Friday, May 18, 2007

Preakness Stakes Preview

132nd Preakness Stakes
Sat, May 19, approx 3.04 p.m. PST
Pimlico Race Track, Baltimore, MD
TV: NBC 2 p.m. PST

The field of 9 is set and includes the top 3 finishers in the Kentucky Derby, STREET SENSE, HARD SPUN, and CURLIN, as well as one other Derby starter and 5 new shooters.

The Faves

Street Sense, 7-5
Can the Derby winner do it? Most times over the last ten years, the legitimate Derby winners that have run in the Preakness have won it- we can't count last year since Barbaro broke down, and 2000 Derby winner Fusiachi Pegasus didn't run in the Preakness, but in 6 of the other 8 the Derby winner also won the Preakness, and the two that didn't were not in my view {and many others} legitimate Derby winners. Well, they won the Derby, but both Giacomo in 2005 and Monarchos in 2001 were not great horses. Rather, they both benefited from completely insane fast Derby paces set by horses that had no business racing in the Derby, which cooked all of the contenders and allowed these two to pick up the pieces. Monarchos never won a race before or after his Derby win, and Giacomo never won a race before his Derby and has been pretty weak since.

Well, Street Sense is a legitimate Derby winner, and a great horse at that, so the chances of him winning the Preakness are huge. The trick with a bomber like Street Sense that lays way back and then makes a big move at the end is that he has to get a perfect trip and get the breaks to allow him to hit holes and pass other horses. He got this racing luck in the Derby but there is a chance that this time around he will not, that he could get stuck on the rail or whatnot and lose lots of ground and get beat. On the other hand, a field of nine is much better for him than a field of 20.

In a vacuum I would like Street Sense to win, but there's no value at 7-5 and I wouldn't be surprised if he goes off at even money, so I wouldn't bet my money on him to win at that price.

Hard Spun, 5-2
Ran a race that would have won many Derbies, just got passed in the end by a better horse. If Street Sense didn't have such luck with his trip, Hard Spun would be your Derby winner. Tomorrow there are a few speedballs in the race, most notable Flying First Class, so Hard Spun may very well not have the lead like he did in the Derby. He will probably stalk just behind the leaders, make his move on the far turn, and hope it is enough to get the jump on Street Sense. I think he has the best chance of anyone to beat Street Sense, and wouldn't surprised at all if he won. Very respected race analyst and speed guru Andrew Beyer thinks that Hard Spun is going to turn the tables on Street Sense, and his reasoning is pretty sound. Again, he has a good chance but at 5-2 is offers no value.

Curlin, 7-2
With no races as a 2 year old and only 2 before the Derby, the lack of "foundation" was the big knock on this horse but he still ran a good race despite a tricky trip to finish 3rd. Alot of people who like this horse now say that with another race under his belt he will only be better and they like him to win this race and show everyone that he is indeed a freak, just a lightly raced one {just as Bernardini did in 2006}. Personally I think that either he will do just that, or he will regress and eat it. At 5-2 I wouldn't bet him to win, again, no value.

The Gray Zoners
Circular Quay, 8-1
A smaller horse that also like to come from way back, he actually ran a much better race than it initially appeared, as he had to overcome a pretty bad trip. Great value here at 8-1, and if that were to stand I would bet him across the board because at that price he offers a lot of value. I seriously doubt he will stay at 8-1 though because he will probably be the wiseguy horse that everyone jumps on looking for value outside the top 3, thereby driving down his price.

King Of The Roxy, 12-1
Finished 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby as the favorite and then skipped the Derby to point to the Preakness. His win in the Hutcheson before that was impressive, but he had the lead in the Santa Anita and just got run down by Tiago, which just added credence to the theory that this horse is a miler and classic distances are too big an ask for him. I'm staying away, as it is my personal opinion that all of the California horses this year are simply shit. Todd Pletcher's best chance to break his 0-27 record in Triple Crown races.

The Long Shots
Xchanger, 15-1
Every year there is some local Maryland horse who has done good things at Pimlico that makes a huge jump up in class to take a shot in the Preakness. Xchanger is not a local horse, but he did come in and win the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico, so the talking point on this horse is that he has a win over the track. For me that doesn't matter, as it was against much, much lesser competition and this seems too big a step up in class for him. Will likely be overbet just on this 'win over the track" angle alone

Flying First Class, 20-1
This horse won the Derby Trial one week before the Derby, but like Xchanger is was against lesser competition do this is a step up in class. Has lots of speed and will likely get the lead. Considering D. Wayne Lukas is the trainer and the horse won last time out, I would be very suprised if this horse stayed at 20-1; he'll get some action just because of Lukas. Hell I'd play any Lukas horse at 20-1 just on general principle, but I doubt he'll be 20-1.

CP West, 20-1
Trained by Nick Zito, but other than that not sure what he is doing here. Likely just taking a chance that they can get lucky, hit the board, and get a nice payday. Seems over his head here.

