2016 Preakness Stakes Preview

The Preakness Stakes.  The Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.  Contested once again at Pimlico, it’s the centerpiece of this week’s coverage. Pimlico plays host to the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, and the Picks and Ponderings team has analysis of Friday’s stakes, headlined by the G2 Black-Eyed Susan, Saturday stakes selections for Pimlico including full G2 Dixie analysis, and a look at Saturday’s local feature – the G3 Hanshin Cup from Arlington.

A big thank you to all the readers and Twitter followers that found Picks and Ponderings for Kentucky Derby week and surprisingly, last week.  The readership numbers were high and you readers made Picks and Ponderings a top-read site in the broad ChicagoNow network. Whether this is your first time reading or your hundredth time, we hope you have fun with the picks and enjoy the analysis.

You can watch the Preakness, as well as all races at Pimlico, on a free live stream on the racetrack website.  For radio coverage, tune into Horse Racing Radio Network between 2:00pm and 7:00pm Eastern for coverage of the Preakness and the undercard.  NBC Sports Network will provide televised coverage from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm ET from Pimlico; coverage at 5:00 pm flips to NBC and continues through the Preakness.

The Preakness Stakes will be run Saturday May 21st.  Let’s meet the field!

Updated May 19th to include revised morning lines.

Pimlico Race Course — Race 13 — G1 Preakness Stakes — One and three-sixteenths miles on Dirt — post time 6:45 pm ET

1. CHERRY WINE (20/1)

NN: I know…set aside Romans at a price at my peril.  I know there’s a lot of pace.  But, I just think there are closers who are better and faster.  Would rounding out a superfecta be a possibility for Cherry Wine?  Sure, but that’s about the best I see him doing.

PM: I agree that discarding Romans at odds is dicey. But the Preakness tends to be a 180 degree difference in pace.  There is some pace but there’s no Danzing Candy to go sub :46 to the half either. I like other closers better as well. Not using.

2. UNCLE LINO (30/1)

NN: Uncle Lino is one I can see cracking the exotics if speed is holding well through the day.  He ran a solid effort through the slop in the Santa Anita Derby given how close he was to Danzing Candy’s cracking pace, and has a solid slop race as his career debut, too.  He’s a tryer, and he’ll be a price.  I won’t use him heavily unless forwardly placed horses are really, really doing well…but on the other hand, he’ll be the right price to use at least somewhat in exotics.

PM: He won the California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos and he can complete the active namesakes career exacta by winning the Frosted (if he’s not retired at that point) on Pennsylvania Derby Day.

NN: And then maybe he can win the Ben’s Cat at Laurel next year?

PM: Even better!

NN: The trifecta!

PM:  But that’s the corniest trifecta to ever hit. Someone please make it stop – which I will about UNCLE LINO – who had that okay run in the muck two back and isn’t one I will use.

3. NYQUIST (3/5)

NN: I’ve been against NYQUIST over and over again, and he has clowned me every single time.  Three weeks from now, I’ll probably be right back on that train of opposing NYQUIST.  But here?  Now?  I know I may get run out of Chicago for this, but I’m going to eat some chalk named after a Red Wings player.  He was so much the best in the Kentucky Derby.  He showed he could stay near a fast pace early and still have more than enough left to get a mile and a quarter.  All he does is win, win, ship, win, ship, and win some more.  NYQUIST looks like the sort of Derby winner who will roll right into the Preakness and be his old self once again…there will be times in the future to oppose him, but this does not look like a time to get cute.

PM: The 3/5 morning line is too low. The normally straight-as-an-arrow MJC morning line maker K. Fuestle fumbled this one and probably should have made NYQUIST  even money or 4/5.  I guess that since Chrome was 1/2 on Preakness Day two years back NYQUIST will be too. But American Pharoah was 9/10 last year.  I could see him floating up a tick to 4/5, but he’s actually a square price at 3/5.  He got a clever outside pressing trip last time and he could be the speed if no one wants it. If you want a bomb, wait three weeks. In the here-and-now he’s the goods.


PM:  AWESOME SPEED is neither Awesome nor Speed. Your typical new shooter. He wired a slow Tesio but things won’t be that slow on the tight turns of Pimlico. Like the tropes of tight turns at Pimlico and new shooters he is to be discarded.

