It’s the second leg of the triple crown; unfortunately one that lacks genuine intrigue with Kentucky Derby champion Country House along with other top finishers from just two Saturdays ago. However, that doesn’t mean there wont be betting value and Kentucky Derby Jay is here to make sense of it all
1- War of Will – So this guy attracted a bit of attention in the Derby, eh? The horse will live in infamy as the pony that Maximum Security interfered with (nearly causing a catastrophic spill), leading to Maximum Security’s historic disqualification. While I thought the DQ was absolutely merited, I also don’t think War of Will’s chances were especially compromised. He draws the inside post just as in the Derby and as such I think his main play has to be to vault to the front and hope to wire the field. I was pessimistic that would happen in Louisville, and feel the same way about Baltimore. Leaning against, especially given that he figures to be such a short price.
2- Bourbon War – Late runner with a jockey/trainer combo I love in Ortiz/Hennig. Wasn’t much of a factor in Florida Derby but showed a nice closing kick finishing 2nd behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth. Obviously the Derby performances of Maximum Security and Code of Honor have flattered those races and he could be a factor here with a nice pace to run at. Definitely a live longshot in exotics underneath.
3- Warrior’s Charge – Speedy colt was supplemented into field for $150,000, so his connections must feel like he has a shot. Has never tried stakes company and is taking a big step in class here. Probably will have the lead for the first ½ mile or so but seems unlikely to be able to take them all the way around. Playing against.
4- Improbable – The favorite, basically by default. Baffert obviously knows how to win this race, and the move to add Mike Smith in the irons is certainly a positive one. Yet to win in 2019 but certainly can win this one even with a minor improvement off his Derby effort. A major threat although he provides very little betting value
5- Owendale – Was an utter disaster in the Risen Star, thwarting his Derby plans but came back in a big way when capturing the Lexington at Keeneland, a race that has often proven to be a key prep for the Preakness. He had a career best Beyer in the Lexington, and a couple of other charts suggest he is still sitting on further improvement. Only negative might be that Keeneland appeared to have a serious negative inside bias that day, and outside closers were winning all day long. That said, I think there’s room for even more improvement, and he has the running style that seems likely to be in play here. Looms as a threat at a nice price.
6- Market King – Pace factor and likely nothing more. Looks to be in deep over his head here. Hard pass
7- Alwaysmining – The local factor, he’s won six straight by an average of over six lengths, most recently taking the Tesio at Laurel Park in dominating, 11.5 length fashion. Not sure what to make of this guy, as he really hasn’t faced much competition. Did score a win over fellow Preakness contender Win Win Win last fall as a two year old, but he hasn’t beaten much of note in 2019. His speed figures compare moderately favorable with most of these in here so I don’t completely discount his chances. This looks like a huge step up in class and I think he’s likely to be overbet. Would be a great story to see the first Maryland-bred Preakness winner since 1983, but I’m not expecting that outcome. Can’t blame you if you want to back him, but I’m shying away.
8- Signalman – Third most recent in the Bluegrass Stakes, connections passed on a Derby run to point for this spot. Trainer Kenny McPeek generally doesn’t run in big races on flyers, but not seeing much to recommend about this plodder. Could pass tiring horses and be a factor in the bottom part of the exotics at a huge price, but even that outcome seems somewhat ambitious. Likely just slower than most of the competition.
9- Bodexpress – Got into the Kentucky Derby after Omaha Beach’s scratch, and finished a non-threatening 14th. Connections feel inclined to give him another start, likely on the basis of his runner-up finish in the Florida Derby behind Maximum Security, which, as I mentioned earlier is a flattering result after the Derby. Still, I’m not sure what his game plan here will be. Will likely need to go wide to press the pace, and I’m not sure he’s good enough to win traveling that route; hasn’t shown much inclination to close either. Finally, he’s still winless, and the Preakness seems like an unlikely time to break his maiden, even against this modest field. Keep an eye on the tote board on this one but likely will take a stand against.
10- Everfast – 1 for 10 lifetime. He did light up the toteboard with a runner-up finish in the Holy Bull at 128-1, but has finished off the board in his last three starts. Too slow for this crew, I wouldn’t bet him with your money.
11- Laughing Fox – Couldn’t handle the big boys in Arkansas, but once they left for Kentucky, he scored a nice win in the Oaklawn Invitational thereafter, closing nicely into a speed bias. Still, he was all-out just to get up for the win, and the 91 Beyer he earned for that effort isn’t very impressive. Could be a factor against a speed breakdown, but I think both Bourbon War and Owendale look like stronger closing factors. Consider in deep exotic tickets for sure, but seems unlikely winner.
12- Anothertwistafate – Interesting colt here, the speed figures certainly fit with this field. However, his three best performances have all come on synthetic surfaces. On the dirt, he’s finished 2nd in his last 2 races, both Grade 3s. Wasn’t really a match for Owendale in the Lexington, though could possibly he attributed to what I earlier mention has a heavy negative inside bias at Keeneland that day. He seems like somewhat of a wise guy horse, as a couple of prominent national handicappers have tabbed him as their winner. I’m looking at him less favorably, and thinking that he might just be a synthetic star. There’s some definite talent here, and I wouldn’t be floored if he winds up in the winner’s circle but I think he’s likely 4th or 5th best here.
13- Win Win Win – If you read my Derby preview you know I was quite fond of his chances in Kentucky, where he split the field with a 10th place finish. Connections seem to think he just didn’t like the slop and are eager to take another shot at his level two weeks later. I have to admit though, that my enthusiasm for this guy has wavered, and I’m starting to think that he might be better suited for shorter distances. The outside post position isn’t necessarily going to hurt his running style, but it’s not likely to do him any favors either. Seems likely to be running in the back of the pack and will need some late kick to be a factor. He’ll pass some tiring horses, yes, but I’m not sure he’s shown that he has that REAL kick that will likely be needed to get across the wire first. Leave him off your exotics at your own peril, but I’m leaning against him hitting the board.
I think that on paper Improbable likely is just a bit better than the rest of these guys. That said, it’s hard to get behind a short-priced favorite who still doesn’t have a win in 2019. Therefore, I’m looking at a closer to get across the wire first against what should be a hotly-contested pace for much of the way. That closer, in my mind, is Owendale. Improbable figures to be right in the mix, and Bourbon War is another who will be charging hard. War of Will and Anothertwistafate are also in with a shot.
3) Bourbon War
4) War of Will