Sorry for the sparse posting this week, but I'm just not too hepped up over this Preakness. The Derby was lackluster to begin with, and its running left us with one underwhelming winner and a whole bunch of excuses, whether trip or track condition-related. The runner-up, who many feel was the best horse in the race (others might point to the favorable pace scenario which helped set up his late run), is waiting for the Belmont (and man, will he ever be overbet there). And the newcomers just do not impress. Caracortado, arguably the classiest of the group as the only graded stakes winner, has only raced once on dirt, and that in a 40K maiden claimer in his debut at Fairplex last year.
I devoted some energy here to disparaging the Derby winner's effort, noting his trouble-free trip and the very slow final half of the race. Pace fig impresario Randy Moss noted in his blog last week that Super Saver is tied with Alysheba for 5th for what he calls the "slowest stretch run" going back 24 Derbys to 1987. (Of course, Alysheba clipped heels and almost went down at the top of the stretch.)
And Andy Beyer cites Super Saver's perfect trip in once again leaving him out of his top three selections.
I feel obligated to take a position against him, and plenty of serious handicappers will surely think the same way, for it almost always is a good strategy to play against a favorite who benefited from a perfect trip in his previous start. [DRF]Perhaps because I don't qualify as a "serious handicapper," I'm going to think a different way in this case. While I generally agree with the principle that Beyer states, I think this is a case where one can turn that logic completely around. For a colt who clearly seems to be on an upswing, the Derby was a relatively easy race which should leave him fresh, fit, and ready to continue to progress to another career best race despite the short two week turnaround. You don't need Trakus in this case to know that he took the shortest route of any of the 20 horse field, and experienced no traffic nor trauma that could effect him physically or mentally here. Whatsmore, you gotta love the versatility and tractability he showed with the way that he, and jockey Borel, have changed tactics over their last two races; from speedball, to stalker, to a horse who comfortably took back several lengths off the hot pace.
While the connections of some of these may be concerned about a slow pace, Pletcher's colt seems adaptable to any scenario, and it wouldn't be surprising in this case to see him closely pressing whoever default to the front. As far as his slow come-home time at Churchill, one could at least partially chalk that up to the conditions. Seems that some are assuming that the sloppy conditions helped his cause, but a look at his past performances reveals no particular preference either way. And while the mile and a quarter distance may very well have been the real culprit, remember that he won't quite have to run that far this time. I expect that he'll be in front turning for home, and who in this group is going to catch him?
Well, a lot of people apparently think that Lookin At Lucky will, which could make the Derby winner a decent value wager in the win pool. He still brings the most accomplished resume, and he certainly had valid excuses for his sixth place finish at Louisville. I agree that one can make a very strong case for him here with the assumption that things are due to fall his way with a better post and a smaller field. But personally, I'm just not feeling it. Call it a gut feeling or whatever, I just don't like him here. For a horse who was so accomplished as a juvenile, bottom line is that he just has not stepped up with the kind of improvement one would like to see at three. His one win came in a Rebel from which little good has emerged; none of the runners have seen the winner's circle since. And while one can attribute his two subsequent defeats to bad luck, another way of looking at it is that he just has not progressed to the point where he has the ability, agility or mental toughness to overcome his troubles. Maybe that's a stretch, but as undervalued as I think he will be, seems an easy and logical stance to take.
Looking at some of the others:
Aikenite and Pleasant Prince rallied from far back for the second and third spots in the Derby Trial, but what does that one turn mile race have to do with this? Besides, if you think the Derby fell apart, take a look at the splits for that race: first have in 45 1/5, second in 50 4/5. Pleasant Prince might take some money off that nose loss to Ice Box in the Florida Derby in his pp's, but, as I implied above, I think that colt's Derby is being overrated; and the Gulfstream race is another from which little good has emerged.
Schoolyard Dreams is a little interesting if you take the trainer's word that he was adversely effected by a virus in the Wood. (Why then did he run if he was ill in the first place?) He'd shown some decent improvement and beat Super Saver at Tampa. But as I've mentioned in the past, can't too excited considering he got beat in the Wood by Awesome Act, the latest in my own personal series of desultory Derby wagers. So I'm gonna pass on him. Jackson Bend and Dublin can both be excused for their Derbies (in fact, the sloppy track is a universal excuse); but tough to get excited over this duo given their combined 0-for-8 records at three, not to mention the poor post draw for the latter.
Paddy O'Prado was kind of a "good thing" horse in the Derby, bet down under his 20-1 morning line as he was, and backing it up with his third place finish. He may have relished the mud though given the excellent work he posted the week before. He stayed out of enough trouble to rally for third as the race fell apart....at least that's the way I look at it. As third choice in the morning line, little value to be had for a horse who has still never raced on a fast dirt surface.
Yawanna Twist is a horse who I think could spice up the exotics. He's making just his fifth career start.....which actually might be a good thing as, unlike many of the others, he has yet to fully establish mediocrity. He stepped up seamlessly from NY-breds to graded stakes company with pretty solid efforts in the Gotham and Illinois Derby, and has tactical speed and a good post from which to establish a favorable position. Not flashy pedigree wise as a son of Yonaguska, a sire whose progeny win at an average distance of 6 1/4 furlongs, out of a mare by Oliver's Twist, an obscure son of Horatius who stands in Colorado. He does have Dutrow in his corner though; and if that trainer has been quiet lately, it's because he reportedly donated his ego to be used as a giant containment dome in the latest effort to contain the oil spilling into the gulf. (I told you I'm not that serious.)
Picks: Super Saver, Yawanna Twist, Dublin