Preakness Stakes: Horse-by-horse guide ahead of leg two of the US Triple Crown

Improbable limbers up for the Preakness
Improbable limbers up for the Preakness

Jake Pearson is backing Bob Baffert to claims another Preakness Stakes success this weekend - check out his guide to the field.

Preakness Stakes – Pimlico Racecourse – Saturday May 18

Alwaysmining

Owner: Runnymede Racing LLC, Trainer: Kelly Rubley, Jockey: Daniel Centeno

Kelly Rubley is looking to become the first female trainer to saddle a Preakness winner and she has a pretty good chance with Alwaysmining. Her colt is looking to make it seven wins on the bounce for the Maryland based outfit.

It is always difficult to judge a horse’s class in a situation like this. The son of Stay Thirsty has won his last six races by a total of 36 ½ lengths but has not exactly been batting off the sport’s elite. There have been some impressive victories in there – a length and a half win over Win Win Win followed by a 4 ¼ length victory over Gray Magician were probably the pick – but does he have the ability to transfer that onto the Preakness stage?

The distance may be a slight struggle for him having only gone beyond seven furlongs once. He did win his last outing at 1 1/8 mile but he was not facing horses of his stature.

Anothertwistafate

Owner: Peter Redekop, Trainer: Blaine Wright, Jockey: Jose Ortiz

During the Kentucky Derby trail, it felt as though this horse more than any other was desperate for his place at Churchill. Blaine Wright gave his trainee a somewhat hectic schedule to try and rack up enough points for an entry spot but came up just three short.

The El Camino Real Derby was the start of it all when the Scat Daddy colt blew away the competition by seven lengths to announce himself as a contender. That victory was only worth 10 qualifying points however and runner-up finishes in the Sunland Derby and the Lexington were not quite enough to see him gain a spot.

If the three-year-old can get back to the form that saw him win the El Camino then he will have every chance of stealing this contest. If he has not improved from his two later runs then he may struggle to stay with a couple of these.

Bodexpress

Owner: Top Racing LLC, Trainer: Gustavo Delgado, Jockey: John Velazquez

You have to admire the way the Bodexpress has been campaigned. This horse has never won a race yet come Saturday evening he will have competed in the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. This colt could potentially run in all three legs of the Triple Crown and retire without ever entering the winners’ enclosure.

You have to assume that connections are not particularly optimistic about his chances on Saturday and neither should be anyone looking to have a bet in this race. He looked like a maiden in the Derby and the likelihood is he will look like a maiden in the Preakness.

Bourbon War

Owner: Bourbon Lane Stable & Lake Star Stable, Trainer: Mark Hennig, Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Despite only having an allowance and a maiden victory to his name, Bourbon War’s form does pose some interesting questions. Two starts back he finished second in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes despite coming 11 lengths off the pace to finish runner-up to Kentucky Derby second Code Of Honor.

The son of Tapit then followed that up with a fourth place finish in the Florida Derby which may seem like a step backwards, but when you consider that two of the top three places were filled by the first-past-the-post Derby winner Maximum Security and Derby runner-up Code Of Honor, it shines a rather more positive light on Bourbon War.

Mark Hennig’s colt has looked good in defeat during his career and that may be the case again on Saturday. He has the ability to compete at this level but probably not enough to win at it.

Improbable

Owner: WinStar Farm, Trainer: Bob Baffert, Jockey: Mike Smith

After the fallout from what I feel safe in saying was the most controversial Kentucky Derby of all time, we are left with a Preakness featuring none of the top four finishers – official or otherwise. The highest placing Derby horse running in this contest is Bob Baffert’s Improbable who actually went off favourite for Churchill’s showpiece.

There cannot be a huge amount of excuses for Improbable in the Derby as he had a pretty nice trip, held a good position throughout and was never interfered with during 'the incident'. Coming round the final turn he had as good a chance as any horse in the field and finished fifth – promoted to fourth.

For many people he has been given enough chances and is surviving on the reputation he carved out for himself last year. I think there is a little more to it than that and there is still scope for improvement in this son of City Zip.

Noises from the camp are positive and Baffert has hinted that the Preakness’s drop in distance could suit his speedy horse. Mike Smith is booked to ride Improbable for the first time and if he gets him rolling close to the pace in his signature style he could take all the beating.

Laughing Fox

Owner: Alex Lieblong & JoAnn Lieblong, Trainer: Steven Asmussen, Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Steve Asmussen’s colt sneaked into the Preakness field thanks to his victory last time out in the Oaklawn Invitational. A victory is a victory but this was not really anything to write home about – not when you consider the calibre of some of the runners he will be facing on Saturday.

Before his win at Oaklawn he recorded a fourth place finish in the Arkansas Derby and a seventh place finish in the Rebel Stakes. In both of these occasions he finished behind Omaha Beach and a highly rated Baffert horse so perhaps he deserves his place in this field. It would be a huge shock should he return the winner however.

