Saturday, May 21, 2011

Party Animal? Kegasus and Animal Kingdom Headline Preakness

A full field of of fourteen will contest the $1 Million Preakness Stakes over a mile and three sixteenths at Pimlico on Saturday. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is the 2-1 morning line favourite and will race out of post 11 as he continues his triple crown run. I am on a triple crown run of my own as I correctly selected the Kentucky Derby winner, following up on my Kentucky Derby preview. My Preakness selection can be found at the bottom of this horse-by-horse review.

Animal Kingdom enjoyed his gallops at Fair Hill

Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos

1. Astrology, Mike Smith, Steve Asmussen, 15/1

Why he can win: The son of A.P Indy makes his third start of the form cycle for trainer Steve Asmussen. I have plenty of time for this colt, especially at odds of 15-1. His first start of the year was a grueling nine furlong effort in the Sunland Derby where he was placed very close to quick fractions of 45, 1:10 4/5 and 1:37 1/5 only giving way late to Twice The Appeal - - who was making his third start of the season.

A close inspection of his second-place effort in the Jerome provides that he was bothered during the stretch run of this one-turn stake in the slop but ran on strongly behind a runaway Adios Charlie. The Jerome winner came back to finish second to Alternation in the Peter Pan last weekend. I have a feeling that two turns may be better than one for Astrology. In hindsight, it's quite interesting to read this David Grening piece, Astrology using Jerome as Preakness tightener.

Why he can't win: His pedigree says he'll relish the extra distance, but his form shows he has never won beyond a mile.

Astrology finished second in the Jerome to Adios Charlie

2. Norman Asbjornson, Julian Pimentel, Chris Grove, 30/1

Why he can win: First and foremost, he's a son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet. The Christopher Grove trainee was placed into a good spot at Parx in January winning a route allowance by two and three quarter lengths. After a freshening, NA returned to finish second in the G3 Gotham where he ran close to the pace but was well beaten by Stay Thirsty.

The tactics changed for NA in the Wood Memorial, where he raced from the back of the nine-horse field until the half before squeezing his way through a tightly-packed field approaching the far turn. The colt loomed large turning into the stretch but when Arthur's Tale and Toby's Corner fired past Uncle Mo, NA merely flattened.

Why he can't win: The learning experience in the Wood Memorial was impressive, but there was nothing about his finishes in either stake efforts to suggest he wants more ground to cover.

Norman Asbjornson finishes fourth in the Wood Memorial won by Toby's Corner

3. King Congie, Robby Albarado, Tom Albertrani, 20/1

Why he can win: The versatile fellow boasts a pair of stake wins on the lawn at Calder and Gulfstream this year, complimented by a strong third place effort in the G1 Blue Grass on the Keeneland synthetic. I love that he has a win at nine furlongs and I think it's safe to toss the two dirt sprint losses that started his career, which leaves the question: can this Badge of Silver colt go long on the dirt?

Why he can't win: The chart notes that King Congie drifted through the stretch of his two turf wins and should contain the same note for a wobbly Blue Grass finish. Is the horse green? Is he tiring? Either way, it's wasted lengths he can't afford to lose.

TVG feature on Congie DeVito and his namesake, King Congie

4. Flashpoint, Cornelio Velasquez, Wesley Ward, 20/1

Why he can win: The Pomeroy colt moves to the barn of Wes Ward who has been winning races world wide. He certainly has some speed: the lightly raced Flashpoint broke his maiden in January at first asking sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct in 1:09 and 3/5. His next outing came in the 7F G2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park and he romped by seven over Travelin Man who captured the G2 Swale next out (and failed in the Derby Trial after that). I expect he's going to be sent to the lead in the Preakness.

Why he can't win: It's sure hard to watch the Florida Derby effort and pick him to win the Preakness. His first two-turn effort did not work out as he was pushed wide through the first turn and could not make the lead. Adopting a stalking style, Flashpoint was in position to strike into the far turn sitting third and could not get past Shackleford who is here.

