Saturday's card at Pimlico features the Preakness Stakes: the second jewel of the Triple Crown. JUSTIFY, dominant winner of the Kentucky Derby, heads east to see if he can maintain his undefeated record. GOOD MAGIC, his closest pursuer in Louisville, joins six others in trying to topple trainer Bob Baffert's latest juggernaut.
The day's card features seven other stakes races, as well: the James W. Murphy for sophomore turf milers, the Dixie (G2) for older turf routers, the Chick Lang for sophomore sprinters, the Gallorette (G3) for filly and mare turf routers, the Maryland Sprint (G3) for older sprinters, The Very One for filly and mare turf sprinters, and the Sir Barton for sophomore dirt routers who are solid already, but not quite ready to tackle Triple Crown types.
The weather this week in Baltimore calls for quite a bit of rain. So, our selections will lean toward wetter conditions: an off dirt track, and turf with cut in it. That holds for our Saturday selections, as well as the Friday picks for Black-Eyed Susan Day.
Selections for the James W. Murphy Stakes, Dixie Stakes, and The Very One Stakes have been updated for off-turf. Selections for the Gallorette Stakes remain for turf, as it is scheduled to stay on.
Race 13: Preakness Stakes (G1), three-year-olds, one and three sixteenths miles on the dirt, post time 4:48pm EDT
- QUIP (12/1) - Originally slated for the Derby, QUIP was instead rerouted to the Preakness. He'll be fresh and ready for this test. His running style is good for the Preakness: QUIP will likely be forward, but with tactical speed, he does not need the lead. The rail draw shouldn't be too much of an issue, especially with LONE SAILOR likely to take back. Class is a question, as QUIP has not yet faced horses as good as JUSTIFY or GOOD MAGIC. But, with several solid efforts and upside to improve, combined with solid mud breeding, QUIP should contend for a piece underneath.
- LONE SAILOR (15/1) - LONE SAILOR should be able to close for a piece here. He had it tough in the Derby, but proved once again that he could handle a sloppy track. Good closers have been treated fairly in recent off-track runnings of the Preakness -- think Tale of Verve rallying for second in 2015, think Exaggerator and Cherry Wine rallying to finish 1-2 in 2016. Even if no one has the guts to take it to JUSTIFY early, LONE SAILOR should still have the stamina and ability to run on and improve late. The track shouldn't hinder him. It would be no surprise to see him snag a piece underneath here.
- SPORTING CHANCE (30/1) - The Pat Day Mile didn't go as well as hoped, but it was a good spot for SPORTING CHANCE, a horse who has made better account of himself at one-turn trips. Instead of finding another one-turn spot -- something like the Woody Stephens, maybe? -- The Coach wheels SPORTING CHANCE back here and stretches him out to a mile and three sixteenths. He need a huge step forward and a sudden flash of two-turn acumen; it's hard to see him making much of an impact here.
- DIAMOND KING (30/1) - He has taken a conservative road to the Preakness, with his prep coming locally in the Tesio at Laurel. Given that, it's hyperbole to draw real comparisons between him and his trainer John Servis's Preakness winner, Smarty Jones, who did also win the Derby. But, in DIAMOND KING's own right? There's more to like than for your usual longest shot on the board. All his races except for the Kentucky Jockey Club -- in which he lost the rider -- have been good efforts. His Tesio outing was strong, especially given it was his first off a break, and his first try at nine furlongs. He should be even fitter here. His forward but tactical running style gives him a chance if he's good enough on the day. He also gets a change to rider Javier Castellano, who should fit him well. He has a solid enough wet-track pedigree, too, being by Quality Road out of a Malibu Moon mare. This won't likely prove enough for DIAMOND KING to beat JUSTIFY or even GOOD MAGIC, but he's not impossible for lower rungs of exotics.
- GOOD MAGIC (3/1) - GOOD MAGIC proved no match for JUSTIFY in the Kentucky Derby, and without a PROMISES FULFILLED-like sprinter to set flying early fractions, it may prove even more difficult for him to catch JUSTIFY in the Preakness. One can't blame GOOD MAGIC's people for trying him here -- there's an old adage, that you don't dodge a race because you're afraid of one horse. JUSTIFY merits some trepidation, but the rest? Especially since GOOD MAGIC proved in the Derby that he can handle a wet footing well, it's hard for him to fear anyone else here. A win seems difficult to fathom here, but it would be a surprise for GOOD MAGIC not to hit the board.
- TENFOLD (20/1) - TENFOLD is the toughest horse to figure here. He weakened at the end of the Arkansas Derby, not a positive for an extra half-furlong here. But, on the other hand, that was only his third career race, and he has a deep enough stamina pedigree to think he'll be able to get this distance...someday. With this only being his fourth start, and with the class of his foes, and with the mud? Whether he does that today is a question. Any major placing seems too big of a step forward for TENFOLD to take here. This space would rather keep him out of anything except for the bottom of some superfectas, and wait for him to develop into a force through the summer and fall.
- JUSTIFY (1/2) - JUSTIFY dominated the Kentucky Derby. He ran close to torrid early fractions set by need-the-lead Promises Fulfilled, and had enough to flick GOOD MAGIC away and finish well clear. Here, though there are several who have shown some early speed (BRAVAZO, QUIP, TENFOLD, even DIAMOND KING and SPORTING CHANCE at turns), none of them need the lead. So, the pace is up in the air. But? JUSTIFY is tactical enough to go, press, or stalk. The mud shouldn't be a problem, as two off his four wins (including the Derby) have come over off tracks. Finally, trainer Bob Baffert knows all about getting a Derby winner ready to win the Preakness, as he's a perfect four-for-four in the Preakness with Derby winners. JUSTIFY will be chalk, but this space has no interest in opposing him today. In the Belmont, perhaps. In the Preakness, that just seems cute for cute's sake.
- BRAVAZO (20/1) - BRAVAZO is in tough here. Yes, he didn't get his best trip in the Kentucky Derby; he has been better on or near the lead against classy company than from off the pace. The presence of rider Luis Saez is a positive, as Saez is effective with frontrunning horses. But? It's hard to see BRAVAZO staying on at the end against horses as good as JUSTIFY or even QUIP, who will be positioned nearby, or even GOOD MAGIC from well off the pace. Save him for the Midwestern "B"-derbies in the summer.
#7 JUSTIFY (1/2)
#5 GOOD MAGIC (3/1)
#1 QUIP (12/1)
Longshot: #2 LONE SAILOR (15/1)
Below are Nicolle Neulist's picks for the stakes races Saturday 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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