For the first time since Grindstone in 1996, the Kentucky Derby winner won't be in the Preakness, since Country House bowed out a few days after the Derby. Even so, this Saturday's Preakness is a race worth getting excited about. It drew a field of 13, with a fascinating mix of Derby horses hoping to press on for a piece of Triple Crown glory, as well as the clichéd "New Shooters" who either come in a little fresher or from less orthodox Triple Crown prep races.
Here is our horse-by-horse preview of the 2019 Preakness Stakes. Make sure to also read our preview of Friday's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico, for our look at the week's premier race for three-year-old fillies.
Pimlico Race Course: Saturday, May 18
Race 13: Preakness Stakes (G1), three-year-olds, one and three sixteenths miles on the dirt, post time 6:48pm EDT
- WAR OF WILL (4/1) - Yes, he drew the rail again. And, yes, there's the chance that something weird will happen, trip-wise, as is always a chance in a race with a large field. But? WAR OF WILL did enough in the Kentucky Derby to prove that his Louisiana Derby flop was a one-off issue, and that he is a talented horse who is still not on his way down. He handled the rail draw with maturity, attended the pace without feeling forced to go, and even after getting mugged by Maximum Security, he didn't just spit the bit. With other speed to his outside, it would be no surprise to see WAR OF WILL get an inside tracking trip a lot like last time -- and assuming no one drifts in his way, he will be mighty hard to turn back when he makes his run.
- BOURBON WAR (12/1) - Let's just preface this: I don't expect this 12/1 morning line to hold. There are too many people keen on him, vocally keen on him, to think it's going to hold. But? There's a lot to like. This son of Tapit is bred well for the step up in trip. And, he has every right to get a good trip behind an honest pace. BOURBON WAR adds blinkers and has shown earlier in his career that he doesn't have to drop all that far off the pace to be effective. Barring some Palace Malice-style weirdness, jockey Irad Ortiz should be able to put him where he needs to be in order to make a run without having too much to do at the end. In short, BOURBON WAR comes into the Preakness as one of the logical horses.
- WARRIOR'S CHARGE (12/1) - The newest of the New Shooters™, WARRIOR'S CHARGE makes his stakes debut in the Preakness. He comes in off of two dominant wire-to-wire victories at Oaklawn, but now he will have to prove he doesn't need the lead, and do so against tougher foes than he has ever seen. The fact that he woke up when he going a mile and a sixteenth is interesting for a Munnings son of a mare whose lone victory came at six and a half furlongs. But, he has a lot to prove, and a big stage on which to prove it.
- IMPROBABLE (5/2) - I've never felt so meh about a Triple Crown race favourite as I do about him....well, at least not since Always Dreaming. I get why he's the morning line favourite: he's the Bob Baffert, he gets Mike Smith in the irons, and even though he didn't win as the lukewarm Derby chalk, he didn't back up either. He just kept chasing. But, it's hard to love a horse who has just kept chasing through his three-year-old year when they're going to go off at a short price. Intra-race exotics need to use him underneath, at least in some combinations. But, on top? There are more compelling choices.
- OWENDALE (10/1) - The way OWENDALE cleared his first-level condition in January at Fair Grounds, his outing in the Risen Star (G2) was a disappointment. However, his return in the Lexington (G3) was absolutely the OWENDALE I had hoped to see. Rider Florent Geroux reunites with him from that effort, which is good to see. Also positive is that his three wins have come at different tracks, suggesting he can take his track with him. Into Mischief at a mile and three sixteenths is a question, but as a tactically versatile horse who is coming second off a layoff and getting good at just the right time, he looks like one who can have a say.
- MARKET KING (30/1) - Last year, The Coach had a serious longshot in the Preakness with Bravazo, who came as close as any horse ever would to toppling Justify. He returns to Baltimore this year with Market King, an Oaklawn maiden winner who has plenty of early pace, but whose high point so far has been clunking on for a distant third behind Omaha Beach and Game Winner in the Rebel. In short? I know Bravazo. Bravazo is a friend of mine. MARKET KING, you're no Bravazo.