NN: AWESOME SPEED got a soft lead in the Tesio last out, and though he got put up, he still got run down by the disqualified Governor Malibu.  Sure, Governor Malibu returned to run a perfectly solid Peter Pan.  But, the fact that AWESOME SPEED got run down after having things his way early last out does not bode well in a field with as many frisky front-enders as this one has.  Do Not Want.


NN: If the weather forecast holds, and it rains on Preakness day, I think EXAGGERATOR gets slammed at the windows.  True, his slop form has been excellent, and his Santa Anita Derby was eye-popping.  But, the Kentucky Derby answered a few questions I had about EXAGGERATOR.  I had been in that “perhaps EXAGGERATOR is an extended sprinter or miler” camp; his Derby, however, convinced me that he could go longer.  I had also been in that “EXAGGERATOR is just a slop monster” camp, too, since he flattened out so badly in the San Felipe.  Yet, he mustered another gorgeous rally in the Derby.  But, was it enough to beat NYQUIST, despite NYQUIST being so close to Danzing Candy’s snappy pace?  No, no it wasn’t.  There’s just no reason to think that EXAGGERATOR can take the step forward he needs to turn the tables on NYQUIST just yet.  If EXAGGERATOR is on his game, he finishes second here.  But, it will take a so-far unprecedented blip from NYQUIST for EXAGGERATOR to take the Woodlawn Vase.

PM: He’s proven me wrong thinking he peaked at Delta Downs last November in the Jackpot. And while he won’t have Danzing Candy going stupid fast on the front end, I hark back to what I said in the Derby: the mud didn’t move him up; the fact Danzing Candy went too fast did.  He makes one run at the end and kinda lopes along early.  I’ll use him defensively – Derby runners often tend to run back well on two weeks but I’m taking a chance the pace won’t be as quick – and not as helpful to him. And that’s wet – or dry.

6. LANI (30/1)

PM: He’s a closer who ran okay in the Derby with a great pace setup, but he’s also a Tapit. He’ll run when he wants to. He’ll be odds and second start North America is okay, but I don’t see him in the frame. In a race without Danzing Candy, who’s going to set up for him?

NN: .  It looks like we disagree on the pace scenario here — I think he’ll get some pace to attack.  There are enough need-to-lead types that there will be some fireworks: ABIDING STAR and LAOBAN need the front, and being on the front is probably AWESOME SPEED’s only shot against this class of horses, either.  I like LANI to run at that target.  I also like that he’s proven on short rest — he won on six days’ rest in Japan last year.  I don’t love that his Hyacinth disappointment happened over a muddy track…but that was also his first start in a few months, and he had some other solid races in Japan over off going.  There’s a lot I like about LANI, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him get a piece.

7. COLLECTED (12/1)

NN: COLLECTED stands to be a tad overbet given his connections, Bob Baffert and Javier Castellano.  That’s not to say he’ll be chalk — of course he won’t, with NYQUIST, EXAGGERATOR, and even STRADIVARI here.  But, he’s another horse who will be near what I see as a likely cracking early pace.  And, even though he has some West Coast form, that came in the Sham, which didn’t hold up so well.  I question his class, and I don’t trust him going a mile and three sixteenths, particularly with as much speed as he’ll have to contend with.

PM: COLLECTED could be the speed in here, considering he went all the way on the front end two back at Sunland Park. He does some stalk ability based on the G3 Lexington. Yet for all the speed he brings he’s distance challenged speed.  I know a City Zip won at ten furlongs on turf but that was a downhill ten.  I don’t see the wicked fast pace, but I don’t see someone walking the dog either.  And I think COLLECTED doesn’t get the lead or the nice in-the-clear trip. Toss.

8. LAOBAN (30/1)

NN: In a parallel universe, or my fantasy world, there would be a dead heat between EXAGGERATOR and LAOBAN here — EXAGGERATOR to see a son of Curlin win the Preakness, and LAOBAN because Eric Guillot would give the funniest press conference in history.  Alas, this is not a fantasy world.  LAOBAN is more speed in a speed-laden race, and that will be his downfall.  Though he’s a maiden, he fits here better than a couple horses who have won races.  He’s not likely to wilt badly enough to bring up the rear.  But, he still stands to see too much up front, and fade to midpack late.  LAOBAN is not getting his diploma this Saturday, and he won’t be on my tickets.

