The 140th Kentucky Derby is officially behind us and it is time to look forward to May 17th and the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes. The Preakness is run at a mile and 3/16 over the dirt at Pimlico racetrack. The Preakness is slightly shorter than the Kentucky Derby distance ran two weeks prior. The environment at Pimlico is like a huge concert and less like the feel around the Kentucky Derby. It is a celebration and a unique event everyone should attend.
Art Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, has closed the door on any doubt. California Chrome will be there to run in an attempt to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Commanding Curve, a closing second in the Kentucky Derby, has been pointed the Belmont Stakes along with third place finisher, Danza.
The rest of the ten horses listed for the Preakness Stakes are Ride on Curlin, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, General a Rod, 11th in the Kentucky Derby, and a group of invaders. Pablo Del Monte, who did not start in the Derby is live and ready to run in the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes according to trainer Wesley Ward.
Other entrants for the Preakness include Social Inclusion (third place finish at the Wood Memorial), Kid Cruz (winner of the Federico Tesio), Bayern (third place finish at the Arkansas Derby), Ring Weekend (winner of the Tampa Bay Derby), Ria Antonia (attempting to be the sixth filly to win the Preakness and only the second since 1924) and Dynamic Impact (winner of the Illinois Derby).
Winning the Kentucky Derby does not always translate into Preakness Stakes success. Let’s take a look at this millennium to provide reference points to this logic. War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), Big Brown (2008), and I’ll Have Another (2012) have all managed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. While Monarchos (2001), Giacomo (2005), Barbaro (2006), Street Sense (2007), Min That Bird (2009), Super Saver (2010), Animal Kingdom (2011) and Orb (2013) could not repeat Derby success in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
There are some key reasons why Derby Winners are not locks for Preakness success. One is blatantly obvious. The Derby winner is coming off of just two weeks of rest. In this day and age it is unheard of to bring top-tier horse back on two weeks rest. Some other Derby starters will make the trip but the reality is there are fresh horses at Pimlico waiting for their chance.
Another is the distance of the race. In 2009, Rachel Alexandra did not run in the Kentucky Derby (she had probably the most impressive Kentucky Oaks performance ever) and was set out at the shorter Preakness distance to do battle with the boys. She unleashed a glorious stretch run that could not be matched.
In 2001, Point Given had made a huge run in the second turn of the Kentucky Derby but flattened out on the way home. Monarchos handled the race and distance better at Churchill but the shorter distance was something it appeared Point Given preferred in the Preakness.
Finally, in the Kentucky Derby there are 20 horses in the starting gate. You just need some level of luck to succeed in the Derby. In Derby 136, Lookin At Lucky, was roughed at the start, bumped in the mix shortly later and was forced to go five wide once making the final turn in an attempt to challenge for Derby victory. The sheer size of the field played into his sixth place finish that day. However, two weeks later, in a twelve horse field with an uncovered run and much better trip he was able to win the Preakness.
Last year I wrote about how high I was on Oxbow heading into the Preakness off of his Kentucky Derby performance. I was rewarded for that thinking. Can it be done again? Anything is possible but before you jump to soon remember the following thoughts. It was an off track in the 139th edition of the Kentucky Derby, Orb passed Oxbow at roughly the distance of the Preakness, and this year California Chrome took complete control turning for home and could have won by a wider margin than the official result.
Is California Chrome going to be the next Triple Crown winner? Will he be the first since 1978? It is way too early to make that call but he does appear to be talented enough to get the job done. Check back after the entrants are final and the post position draw is complete. I will break down, as always, every horse in the race and leave some betting thoughts in an attempt to capitalize on Kentucky Derby success. Remember folks, this is supposed to be fun.