Flashpoint finishes fourth in the Florida Derby won by Dialed In

5. Shackleford, Jesus Castanon, Dale Romans, 12/1

Why he can win: This Forestry fellow refuses to go away. His efforts in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby were massive front-running forays combined with a stubborn refusal to quit down the lane.

Why he can't win: Shackleford got away with a slow pace at Churchill and despite the advantage of the uncontested lead could not hold off Animal Kingdom and Mucho Macho Man. Today, Shack will have to deal with Flashpoint, Astrology and Dance City to lead the parade.

6. Sway Away, Garrett Gomez, Jeff Bonde, 15/1

Why he can win: Four of his five career starts come in graded races. The Jeff Bonde trainee put in his best effort chasing home The Factor in the G2 San Vicente in February with Premier Pegasus two and half lengths behind. Gate issues hurt his chances in the G2 Rebel and his first effort with blinkers on was a bit awkward, moving early to the lead and being passed late. David Grening wrote in the DRF that Bonde will cut the blinkers back for this effort.

Why he can't win: Dan Illman makes the following comment in his DRF blog:

SWAY AWAY isn't the prettiest horse in the race. With his sway back, knee issues (resolved prior to the San Vicente), and lost tooth (gate problem in the Rebel), he looks like he just went ten rounds with Vitali Klitschko. He has some talent and may have moved prematurely when pulling hard in the Arkansas Derby. The colt figures to be racing in midpack under new rider Garrett Gomez.

He may not be pretty, let's just hope the ride isn't as ugly as the Arkansas Derby effort.

Sway Away finishes strong in the San Vicente

7. Midnight Interlude, Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert, 15/1

Why he can win: Draw a line through his Kentucky Derby effort and focus on the rousing stretch run in the Santa Anita Derby. Midnight Interlude was bobbing and weaving down the lane while chasing a game Comma to the Top and still re-rallied to get the call at the wire. The Baffert/Garcia combo won the Preakness last year with Lookin At Lucky.

Why he can't win: The Santa Anita Derby was considered a weakened field.

Midnight Interlude wins the Santa Anita Derby

8. Dance City, Ramon Dominguez, Todd Pletcher, 12/1

Why he can win: Similar to Astrology, there are many reasons to hop on board this long shot. Dance City is making his third start of the form cycle and has demonstrated an ability to win long having broken his maiden at Gulfstream going nine furlongs in January. Pletcher freshened the City Zip fellow following that win and brought him back in a tough allowance tilt to defeat Cal Nation and Bowman's Causeway going a mile on the dirt. Dismissed at odds of 30-1 in the Arkansas Derby, Dance City raced second throughout and held on stubbornly down the lane to finish third keeping Sway Away behind him. The workout tab is sharp with a bullet 5F at CD on May 15th.

Why he can't win: With so many front-running types in the Preakness, it will take a big effort to stay the distance.

9. Mucho Macho Man, Rajiv Maragh, Kathy Ritvo, 6/1

Why he can win: By not believing in Mucho Macho Man, I cost myself a huge score in the Kentucky Derby when the Macho Uno colt rallied to edge Shackleford for third to complete the tri. The June foal might still be growing into himself and that's a scary thought considering he's already a G2 winner (Risen Star). When you watch the replay of the Kentucky Derby it's apparent that MMM was drifting down the lane, costing himself ground and yet, his determination to fight on and nearly nip Nehro for place is inspiring.

Why he can't win: Both Animal Kingdom and Dialed In have bested MMM previously.

Mucho Macho Man rallies for show in the Kentucky Derby

10. Dialed In, Julien Leparoux, Nick Zito, 9/2

Why he can win: With the pace expected to be strong, the Preakness should set up nicely for this deep closer. Dialed In got the better of Shackleford in the Florida Derby with a big late kick and tried the same routine in the Kentucky Derby but had too much to do when double-digit lengths in arrears when the real running started.

