This is the Left at the Gate Top Ten for who I think will be making headlines on or around Preakness Day:
1) Closing Argument – Well? Who else goes here? I dunno. The whole triple crown scene lies in tatters after the Derby, with Bellamy Road out and only Afleet Alex amongst the favorites running a credible race. Closing Argument was the longest shot in the Derby field, but arguably ran the best race. He’s had only three well-spaced races this year (just missed breaking the 3-prep rule) so is probably the freshest of the Derby horses; he ran a lifetime top Beyer there, and could actually be eligible to improve.
2) Afleet Alex – Some were questioning his physical condition going into the Derby, and his connections say he was bumped around and nearly had the wind knocked out of him, so I have my doubts as to whether he can hold together again after another series of 2-a-days. But on the other hand, he’s right there every time he’s not spitting up phlegm and merits the #2 spot on that basis.
3) Magna Entertainment – Already pouting over the lack of slots legislation in Maryland and threatening to not put any more money into Pimlico and Laurel, Magna announces that they will hire no extra people for Preakness day, and use their regular Saturday staffing and supplies. Racing Forms run out at 11 A.M. and betting lines stretch to Chesapeake Bay as Magna unsuccessfully attempts to keep the crowd down by employing John Bolton to berate bettors that don’t like the same horse as he, and by playing an endless loop of the insidious title track of The Police’s Synchronicity.
4) Giacomo – Yeah, fast pace, slow closing quarter, good trip, yada yada yada. At least we know he’s in good form and his Derby win has been so discredited that he may be an overlay.
5) Scrappy T – He ran a higher Beyer in the Withers (102) than anyone in the Derby, so why the hell not?
6) Michael Tabor – With Bellamy Road out, Tabor decides the race needs more speed to set up Noble Causeway, whose sire Giant’s Causeway stands at his Coolmore stud. With Spanish Chestnut unavailable, he instead enters Dale Earnhart Jr. When questioned about this, he asserts that Jr. is entered on his own merit and points out that he earned a speed figure of 984 in his last race.
7) Bellamy Road – As predicted right here, Bellamy Road is retired amidst all the usual lines – leg injury, doing what’s best for the colt, etc., He reports for stud duty and immediately regains the form he showed in the Wood, covering 17 1/2 mares on his first day.
8) I seriously don’t know who else to put on this list. Have you ever seen the stature of a 3 yo crop drop so precipitously after one race? I don’t like Wilko or Greeley’s Galaxy; Malibu Moonshine’s top fig is 84. Going Wild? High Limit?
9) Don’t Get Mad – He closed good and I liked when Tom Durkin called him closing in deep stretch, that was the highlight of the race for me.
10) High Fly/Noble Causeway – Perhaps the most likely candidates to improve from the Derby, their first race in 5 weeks. And I like their silks
- With the criticism of the Derby at a crescendo, writer Jeff Scott of the Saratogian has a different point of view (though it sounds to me like he had the winner):
Giacomo's win was redemption of sorts for those who feel horse racing is infinitely more interesting and complex than today's numbers-addicted handicappers would lead everyone to believe. In the end, speed measures only go so far. There comes a point in many races, especially those run at longer distances, when qualities like perseverance and heart take over. It should also be remembered that not all horses reveal their ability after only a handful of races. All of these factors came into play during Giacomo's relentless run through the stretch Saturday at Churchill Downs.I think he makes some excellent points, especially regarding the increasing reliance on figures that I'm as guilty of as anyone else. But he ignores the fact that the fast pace that created the slow time and aided the winner was prompted by a horse who had no business being in the race except to do exactly what he did - make the race fall apart. It's like if some clown with no chance to win entered a presidential election and caused say, some dim-witted governor to be elected as the leader of the free world.
Already, we're hearing explanations for this year's Derby result, and why Giacomo's win was an aberration. We're hearing that the pace was too fast and the final time too slow, and that the winner just plain got lucky. We're even hearing that a 50-1 longshot winning the Kentucky Derby is bad for the sport. But isn't the underdog rising up to win a big race the very essence of racing's appeal? Since when is it bad news when a horse owned by the likes of George Steinbrenner gets left in the dust? In a way, it's understandable why few people want to give this year's winner credit, since nearly everyone lost money on the race. For those who had 10 bucks on Giacomo to win, however, it gave us another 513.00 reasons to cheer him home. [The Saratogian]