- ALWAYSMINING (8/1) - ALWAYSMINING has emerged as the king of the Maryland-based three-year-olds, and now the world comes to him. Class is the question that he has to answer, but he has the kind of running style that appeals in the Preakness. The Tesio, in which he romped last time, did a lot to raise his stock: he not only stayed a mile and an eighth, his longest distance to date, but he rated off the pace and made a winning run for the first time since a sprint victory against maidens last year. Though these foes are classier, it's good to finally see -- in race conditions -- that ALWAYSMINING doesn't need the lead over a route of ground.
- SIGNALMAN (30/1) - I liked his consistency so much at two, but at three, he has yet to come back to that. His Fountain of Youth was a non-effort, and though he improved upon that in the Blue Grass, he was relatively forward and chased on for third on a track that (for just about everyone other than WIN WIN WIN) played like a carousel. Third off the lay he could take a step forward...or, he could just prove that he hasn't yet taken the step forward from ages two to three.
- BODEXPRESS (20/1) - He will certainly be involved with the pace early -- that's his game, and at least he now gets to do it from the 9 hole instead of the far end of the auxiliary gate, like he did in Louisville. Yes, he had to overcome an outside gate, and you don't necessarily know what he was going to do if he hadn't been interfered with when Maximum Security drifted out in the Derby. However? Especially with other speed here, it's difficult to get wound up about BODEXPRESS as any more than a pace factor.
- EVERFAST (50/1) - I wish I knew where that massive effort in the Holy Bull came from, but I still don't. If you do, you're a smarter person than I. If you even think there's a reason he can replicate it in the Preakness, he'll be the right price to roll the dice, and I'm not in the business of talking you off horses at triple-digit odds. But, through these eyes? The clearest things I can see about EVERFAST are that Take Charge Indy progeny have been hitting their distance limitations well before a mile and three sixteenths, and that the Romans barn has been ice-cold lately. These eyes are looking elsewhere.
- LAUGHING FOX (20/1) - I don't love any of the real bombers in this, but this representative of the red-hot Steve Asmussen barn is the one I come close to liking, at least for a share underneath. The flashy son of Union Rags is on the upswing, coming into this out of a win in Oaklawn's newly created Preakness prep, the Oaklawn Park Invitational. Even the Arkansas Derby showed signs of improvement compared to his Rebel Stakes form, suggesting that age and distance are doing him well. The biggest issue with LAUGHING FOX is his deep-closing running style, since deep closers tend not to win the Preakness. But, they can Tale of Verve their way into the exotics, and LAUGHING FOX just might.
- ANOTHERTWISTAFATE (6/1) - If there's one horse who lost the post draw, it's ANOTHERTWISTAFATE. Had there been a bit less in the way of forward horses, he'd be a must-use. But, having to carve out a forward trip from this far outside gate won't be easy. Is he an absolute no-hoper? Of course not -- he has shown a lot of talent leading into this, and has proven in his last two starts that he has a bona fide stalking gear as well as the front-end style he showed earlier in his career. But, in well-subscribed, competitive races like the Preakness, you can't use them all, and you have to draw lines somewhere. There are enough others I like better, between the composition of this field and his wide draw. ANOTHERTWISTAFATE will have his day in a big race, but I'm willing to bet this won't be it.
- WIN WIN WIN (15/1) - Given his deep-closing style, the outside gate is less likely to hurt him than others in this field, as he can just drop in at the rear. He could improve on the slight cut back in trip as well as on the return to a dry track. Will it be enough to WIN WIN WIN? Probably not. Could he invade a trifecta or superfecta? Sure.
#1 WAR OF WILL (4/1)
#7 ALWAYSMINING (8/1)
#12 BOURBON WAR (12/1)
Longshot: #10 OWENDALE (10/1)
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