want to sprinkle on my tickets.

#9 LOOKIN AT LEE (10/1)

PM: The chart comment of "Dream Trip" is just unpossible to fathom in its frankness. You'd think Calvin Borel was riding and it was Mine That Bird scraping the paint. Perhaps LOOKIN AT LEE is being used as the blueprint for the inside path bias during the Derby, and it certainly gives credence to what Casse said about CLASSIC EMPIRE. Sure, his sire won the Preakness here years ago but the pace scenario here is not expected to be the same - nor does he break from the rail that he got  snuggly with last out.  He could make his patented one-run closing effort, and he could pick off some runners, but I'm not keen on using him. I think the trip, more the lineage, got him into the frame at ten panels last time and I doubt the trip is advantageous this go-round.

NN: *crackle* *pop* Ah, there's that scratch in the 2017 Preakness record again.  Another closer.  Yes, he closed for second in the Derby last out, and he has been that horse who always seems to get a piece underneath.  But, he gets nothing to run at here.  And, I'm right with PM in the accuracy of the short comment from the Derby.  Even with half as many horses, LOOKIN AT LEE probably won't get that easy, ground-saving trip from the 9 hole here.  His comment here will more likely be "Slow early, belated"; his finish, midpack.

#10 CONQUEST MO MONEY (15/1)

PM: He's been an ATM on hooves for everyone involved. Purchased for a fire-sale price of $8,500 when Conquest Stables dispersed, he's banked a half million for the new owners and has never been the betting favorite in his five career starts. There's steam on CONQUEST MO MONEY as the speed player who makes ALWAYS DREAMING work for it - so the 15/1 morning line quote is a fairy tale. Think 9/1 when the latch springs and the infield goes bonkers. But he's the controlling speed in a race with very little controlling speed, his damsire was fine at ten panels, and his sire line won last year's Derby. Be sure to demand a fair price given the steam, but leaving him off your tickets means you'll head for the ATM. He's one of the ones.

NN: Spoiler alert!  No, not in the sense of a TV spoiler, given that we've gotten all the way to the outside gate.  But, if there's any horse who can spoil ALWAYS DREAMING's Triple Crown hopes, it's CONQUEST MO MONEY.  He probably sets the pace, and should get a clean trip from the outside.  Yet, if he does not get the lead, he has proven several times that he can rally -- he's no one-way horse.  Even though the connections are first-timers in a Triple Crown race, it bolsters my confidence that trainer Miguel Hernandez stuck with Jorge Carreno in the irons for the Arkansas Derby last month, and Carreno delivered on the big stage.  And, the decision that owner Tom McKenna made to point for the Preakness rather than the Derby?  Talk about smart.  CONQUEST MO MONEY gets a breather after running in two "final" preps, comes to Pimlico as a fresh (yet still in-condition) horse, and gets an advantageous pace setup to boot.  He will have to run his best to beat ALWAYS DREAMING here, but if there's anyone in this field with the upside to do that, it's him.  My win money is going on 'Mo Money.

PM: I really can't fault anyone taking CONQUEST MO MONEY to win; I just think so many people are on to him that the 15/1 you see on the morning line is never going to happen.

NN: I agree with you -- 15/1 is not happening.  But, 8/1 or 10/1 is, I think, and I'm happy to pull the handle there.

PM: 10/1 is fair for me. My graduate school's Accounts Receivable department could hear from me then.

Nicolle's Selections:

#10 CONQUEST MO MONEY (15/1)

#4 ALWAYS DREAMING (4/5)

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (3/1)

Nicolle's Longshot: #1 MULTIPLIER (30/1)

Paul's Selections:

#4 ALWAYS DREAMING (4/5)

#10 CONQUEST MO MONEY (15/1)

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (3/1)

Paul's Longshot: #1 MULTIPLIER (30/1)

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Below are all of Nicolle Neulist's and Paul Mazur's picks for Saturday's Preakness Day card at Pimlico. This will be updated as they finish handicapping the card. If you have questions about the logic behind any of these picks, please leave a comment or tweet us at @picksponderings!

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