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Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Preakness Pick

Here are the past performances for the Preakness. I got a link to free pp's from the Form in my email, so I guess it's OK to post here. Of course, it serves the Form to give them out with the little BET NOW button, linking to their ADW, powered by Xpressbet, at the top.

Anyway, glancing over the 14 entries (the first full field since 2005), I must say that Animal Kingdom (2-1), has a pretty impressive set of running lines there. Three wins in just five starts on turf, Poly, and dirt; and a positive-trending set of Beyers culminating in his 103 in the Derby.

I find that the Preakness often is not that interesting of a betting race; we just saw many of these horses run against each other a couple of weeks earlier in a race that often leaves an indelible impression of their relative abilities. Maybe that's why nine out of the last ten Preakness winners have been the first (in seven cases) or second betting choice. All of those, other than Rachel Alexandra, had run in the Derby; and either ran really well or had a good excuse for not doing so.

Similarly, this year, Animal Kingdom won the Derby in a fashion that makes me hesitate to oppose him; and with, in my view as I've said before, what should be with plenty of reserve. I don't think he's gonna bounce. Where I could see playing against him...and maybe this is a the thought that just maybe he's a horse who in the end will really demonstrate that he prefers the turf and synth, as good as his Derby may have been. There's that breeding of course, the turf specialist Leroidisanimaux out of a strictly German distaff family. And I recall one reader here who observed that the pace of the Derby was more like a grass race than dirt. He could face a vastly different scenario on Saturday if the pace is quick and he finds himself further out of it than he's been since his debut (though, honestly, there isn't tons of speed here, with Dance City the most obvious candidate to keep Shackleford company).

Best reason of all perhaps to try and beat the Derby winner is that now everyone seems to like him. Plonk the Wonk, Joe Drape going back to the well, Beyer too. I'm sure that others will follow. Always makes me skeptical, being the skeptic that I am, and won't do much for his price either.

OK, it all does sound like a bit of a stretch. I'd concede that Animal Kingdom seems like the most likely winner of the race. But what the hell. We're probably looking at 2-1 tops, so why not take a shot?

Don't really like any of the (only) four other Derby horses to win. Dialed In (9-2) was simply way too far back in the slow-paced Derby. He should have a quicker pace in front of him here, and thus a better chance to make his late run. But I'm sticking to the notion that he just hasn't shown the same late kick in his two turn races. I was dead wrong about Mucho Macho Man (6-1) in the Derby; he ran quite well, earning a Beyer of 99, which matches his career high earned in the Remsen last year. And he reportedly looks none the worse for the wear after his 4th race of the year. So I've upgraded my opinion of him somewhat, and am willing to use him underneath. Shackleford (12-1) won't last the distance in my view, especially given expected pace pressure from at least Dance City this time; and perhaps Flashpoint.

The horse I'm taking a close look at here is Sway Away (15-1). This colt came back for his three-year old year the way I like to see, confirming and building upon his second last summer in the Best Pal, coming in just his second career start, with his rousing rally for second in the San Vicente between The Factor and Premier Pegasus, both of whom won their next races with aplomb...and earning a sparkling careerh high Beyer of 101. His two-turn debut in the Rebel, a distant sixth, was quite the disappointment however, particularly as the 9-5 second choice. In his defense though, he broke a step slowly after acting up a bit in the gate, and he never really recovered from that. Three wide into the turn, it looked to me like he was then steadied coming out of the first turn (the chart says he was steadied going into the first turn), falling back to last. Nobody was catching The Factor that day in any event, but especially from there. He did in fact register the second fastest closing fraction in the race, at 31.13 for the last 5/16ths.

He added blinkers for the Arkansas Derby, and he was far more keen from the start. In fact, the chart notes that he was rank; so much so that he carried himself and Patrick Venezuela a good three, if not four, wide on the first turn. Sway Away continued to pull down the backstretch, and finally his rider could wait no longer (I guess), and launched an extremely wide sweep (five wide according to the chart) to lead into the stretch. For a brief moment, it looked like he might go on and open up, but he could never shake Dance City as he weaved down toward the wire, and then succumbed, no doubt from his early and ongoing efforts, to that one as well as the now-retired Arch3 and Nehro, who came back to run quite well in the Derby.