Why he can't win: Strong words from Jeremy Plonk for ESPN:
Can he sustain a strong late move in a race of this distance? For all the talk of :46 - :47 seconds the final half-mile in Louisville, that's fine. But remember that he went the first 6 furlongs that day in nearly 1:17, so he should have had something late. If they run 1:11 for six furlongs this year like the past 2 Preakness editions, and Dialed In is running 1:14 and 15 lengths behind, can he deliver that same kind of late pursuit? My suspicion remains "no," and betting him at anything less than 8 or 10-1 to win seems like an underlay.

11. Animal Kingdom, John Velazquez, Graham Motion, 2/1

Why he can win: He won the Kentucky Derby with such a strong late kick that it seems the faster pace today will only help his chances. Trainer Graham Motion reports that Animal Kingdom is training well. He's the king until he isn't.

Why he can't win: You could say he got a perfect trip in the Kentucky Derby. You could also say he drifted out late. I'm not sure I see the horse in here with better form though.

12. Isn't He Perfect, Edgar Prado, Doodnauth Shivmangal, 30/1

Why he can win: The durable fellow has more starts (6) in 2011 than eight of this timid Preakness field have LIFETIME starts.

Why he can't win: He's only won two of his twelve lifetime starts.

13. Concealed Identity, Sheldon Russell, Eddie Gaudet, 30/1

Why he can win: The Smarty Jones gelding is the horse-for-course of the 2011 Preakness. He comes into this event with two wins on the trot at Pimlico including a two-length score in the Tesio last out that earned an 86 Beyer figure

Why he can't win: This is a huge jump in class.

14. Mr. Commons, Victor Espinoza, John Shirreffs, 20/1

Why he can win: Lightly raced (how many times have I used that expression now?) Artie Schiller colt broke his maiden sprinting on the turf in January at Santa Anita and finished third in the Santa Anita Derby in April behind Midnight Interlude. A string of longer works on the tab suggest he's building up stamina for this event. Top trainer John Shirreffs is hitting at a .25 clip.

Why he can't win: He's running away from home for the first time and going longer than previously asked.


There are three horses I can see winning this race: Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man and Dialed In. All three have the ability to close on the expected pace battle.

However, I have this sneaking suspicion that one of Dance City or Astrology is going to work out a stalking trip behind Shackleford and Flashpoint and hit the board at a price. King Congie and Sway Away are both improving types that could put up a better effort today.

1. Animal Kingdom
2. Mucho Macho Man
3. Dance City / Astrology
4. Dialed In / King Congie / Sway Away
5. Kegasus to make a late run across the urinals to complete the Super High Five.

The running of the urinals

Best of luck everyone with your selections this afternoon.

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Congratulations are in order to Woodbine's Emma-Jayne Wilson who won the inaugural $30,000 Female Jockey Challenge on Friday at Pimlico Race Course:

A native of Brampton, Ontario, Wilson finished with 28 points, four more than the Maryland-based Boyce. Hayley Turner, who flew in from England to take part in the competition, was third with 21 points.

In special wagering on the four-race Challenge, Wilson paid $21.80 for the win on a $2 bet. The Wilson-Boyce exacta was worth $108.80.

“I’ve been in a couple of these challenges in the past, and it’s always about the draw. Sometimes, you just get lucky,” said the 30-year-old Wilson. “I got lucky. All my horses got a chance to run, and they all ran big races. I’m excited. It’s pretty cool.”

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Readers who are taking part in the Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge will want to pay attention to the Marine Stakes at Woodbine on Saturday which features top contender Queen'splatekitten.

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Cafe Elektric (GB) J C Jones 115 R L Attfield 6/1
2 Silverleo (KY) J M Campbell 115 G de Gannes 10/1
3 Queen'splatekitten (ON)E R Da Silva115 T A Pletcher 8/5
4 Walker's Landing (KY) P Husbands 115 C C Brown 5/2
5 Bow Bell Reef (ON) Q Welch 115 D Maynard 20/1
6 Oh Canada (ON) L Contreras 117 R P Tiller 3/1

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As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.

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