The more I look at this race, the more confused I get. It is far from a clear cut race – I could make a case for as many as nine horses of the 13 to win it (I’d leave out Luv Gov, Flying Private, Tone It Down and Take The Points, though of those the last is by far the most compelling). Let’s take a good look at the field, and then I’ll construct a superfecta ticket for kicks.
Rachel Alexandra – This is where it has to begin. I’ve been very impressed with this filly and I am very glad that she is being given a chance here. That being said, I won’t be picking her. I laid out a lot of the reasons I won’t back her yesterday, but mostly it just comes down to the price – she is a massive underlay at 8/5, and I expect her to be lower than that by post time. The pace scenario doesn’t set up well for her, either. Big Drama will be able to get to the lead from the outside, and he is fast. Even if she can get up to the lead from the outside then I think the ensuing duel up front could burn out everyone participating in it. If she was at 5/1 then she’d be hard to pass up, but at this price I’ll look elsewhere for the winner.
Mine That Bird – I generally have a rule – I have to have a very good reason to bet against the Derby winner in the Preakness. That’s mostly emotional – I want nothing more than a Triple Crown winner, and I don’t want to jinx it. Right after the Derby I was pretty sure I would break my rule – this didn’t seem like a worthy horse. The more I have watched the Derby race and seen how he has come out of it, though, the more I change that opinion. Even if you take away the rail bias at Churchill that horse had an incredible last quarter mile. He’s come out of the race extremely well, and he’s training great. This race should set up well for him, too – there will be lots of pressure at the front to start, and that opens it up for late closers. There is also a good chance that the track will be wet again in the Preakness, and he obviously likes that. For better or for worse, I think that this horse is for real, and I think he presents decent value at 6/1.
The rest of the field – Big Drama should be ahead at the first call. He’s the fastest horse in the field and he’s well positioned in the gate. I just don’t think he has what it takes to last, though. He’s coming off a long layoff, and he hasn’t had nearly enough seasoning this year to be ready here. Pioneerof The Nile is the real deal. He was my Derby horse and I have no regrets about that. I just don’t quite know where he fits into this pace scenario. I expect him to take a piece at the end, but perhaps not on top. Same goes for Musket Man – a horse I respect and who could get a piece, but not first. General Quarters is a factor, but not a winning one. Friesan Fire was a horse I didn’t like in the Derby and I don’t see how he possibly moves forward off that performance. If he finishes any better than third he’ll beat me. Terrain has the same running style as Mine That Bird, and that should be to his favor in this race. He could factor in, though not as a winner. Papa Clem is another nice contender. He could hit the board, but I have a hard time seeing him win.
Superfecta – For kicks, let’s take a shot at the super with a $300 budget. It paid $577,000 in the Derby, so it’s worth a try. I’ll start with just two horse on top – the king and the queen. On the next level, those two will be joined by Musket Man, Pioneerof The Nile, and Papa Clem. I’ll add in Terrain, Big Drama, and Friesan Fire in level three, and add in General Quarters to finish fourth. That would cost $288, so I’ll put the last $12 on a $6 exacta box with the Derby winner and the filly.