I thought Sway Away showed a world of talent in that race. Trainer Jeff Bonde keeps the blinkers on. He's had three workouts since the race, with the blinkers at least the last time (and I'd therefore guess the other times too). I love the switch back to Gomez, who was aboard for the big late rally in the San Vicente. He's only raced five times, so perhaps, with a race and some workouts with the blinkers under his belt, he'll be able to better take advantage of tactical positioning, and save his rally until the end this time with Gomez. It's fair to wonder if he simply is not a two-turn horse with two out of the money finishes in routes; but he's by a Belmont winner (Afleet Alex) out of a dam by another Belmont winner (Seattle Slew), so I think that he deserves another chance.

So I think he's surely worth a stab at or around 15-1, and will box him with Animal Kingdom for sure. Gotta go now, but will try to find some others with which to expand the ticket.


Mike said...

I think Flashpoint is the clear front-runner in this race, with Shackleford and Dance City following. Just want to make sure you saw him in the PPs - could be a very fast pace.

alan said...

Yes Mike, saw him and did mention him too as 'perhaps' involved at the front. He either didn't or couldn't keep pace with Shackleford in the Florida Derby. His owner says he broke a 'half-step' slow and was hampered by his outside post and short run to the turn. I thought he broke pretty ok.

El Angelo said...

I agree with Mike--Flashpoint is going to the front and will be winging it. I can't argue with using Sway Away, but I like Mr. Commons as a price play.

Dirty said...

I'm not on the Sway Away bandwagon (anymore lol), but if he wins, the connections should stick Pletchers head up Uncle Mo's ass. What he did to them is beyond scummy. Uncle mo was never gonna race - that's why he went straight to the farm. F pletcher f repole.

alan said...

Uncle Who?

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna take a shot with Dance City sprinkled in with the favorite, Mucho, Astrology, Sway Away, and that Cali horse who finished 3rd in the SA Derby. -jp

Anonymous said...

I'm using Animal Kingdom, Sway Away, and Midnight Interlude , over AK, SA, MI, Astrology, Dance City, King Congie, and Norman Asbjornson.

Baffert has been working Midnight Interlude in blinkers. The change of riders from Espinoza --> Garcia should improve the horse a good deal

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

Animal Kingdom and Dialed In are going to rekindle the Sunday Silence and Easy Goer days. Look for Dialen In to come roaring down the stretch to nip Animal Kingdom by a nose in a $6+ million payday.

Anyone hear Todd Pletcher on Versus on Friday afternoon? He alerted Graham Motion about a strong possibility of scratching Uncle Mo, which would free up John Velazquez. Since Pletcher still had Stay Thirsty in the race, doesn't this smell bad? Why let a jockey, even one who is contracted to you for first call duty, to be promoted by a fellow trainer. This further proves one's point that the inside info game is how this sport works.

Maybe it was Pletcher's way of saying "thanks" to John Velazquez for taking one for the team in the Life At Ten fiasco. After all, Pletcher got away scot free in that thing. All of that Pletcher Kool-Aid still can't rid him of that acne as seen in the interview by Randy "Dr. Evil" Moss. Randy should be a bit more firmer in his questiioning when standing right next to Pletcher.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't touch Dialed In with a 10-foot pole. This is not a well horse. This horse has "issues". His lack of serious training and conditioning is showing. Zito usually works his horses weekly and shows 1 or 2 bullets leading into a major stakes race like the Kentucky Derby. The horse didn't get a dime from me in that race, and he won't get a dime from me in the Preakness either.

steve in nc said...

I'm skipping this race because I don't want to bet against Animal Kingdom but don't see a value playing him.

Flashpoint really didn't look good to me in the post parade and going into the gate before his last race. This was a big contrast to how he looked in his two wins. If he's on his toes today but not washy, I'd expect him to be on the pace. Really talented, but with the bad race, the trainer switch and likely distance limitations, I couldn't imagine playing him here.

As for Pletcher, sounds like he was being nice to colleagues in the industry to me. The info was all public: the indecision about whether Mo would run, Stay Thirsty getting blinkers on and off again (a big negative for a supposely accomplished horse).

SaratogaSpa said...

The more I look at this race, Sway Away is jumping off the page at me. I 'll box him in tri's and exactas with AK, Mucho Macho Man and Dance City. Good luck all!

Figless said...

Af of today it is possible the first six finishers in the Derby may run in The Belmont, cant remember that ever happening.

Sure some will back out and frankly I am shocked Shacky and and AK are even under consideration, thought for sure they would be getting some rest.