Mint Slewlep, 30-1
Stupid ass name, which is remarkable since it is a combination of two great things: Seattle Slew and Mint Juleps. What the hell this horse is doing in this race I'll never know, but hell anything can happen in racing so I suppose it is possible that he could hit the board. But is looks pretty damn unlikely.

So What Happens, Genius?
Hard to say, but I really cannot see the winner coming from anyone other than Street Sense, Hard Spun, Curlin, and Circular Quay.

Street Sense was my Derby horse and I see no reason to get off him, so if I had to pick a winner I would stay with him. But I wouldn't bet on him because there is no value.

Curlin may be this year's Bernardini, a freak who just needs races and experience to dominate, and this might be the race where he makes a massive statement and wins. But there is also a great chance that he regresses, so you'll have to decide what you think of Curlin for yourself. If you think he is a freak, bet him. If you don't, don't.

The best value bet is Circular Quay across the board at 8-1, and as things stand I would probably do that.

If you put me on the spot my prediction would be Street Sense wins, Circular Quay 2nd, Hard Spun 3rd, and Curlin eats it, but I'm not supremely confident or adamant about any of those.

Of course, by this time tomorrow it will be a totally different set of odds and I might feel differently. Overall there isn't much value in the race, so unless Circular Quay stays near where he is, I think I am taking a pass and just watching and hoping for an exciting race.



Solon said...

A good write-up, Kanu.

I actually think this is a race worth playing; the prohibitive favorite, Street Sense, has actually been fairly pedestrian if one throws out his two races at
Churchill (the BC Juvenille and the Derby). CD has a reputation for being kind to some horses and not others, so I'm willing to guess that Street Sense may actually be closer to the horse he was in the Tampa Bay Derby than the horse he was in the Kentucky Derby--good, but not great.

Not sure who beats him, though. I have a lot of concerns about Curlin, whose lack of seasoning could really start to tell here, and Hard Spun, who really hasn't had any time off since starting his racing career in October 2006.

As far as Circular Quay, part of me thinks that his *freshness* could really start coming into play here, but I'm concerned that he seems to be the sort of horse that always finds trouble--he's been steadied or bumped in 3 of his 7 starts, and off slow in 3 of them as well.

I actually think King of the Roxy might have something to say about the outcome. His Beyers have been in the 90's/100's since his second race (with the exception of his BC Juvenille, where he ate it), and he shipped to the Hutcheson where he won impressively. The pace should be honest, but not insane, similar to the Derby; under such circumstances, it sets up well for a horse like Curlin or King of the Roxy (or even Hard Spun, provided he rates just off Xchanger or Flying First Class, although I doubt he's able).

Bottom line--Anytime you can throw out a 7/5 shot--probably likely to go off at close to even--I think that it's a race worth betting. Street Sense is good, but not 7/5 good.

Kanu said...

Thanks dude.

I was going to write about the "horses for courses" angle with Street Sense and Churchill Downs, but he does have wins over 2 other tracks and lost by just a nose in that wacky-ass Bluegrass on the Polytrack at Keeneland, so I held off. That being said, you are correct that his 2 most impressive performances by a mile are at CD. On the other hand, I happen to think that although CDs surface is fairly unique, the Pimlico surface is closer to it than most other places, and also that unlike the myth of the Pimlico tight turns, CD & Pimlico have the exact same configuration & turn angles. Perhaps this is why legit Derby winners have fared so well in the Preakness in recent times?

I really think that King Of The Roxy can't get the distance. The Hutcheson was 7.5 furlongs and he was great, and then in the SA Derby which was a mile and 1/8, he had the lead and seemed to run out of gas, and he didn't do shit in the Derby at a mile and a quarter. His only other race over mile was the BC Juvenile last fall and he finished 38.5 lengths behind. I think that this horse is a miler and will end up being a pretty good one at that, but I don't see him doing much here or anywhere else beyond a mile.

I'm with you, I am not supremely confident that Street Sense will do it, but at the same time I don't know who can or will beat him. Circular Quay is down to 5-1 as expected, Curlin's at 3-1 and Hard Spun is at 4-1, so there still isn't much value there for me.

Given all the question marks, I still think that at the end of the day Street Sense is the best horse, so I'm sticking with him as my official pick. I'm thinking more and more that Curlin will regress, so it's up to the other 2 contenders to beat him. And I'll be really shocked if anyone outside the top 4 wins. Shocked.

Good luck whatever you do, man.

Solon said...

Shit, if Hard Spun is going off at 4-1 I might have to key everything to him. He rated in the Lane's End, and the front-runners here don't really have enough quality that he'd have to overly concern himself with them.

King of the Roxy, for the record, did not run at Churchill--and while he was beaten in the SA Derby late, Tiago was flying and actually ran a good race that day (a 100, far better than any effort in his career), and Tiago ran 7th in the Derby, so he's probably semi-legit.

I think Churchill's stretch is considerably longer than Pimlico's, which you'd think would hurt closers, although the numbers don't back it up. And, while Pimlico's got the reputation for tight turns, you're right that it's an illusion.

I've just got to figure out a way to bet this, which is not easy. But, there's value out there--if you hit a trifecta without Street Sense in it, it's going to pay a bundle.