PM: I’ve mentioned all along that I feel this Preakness pace isn’t going to be the quick one of two weeks past.  No sub :23 opening quarter, no sub :46 opening half either.  While the Blue Grass finishers couldn’t be found with a flashlight in the Kentucky Derby, I actually like LAOBAN here. He was up close to that fall-apart pace in the Blue Grass and ran on well to be fourth.  Yes, he is a maiden but a maiden nearly won the G1 Wood Memorial.  Dry or wet I like him especially if the Preakness pace is a 180 degree overreaction, and he’s got fine slop breeding if the skies open over Hi Ho Pimlico. I see him lasting on the front end for longer than people think.

9. ABIDING STAR (30/1)

NN: ABIDING STAR is on a five-win streak, including a romp in the slop against older allowance company.  But, he’s a need-the-lead type who has been facing much softer company than anyone else in this field.  Sure, he ran in a Derby on May 7…but it was the Parx Derby, in which he had the front end in a five-horse field.  Big-fig horses from Parx are Admiral Ackbar-approved; I’m not falling in that trap, particularly when there’s no chance he gets the pace he needs.  Caboose Crew.  He sends, he wilts, he’s done.

PM: It’s possible he contests the front-end pace with COLLECTED and LAOBAN, but with the speed concentrated on the outside someone is going to choke back and have a nightmare trip.  There are better horses by Uncle Mo wheeling back in two weeks to wager on.

10. FELLOWSHIP (30/1)

PM: Whether or not you believe there’s a pace meltdown or a clutch-and-grab, there is a lot of speed on the outside.  FELLOWSHIP doesn’t have to be on the front, and with all the outside speed he could easily get a clear trip in mid-pack where he doesn’t have to contest the front.  For as much as I think the pace won’t be quick, he could get the pace set-up more than EXAGGERATOR.  He also has a credible third behind NYQUIST in a wet track Florida Derby.  I won’t try to topple NYQUIST on top, but I’ll shake the dice and use him to get the silver medal.

NN: FELLOWSHIP wheels back in two weeks from the Pat Day Mile, a race I’m willing to forgive.  He was training up to a race Derby weekend, and who was Mark Casse to know that this would be the year that #21 three weeks out from the Derby would remain #21 on Derby Day?  He’s not really a miler, and this race will be a bit more up his alley.  He made a name for himself in Florida by clunking up for third in a pair of preps.  FELLOWSHIP could very well make it up for a share here — he reliably fires, he gets pace to chase, and he has shown some late pace that compares quite favourably with the rest of the field.

11. STRADIVARI (10/1)

NN: Ahh, STRADIVARI.  The steam horse.  Won easily at Gulfstream and Keeneland against softer company…and did so relatively close to the pace.  He is marooned on the outside, so he will have to rush to get anywhere near that this time around.  He has not been tested against this class of horses, a strike against him given the steam he is likely to take off of that Keeneland romp.  And, though Todd Pletcher is generally a solid trainer, he is not exactly known for coming guns-loaded to the Preakness.  STRADIVARI may learn a thing or two here and be solid in the summer three-year-old races.  But, here?  Too much, too soon.  Toss.

PM: STRADIVARI will take action at the windows given he was Destin’s work partner in the mornings, and Destin ran a credible fifth in the Kentucky Derby perhaps being short.  His win in the nine furlong allowance hit all the right notes  – another reason he’ll take more money. But he won’t have a free lunch from the far outside spot and he’s not the only one who is going to want the top. I’d rather have stock in Laramie Cigarettes than Preakness tickets using him.

Nicolle’s Selections:

#3 NYQUIST (3/5)


#6 LANI (30/1)

Longshot: #10 FELLOWSHIP (30/1)

Paul’s Selections:

#3 NYQUIST (3/5)

#10 FELLOWSHIP (30/1)


Longshot: #8 LAOBAN (30/1)


You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.


Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Great read as always. Thanks for the great insight. In case you are wondering.. Here are my Preakness 141 picks http://sportsunbiased.com/featured/46299/2016-preakness-stakes-141-contenders-picks-betting-live-longshot/

  • In reply to Adam Solowiei:

    Adam Solowei,

    A good read on your end too. Disagree in this corner on UNCLE LINO but if you're right you'll get paid and paid again.

    Thanks for reading and good luck! --PM

Leave a comment