Market King

Owner: William L. Mack & Robert C. Baker, Trainer: Wayne Lukas, Jockey: TBA

Wayne Lukas will go one Preakness behind Baffert on six should Market King take the spoils at Pimlico. I would not suggest however, that that is a likely outcome.

This son of Into Mischief produced arguably his career best performance in the Rebel Stakes where he set a quick pace and was eventually beaten into third by Omaha Beach and Game Winner.

Unfortunately, he followed up that display with a disappointing 10th in the Blue Grass Stakes. He was behind fellow Preakness contenders such as Win Win Win and Signalman that day and they are just two of the horses I expect him to finish behind on Saturday.

Owendale

Owner: Rupp Racing, Trainer: Brad Cox, Jockey: Florent Geroux

Although not the rank outsider in the Lexington, you will have done well if you were on board Owendale when he toppled Anothertwistafate at Keeneland last month. Previous to that run he had broken his maiden at the third time of asking before finishing a lacklustre eighth in the Risen Star.

He ended the Kentucky Derby trail on 20 points and, while that was not enough to secure him an entry in the first leg of the Triple Crown, he has managed to sneak a place in the Preakness.

This son of Into Mischief has probably ridden his luck a little too long and even if his price drifts into double-figures, he will still be way too short for this race.

Signalman

Owner: Lewis, Tommie M., Crabtree, Steve, Demaree, Dean, Bernsen, David, Chambers, Jim and Magdalena Racing, Trainer: Kenneth McPeek Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

If Bob Baffert though that his big horses have underperformed somewhat this year then he might want to have a word with Signalman’s connections.

After breaking his maiden at the second attempt the son of General Quarters then finished runner-up in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. Shortly afterwards he finished third behind Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at a time when Game Winner looked to be an unstoppable machine. He then rounded off his juvenile campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. At this point connections must have been rubbing their hands at the prospect of what this colt might deliver in his three-year-old season.

Unfortunately, Signalman’s second year as a racehorse has not gone quite to plan. He started the season with a seventh place finish in the Fountain Of Youth before a third place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. This put the Derby beyond reach and meant connections must seek pastures new. And they did…the Preakness.

He may have had a bit of a limp 2019 thus far but if Kenneth McPeek’s colt has retained any of the ability that he showed last year he could be in with a real shout on Saturday.

War Of Will

Owner: Gary Barber, Trainer: Mark Casse, Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

The horse that lost out most of all from the interference caused by Maximum Security in the Derby. Whatever your opinion on the ruling, there is no doubt Mark Casse’s horse was sufficiently hampered by the disqualified winner. It did look however, as though War Of Will’s tank was being rapidly emptied before the incident and whether or not his challenge was all but over anyway is something we will never truly know. We can make assumptions however and I believe that the finishing position of this War Front colt would have been pretty similar with or without the impediment.

The shorter trip should suit him however and a seventh place finish in the Kentucky Derby is not to be sniffed at. My feeling is he may get swallowed up again approaching the finishing line.

Warrior’s Charge

Owner: Ten Strike Racing & Madaket Stables LLC, Trainer: Brad Cox, Jockey: TBA

All the horses in this field were Triple Crown nominated at the end of January…all except Warrior’s Charge. This mean that connections have had to fork out a $150,000 supplement fee just for a place in the Preakness. Now, whether you take that as a positive or a negative is up to you but I will say this, Brad Cox is not a man lacking in intelligence and I doubt he will have been entirely flippant about the owners paying that amount of money.

Should he record a humongous win on Saturday it will be his third in a row however, this will be the first race he has contested at a higher than allowance level.

Maybe he has been putting in some remarkable work at home or maybe the owners just really want a Preakness runner. I am inclined to think it is a little bit of both but I would not be positive about dismissing his claims for a place.

Win Win Win

Owner: Live Oak Plantation, Trainer: Michael Trombetta, Jockey: Julian Pimentel

Win Win Win likes to come off the pace and take aim at the leaders. That is a risky tactic in a race like the Derby and it did not pay dividends. The sloppy track no doubt did not help and connections have since confirmed the horse’s dislike for said conditions.

The son of Hat Trick has mixed it with the best even before his Derby effort finishing behind Tacitus and Alwaysmining on separate occasions.

He did not show his best side in the first leg of the Triple Crown and the people at Live Oak Plantation will be hoping he can get back to the form he was showing pre Churchill. Should he do so he has a chance of hitting the board but it does look as though this level is a little too much for him.


VERDICT

Improbable has to be viewed as the best horse in the race considering he has the highest placed finish in the best race any of the field have competed in. But more so than that I do genuinely believe that Baffert’s horse could still cement himself as a really smart horse. His first defeat came on his seasonal debut under a held-off ride. His second was a narrow defeat to Omaha Beach who would have gone off Derby favourite if not for injury. And his next defeat was in the Kentucky Derby. I still think he has achieved enough to be favourite here and he will take all the beating.

Connections have put up excuses for Signalman’s poor season and I am inclined to believe them. If you look at what this colt did as a two-year-old he starts to look more and more appetising at a double-figure price.

  • Win: Improbable
  • Place: Signalman
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