The Preakness potentially will offer wagering relief to those who, like me, didn’t pick the Kentucky Derby correctly. Historically, the Preakness is by far the most formful race in the Triple Crown.
The primary reason has more to do with common sense than handicapping skill. Typically, half of the Preakness field consists of horses exiting the Derby. The other half is new to the Triple Crown. The Derby horses are usually more talented and, as a group, if they run true to form – voila! – a formful result.
Looking at the 11 Preakness horses in Saturday’s field at Pimlico, this division is even more striking. There are five new horses, all with morning line odds of 15-1 and up. On paper, they are too slow to pull off an upset.
The morning-line favorite is Bodemeister (8-5), who ran second in the Derby to I’ll Have Another (5-2). This isn’t unusual for the Derby winner to not be favored in the Preakness. Many experts feel Bodemeister ran a better race in defeat than I’ll Have Another did in victory. That might be true.
Others believe that Bodemeister will have an easier lead at Pimlico than he did at Churchill two weeks ago. Again, that might happen. But I am projecting mitigating factors that could make a repeat race by Bodemeister difficult.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt has run three very fast races in a row in the San Felipe, Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. If he does run back to those quick speed figures, he will win the Preakness.
However, the short rest – three races in five weeks – might make a fourth straight fast race too taxing for him.
I’ll Have Another, on the other hand, has had his races well spaced by trainer Doug O’Neill. He had nine weeks off between wins in the Robert Lewis and the Santa Anita Derby. Then it was four more weeks to the Kentucky Derby.
For my money, I’ll Have Another has a better chance of repeating his Derby race, and possibly improving, in the Preakness.
There are others with a fighting chance to upset the top pair. Trip handicappers are in love with Went the Day Well (6-1), who was a fast-closing fourth in the Derby. He had a miserable trip at Churchill and was clearly running fastest of all at the end.
Others respect Creative Cause (6-1), who might be the forgotten horse among the contenders. At Santa Anita, Creative Cause beat Bodemeister in the San Felipe and lost by a nose to I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby. If you love the top two, how can you toss this one out?
Finally, Daddy Nose Best (12-1) was the wiseguy horse in the Derby. He never did get untracked. But now he is reunited with regular rider Julien Leparoux.
■ MY PICKS – I’ll Have Another, Creative Cause, Bodemeister, Went the Day Well.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.