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Monday, May 14, 2007

Preakness Notes - May 14

- Steve Crist points out that there hasn't been a close or really competitive Preakness since Magic Weisner fell three-quarters of a length short of catching War Emblem back in 2002.

Funny Cide galloped by 9 3/4 lengths in 2003, Smarty Jones romped by 11 1/2 in 2004, and Afleet Alex won by 4 3/4 in 2005, a margin that would have been even larger had he not almost fallen. Then last year, Bernardini won by 5 1/4 after Barbaro was pulled up. [Daily Racing Form (sub. only)]
But Magic Weisner was never going to get up in that race, and you really have to go back to 1997, when Silver Charm slugged it out with Free House (and here comes Captain Bodgit), to find a really close Preakness.

This should be the time when I link to the Preakness website so we can watch that classic race. But there's nothing comparable to the history section of the Derby site there, and the site is pretty weak, though at least I don't have John Asher talking to me. And there is some good reporting in the Barn Notes. Anyway, here is the stretch run of the 1997 Preakness.

Man, that was some race! Don't know if we'll be that lucky this fact, after last year, I'm just hoping they all get home in one piece. But it's a nice little field shaping up, especially if Circular Quay joins the party, and it sounds like he just may. “I worked him this morning with the Preakness in the back of my mind....I’ll talk to Mr. Tabor and we’ll make a decision tomorrow morning.” [Pimlico barn notes]

I'm going back and forth on this race so far, and since I'm going to be at a wedding in Nashville on Saturday afternoon, I'm going to have to actually make a decision in advance, and commit to it. I'm having my Street Sense moments; yes, he's been pretty lucky and has had things all his own way in his two big wins at Churchill. But like in other sports, you can make your own luck, and he wouldn't be able to pass horses like he did if he wasn't going pretty fast. But I'm having my Curlin moments too; I still have that picture of him galloping out after his last pre-Derby workout. He's an impressive physical specimen, and he has every right to improve off the Derby as the likely third choice.

I'm not having any Hard Spun moments. OK, maybe once in a while. Larry Jones is hot these days, profiled by Beyer, writing a column for the NY Post, and he's still carrying on about Borel, and how the other riders shouldn't let him through. Talking about the smaller field, he says:
But it also gives the other jockeys more time to pinpoint on one horse. I've been in more trouble in a four-horse race sometimes than I have in a 12-horse field, because everyone can spot you, and then they can race-ride you.

So the smaller field may work at a disadvantage for Street Sense, because it gives everyone a chance to pinpoint him. [NY Post]
If Jones is depending on that, he may be disappointed. If this was the feature race on Thursday, maybe, but I find it hard to believe that these riders in the Preakness are going to be focused on anything other than winning the race. Now, if Robby Albarado, on Curlin, sees a chance to keep the Derby winner in a box without compromising his own chances at some point, than of course he'll do so. But Jones is talking like the riders are going to be focused on "pinpointing" Borel, and I don't see that happening outside of the kind of race-riding described above.

Maybe Jones needs a stablemate for Hard Spun; not a rabbit, but a shadow, like Guy Carbonneau on Wayne Gretzky. Someone to follow Borel around, or get in front of him to shut off the rail. Well? If you can enter a horse to run after the leader to soften him up, can't you enter a shadow? Are there any rules against doing something like that? Remember last fall when rider Seamus Heffernan was suspended in England for "improper team tactics" when he forced Librettist wide in the QEII Stakes? Would there be suspensions here if someone tried that?


Anonymous said...

Interesting rabbit/shadow idea. Like you, I have Street Sense moments (which lead to greater moments of a Triple Crown at Belmong moment with me in attendance) and I also have Curlin moments because he probably is fresh and didn't tire himself out in the Derby, and he is probably good enough to beat this field, and won't get such a horrible post position this time and now understands what traffic is. I also am not having Hard Spun moments although I love that horse. I have more Hard Spun regret moments from 5/5, like Larry Jones. Winning the Preakness won't make up for the other 18 horses letting Street Sense through on the rail. It's almost like Street Sense should win the Triple Crown just so that Hard Spun will have been beaten by a real superhorse, not just bad luck. I feel like I'm watching a soap opera. Can I just make $1 ex and tri boxes with SS, HS and Curlin and be done with it?

John said...

Man you called it on the Preakness website. It's horrible. The design is sloppy and it looks like it was designed by someone who just doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

Talk of rabbits reminds me of the old battles between Dr Fager and Damascus in 1967-68. The Doc never lost to Damascus- or anyone else- except when a rabbit was employed, in the case of Damascus it was Hedevar as I recall. The Damascus connections were roundly criticized for employing the rabbit and I do believe it took Damascus' legacy down a notch; Dr Fager is really the one that is best remembered of the two as the Doc is the only horse to ever win 4 Eclipse level awards in one season (1968).So, if you want your horse's legacy unblemished, better think twice about using a rabbit.