Mixed feelings about doing this blog. I know many horse players are boycotting the Preakness based on horse racing's drug problems that spiked with Bob Baffert's positive test on Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby. However, there are other players who will continue to play because they realize the cheating with drugs has been rampant for year with Baffert & many other trainers. That's all I'm going to say!
There are only 3 pace horses in this race (Medina Spirit, Concert Tour & Midnight Bourbon) and none are run off speed horses. Two of the three are trained by Bob Baffert and I don't expect a hot speed duel. Additionally Midnight Bourbon is not as quick early as either Baffert horse and will likely stalk the pace closely. The Preakness traditionally favors speed horses and without a quick pace I expect that will continue Saturday. None of those 3 horses have any betting value and as such the race gets a poor betting score of *2*.
1. Ram - This horse took 8 starts to break his maiden and had to drop into Maiden Claiming to do it. He has been racing with LASIX and appears much too slow. The time of his ALW win looks fast but the track on Derby Saturday was very quick and likely speed favoring. This horse has no shot.
2. Keepmeinmind - Never been a fan of this horse and was over rated off his KY Jockey Club victory. He's raced against tough company this year but badly beaten in all 3 starts. He did gain 11 lengths on the leader from 1st Call in the Derby but only gained 1 length in the stretch. Diodoro has a poor win % in graded stakes. Does get the "+" sign so maybe you could use underneath in the Super.
3. Medina Spirit - Deserving favorite. The Derby track was kind to speed horses as none of the top 4 finishers passed each other down the entire stretch run. Medina Spirit did get the perfect trip uncontested on the lead and saved ground every step but may get a similar set-up Saturday. He can lay down a :46.6 second half mile easily. Will Concert Tour go faster than that? I doubt it. Medina Spirit never stops fighting in the stretch and has two gutsy wins this year on the rail. None of the other top contenders (Concert Tour & Midnight Bourbon) has much closing kick. The only "A" horse in race and most likely winner.
4. Crowded Trade - This horse has the most upside as he has only raced 3 times this year. His Energy score is competitive. His Gotham race was solid but he hung late for 2nd and should have won. The Wood Memorial race fell apart but he ran a solid 3rd. He beat Highly Motivated in the Gotham who ran great in the Blue Grass but got exposed going 10F in Kentucky. I think this horse is better than Highly Motivated. I'm not sure this horse can win but he is capable of improving off 6 weeks rest to hit the Exacta.
5. Midnight Bourbon - Nice horse but needs the lead to win. Never passed a horse in the stretch prior to the Derby. Broke poorly with Smith on board and was shuffled back to 12th and had no shot. Did pass horses for first time in the stretch to finish 6th. Gets a massive upgrade in jockey to Irad but horse just isn't quick enough early for either Baffert horse. Wasn't even quick enough for Hot Rod Charlie. This horse will have to rate and pounce. The jockey upgrade does give a tiny amount of hope. Certainly capable of hitting the Trifecta.
6. Rombauer - Really nice long-shot selection in the early Future wagers based on his dirt runs as a 2yo. Has only raced twice at age 3 and capable of a big step up in improvement. Needs pace to run at and will get some in here. In the Bluegrass this horse was 2 lengths back of a 1:12 2nd call. He'll be a lot farther back Saturday. Gets a big jockey upgrade with Prat. This is one of several who can close for a piece.
7. France Go de Ina - Very hard to handicap this one. Was badly beaten in Dubai and his work-out at Pimlico was not inspiring. Toss.
8. Unbridled Honor - The Lexington stakes was on a sloppy surface. Badly beaten in Tampa and also beaten by Risk Taking as a maiden. No thanks. Toss.
9. Risk Taking - Same owners as Crowded Trade. Withers victory was impressive but like Crowded Trade is making first start outside New York and coming out of bizarre Wood Memorial. He was no match for Crowded Trade in the Wood so siding with that one. Toss.
10. Concert Tour - This is the wild card horse. Why isn't Rosario riding this horse? If he was, I would bet him without hesitation. I think Smith will get told to not challenge Medina Spirit early. Rosario tried that tactic against Caddo River in the Arkansas Derby and he hung late. However, his Rebel victory is good enough to compete. I had this one at 17-1 in a Future Wager and thought he was the real deal for the West Family. He does get 5 weeks rest and is the most serious threat to Medina Spirit. If he takes the lead early uncontested he will win.
Bottom Line - The most likely winner is Medina Spirit who with the #3 post should get the lead stalked by Concert Tour in about :47 seconds early. The question is how far back will Midnight Bourbon be and can he win from off the pace with Irad on board. I sincerely hope he can and probably will be my bet to win. It's hard to imagine one of these 3 horses not winning this race so take your pick and hope you get lucky. Underneath will be a battle between Crowded Trade, Rombauer & Keepmeinmind who I like in that order. I would use Crowded Trade as high as 2nd, Rombauer 3rd and Keepmeinmind no higher than 4th.