Ok, by show of hands, who had the 5-17 exacta in the Kentucky Derby (besides Wes Welker)? Yeah, me neither. So, let's try this again. In a race plagued by bumping and crowding, CALIFORNIA CHROME avoided trouble at all calls. And the speed duel that was expected never materialized, allowing the favorite to lay just off a soft pace, range up, and cruise home while being wrapped up over the final 1/16th mile. It was an impressive performance that added another chapter to an already inspiring, rags-to-riches Hollywood story. Yet, this performance was not without its detractors.
Much is being made about the 97 Beyer Speed Figure for CC, the lowest such figure for any Kentucky Derby OR Preakness winner, ever. Furthermore, the final time of 2:03.66 was the slowest Derby on a track labeled "fast" since 1974 (CANNONADE). The neigh-sayers (get it?) contend that he was simply the best of a weak crop of 3 year-olds and got the cleanest trip in a race where the pace dynamics worked out perfectly in his favor. To these folks, the 3/5 morning line (bullseye) placed on CC is borderline laughable..... READ MORE.....
On the other side of the coin, consider that of the 19 Kentucky Derby runners, 15 of them regressed from their prior race's Beyer figure. Two others ran the same as their prior race and the final two improved marginally off of comparatively low figures. And while pace was certainly a factor, conditions almost certainly contributed to the slow times. The Derby was run an astounding 2 1/2 hours after the previous dirt race and, prior to a light coating after the walkover, the track hadn't been watered in almost 2 hours at post time. A dry track, combined with a moderate temperature and stiff headwind (in the homestretch) could certainly account for the slow time and low speed figures. Plus, the victor was clearly geared down into the finish line, giving up a few tenths of a second in the process.
It's my opinion that CALIFORNIA CHROME passes the "sight test" for his Kentucky Derby win. If you managed to avoid having one (or five) too many mint juleps before post time, you would have seen that CC cruised comfortably just off the lead, while the frontrunners (on a slow pace) were more maxed out in their efforts. As a result, the rabbits had nothing in the tank coming out of the turn and all it took from the winner was a mild 3-wide move and a strong gallop to the finish line. And as for the time...remember that you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other guy. Why should he be knocked for doing everything (and only) what he needed to do to win the race?
Taking all of these factors into account, the 138th running of the Preakness will present the same types of handicapping difficulties as the race has in year's passed. Specifically, how do you find value in a race where one horse appears superior to the others and is projected to run at near-prohibitive odds? For the vast majority of the viewing public, the Kentucky Derby is the entirety of their sample size when handicapping the Preakness and everyone wants to root for the prospect of a Triple Crown winner. If you believe that CC is the real deal (I do), then you'll have to swallow you're pride and deal with the fact that you're going the same direction as everyone else (sort of like the market).
Finally, whereas every Kentucky Derby entrant is racing against every other horse in the race, the Preakness often turns into an all-against-one competition. The jockey colony can, and will, make things as difficult as possible for the Derby winner, which in this case will likely mean pushing the pace as fast as possible (and there are a number of runners capable of doing just that). However, what distinguishes CALIFORNIA CRHOME is his ability to rate and relax at cruising speeds, while still having a closing kick when asked. I believe that this will make the difference in the race. While I'm listing my exacta/trifecta ideas here, I think the play is also to use the surrounding races in Daily Doubles/Pick 3s. You'll get better value there than on the single-race exotics and that's what Preakness Day is all about (that, and laughing at Baltimore).
Advice from our resident Horseman:
1) CALIFORNIA CRHOME 3
2) SOCIAL INCLUSION 8
**(WILL BE BOXING IN AN EXACTA/TRIFECTA)
3) GENERAL A ROD 2
LONG SHOT – KID CRUZ 7
**(DEEP CLOSER ON THE UPSWING IS THE ONLY HORSE TO WIN
AT PIM, WILL GET STIFF PACE TO RUN AT)
KEY FACTS & FIGURES
The Preakness Stakes winner is draped in a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, the state flower of Maryland (also the official whiskey-based drink of The Preakness)
The highest number of winners (16) have come from the # 6 post (RIA ANTONIA this year)
Only one horse (KID CRUZ) has raced at Pimlico. He won that race.
Since 1932, the Kentucky Derby winner has gone on to win the Preakness 22 times (5 times since 2002). The most recent to do so was I'LL HAVE ANOTHER in 2012.
Over the last 12 years, 8 Kentucky Derby favorites have returned to finish either 1st or 2nd in the Preakness.
72 out of 138 Preakness winners lifetime have been bay-colored horses (52%)
The weather forecast for race time is 68 F and partly cloudy with a 0% chance of rain
Officially, the Port-a-Potty dash has been banned by Pimlico officials. Word is that the time-honored tradition endures in unsanctioned form. The music committee has softened their program since last year (Pitbull and Macklemore), bringing in the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls, Lorde, and Counting Crows for the 2014 InfieldFest. The Bikini Content will be held on the Jägermeister Second Stage this year. Not making that up....
Remember, these are just our thoughts and are in no way an endorsement to wager on these horses (or to wager, period). Good luck and enjoy!