Winning Derby jockey Calvin Borel traded rubbing hooves for rubbing elbows at the White House, trainer Carl Nafzger thrusted back into the spotlight, and Street Sense became a star. Indeed, the Kentucky Derby, sorry, the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Foods constructs legends, but the Preakness legitimizes them. Each year, the winner on the first Saturday in May trots into Maryland with the hope of becoming the first Triple Crown Champion since Affirmed in ’78, and trade their blanket of roses for a smattering of Black Eyed Susans (no, not Dennis Rodman’s current girlfriend, the flower). Will we have another Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown, well, at stake? Let’s just hope it goes better than last year.
1. Mint Slewlep–Cute name, wrong event. This colt is this year’s local flavor, but there’s not much here to suggest he can run with this class. He failed to hit the board in his only two previous graded stakes races, and the rail will not do him any favors. Good luck.
2. Xchanger–Impressive win in a stakes at Pimlico in April, this colt appears to be on the upswing. And, he’s the only horse in the field to run on this track, which is nice. The added distance shouldn’t be a problem, but the added talent should. He’ll have to prove he belongs with this group before I waste a Shrute-Buck on him.
3. Circular Quay–It’s obvious that trainer Todd Pletcher is getting sick of this “never won a Triple Crown race” tag, as this colt was entered at the 11th hour. Only in the Derby can a 6th place finish be considered good, but thinking about the all-stars that finished behind him, it is. Throw in the fact that he ran the Derby off an 8 week layoff after winning the Louisiana Derby in March, and that 6th place gets even sexier. As one of the lone closers in the field a grueling pace would be ideal. A definite play at the current odds.
4. Curlin–Making only his 5th career start, Curlin remains somewhat of an uncertainty. His distant 3rd place finish after a rough trip in the Derby prompted many to jump off the bandwagon, but this is not a 20 horse field. He’s still an extremely powerful colt with plenty of speed, and I don’t know how you can leave him off a trifecta ticket. His meager experience is glaring, but so are his results.
5. King of the Roxy–After getting clipped at the wire by Tiago in the Santa Anita Derby, Pletcher immediately pointed this colt for Pimlico. With a month to train for a specific race, there’s really no excuse for him to throw in a dud. He proved he was more than a sprinter at Santa Anita, and he gets the red hot Garrett Gomez in the reigns. More amazing: this colt was purchased for a mere $8,000 as a yearling; a Kia that runs like a Jaguar, not bad.
6. Flying First Class–If there’s one certainty in this race, it’s that this guy will be the pace setter. How fast he’s forced to go remains to be seen. Sometimes, a rabbit is allotted the lead to the extent that he’s able to put it in cruise. If that’s the case, he could be a factor, but there’s just too much other speed in here to think he’ll have much left in the stretch. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is a Preakness master, and his romp in the Derby Trial earlier this month suggests he can go the distance, but is he fresh enough to do it again? Worth a look, but would be a surprise.
7. Hard Spun–Ran his eyeballs out in nearly wiring the Derby field, and with Flying First Class to his inside, should be able to slide right in underneath him. Detractors will say he ran too fast in the Derby to be fresh two weeks later, but this is a classy colt with plenty of leg. With a jockey (Pino) who knows this course as well as Calvin Borel knows Churchill, it’s hard to envision him not being there at the end. Might be exhausted, but might be ready to explode too.
8. Street Sense–Not much needs to be said here: he was the best as a 2yo, and continues to be at 3. His Derby effort was nothing short of astounding, closing from 19th place at the ¼ pole to rout his rivals, maybe breaking a sweat along the way. His recent work late last week shows he’s still in top form, and maybe, just maybe, has room to improve. Scary thought. The hope of the industry rests on his shoulders, and the best part about it, he has no idea.
9. CP West–Lightly raced, but very consistent…and expensive ($425,000 as a yearling). Trainer Nick Zito didn’t come here just for the crab cakes and pageantry, and his robust odds are enticing. He’s 0-2 as a 3 year old, but I think he’s yet to show his best stuff, and Edgar Prado aboard is a plus. If you’re looking for a price to bust up the chalk, this might be it.
1. Street Sense
3. Hard Spun
4. CP West