Mike Somich’s Early Look at the Preakness

After one of the closest finishes in Kentucky Derby history, we move forward to the Preakness with the second jewel of the triple crown up for grabs at Pimlico. The Preakness is always an interesting handicap, and this year is no different. You have the stalwarts from the Kentucky Derby coming back on two weeks rest to take on a variety of new shooters who are rested and waiting. Let’s take an early look at the field now that we’ve drawn.

#5 Mystik Dan – We will start with the Derby winner, who drew well in the 5 post. While Muth has speed just to his inside, he’s likely to be ahead of Mystik Dan going into the first turn. The three other horses to his inside lack speed, which should set up another good rail trip for the Derby champ. He rode the rail to victories in the Derby and Southwest, so expect Brian Hernandez Jr to try to work out the same trip here in the Preakness. While the pace projects to be significantly slower than two weeks ago, there still is enough speed signed on to create a positive setup and Mystik Dan is the only horse in the field who has run two 100+ Beyers Speed figures.

 

Those are the positives; the negative is going to be price. Can he win, of course, should he be 5/2, definitely not. This will be the shortest price he has ever broken from the gate at in a stakes race and half of the price he was in the Arkansas Derby, where Muth beat him by six lengths. Dan’s trip wasn’t great that day, but it’s tough to take him at half the price, on short rest, while having to overcome that many lengths.

#4 Muth/#9 Imagination – The two Bob Baffert trainees will get a lot of love in this race, and for good reason. Muth should be your favorite when the break from the gate and would have been in contention for favoritism if he was allowed to run in the Derby.

He’s been lightly raced as a 3-year-old with just two starts, both wins, but he has the advantage here since this was the triple crown race he has been pointing toward all year. He has only lost twice in his career and never missed the exacta. He drew extremely well and should break forwardly and then decide how he wants to proceed, be it on the pace or sitting right behind the main speed to his outside while saving ground. I’ve already played him at +180 in a fixed odds market and would expect him to go off shorter than 8/5 on race day.

Imagination is the more unpredictable of the two Bafferts. He’s got more speed than his stablemate and will make the lead if he wants it. Since he drew all the way on the outside, that seems to be his most likely path to victory. His Santa Anita Derby was a step back from a hard-fought win in the San Felipe, but Stronghold, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, did run well in the Kentucky Derby, so there are some things to like.

Fourth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, #3 Catching Freedom, will run back and need a quicker pace to develop to have a shot at the top spot. I do like the shorter field for him, 20 horses with the 4 post was always going to be a problem in the Derby, and plan on using him underneath here.

#7 Just Steel also runs back. He was disappointing at Churchill where he surprisingly pressed the early pace and quit. He’s another that you have to consider in your trifectas.

New shooter #8 Tuscan Gold enters the races as the most lightly raced horse. Trainer Chad Brown has had success in previous years with horses training up to the Preakness and we will try to do so again with Tuscan. He ran a good third to Catching Freedom on the Louisiana Derby which was his first time trying stakes company.

Long shot #2 Uncle Heavy is one to keep an eye on as well. At 20-1 on the morning line, there are some things to like. He upgrades to Irad Ortiz Jr in the saddle, is running second off the layoff, and coming off an impossible trip in the Wood Memorial, where he was wide every step of the way and broke poorly.

While the Preakness does not offer the same massive upside the Derby can, this year’s event is a very good betting race if you are against either Mystik Dan or Muth. Since I am, I am looking forward to Saturday!

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