• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
`ONLY 7 TACKLE JUSTIFY IN 143RD PREAKNESS STAKES
By Anil Mukhi
Friday 18 May 2018
Anil Mukhi

It’s a fortnight after the 144th Kentucky Derby and thus time for the second leg of the American Triple Crown, the $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes. To be run on Saturday, May 19th at 6:48 p.m. Eastern time (4:18 a.m. on Sunday, May 20th, in India), it will be contested on the tight oval of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, a comfortable drive from the US Capital, Washington, D.C. Popularly known as “Old Hilltop”, the track is facing hard times and needs a $250 million upgrade – an expense which seems hard to justify.

With global warming, there has been a consequent upswing in the erratic nature of weather conditions, and the East of the US has been particularly hard hit of late by severe thunderstorms and heavy rain. The current forecast anticipates more rain on Saturday to add to the slush produced by the significant precipitation in Baltimore during the week. Hence the ground is likely to be a repeat of the glutinous slop that greeted the twenty starters in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Kentucky a couple of weeks ago.

A compact field of 8 has been declared for the Preakness and the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of the Kentucky Derby winner, Justify (by Scat Daddy). For a start, in all his four lifetime starts he has asserted an air of superiority; then, he showed that he could cope with an “off” track, gliding effortlessly over it; next, he represents the Bob Baffert stable which has never lost a Preakness Stakes with a Kentucky Derby winner – Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah all repeated – and finally, he is faced with scant opposition.

His trainer summed it up succinctly: “Not only does he have the talent, but he has the will to win,” he said. “For him, what he’s done in such a short period — it will be his fifth race in 13 weeks — it’s just incredible how tough he is.”

Is it all over, then? Should one just take the half-money odds and sit back and watch? Herein lies the charm of horse racing – anything can happen. Justify had a scare the day after his Derby triumph when visibly lame in his left hind. Remedial measures have been taken and the trainer insists that all is well – but one never knows, does one, until the heat is on? Then there is the question of “bounce” – will it prove to be a case of taking the pitcher to the well once too often? There are also the possibilities of a slow break or a troubled trip.

However, the wide draw – he was allotted stall no. 7 – likely won’t have any effect. Being almost the bookend in the starting gate means Mike Smith can look to his left and size up the pace before worming his way closer to the rail. Logically, he should then draw away in the straight.

Last year Chad Brown surprised in the Preakness Stakes with Cloud Computing, who has been fairly anonymous in his three starts since. This time around, his representative is Good Magic (by Curlin), who appears to be made of sterner stuff than his year-older stablemate. The champion 2-year-old colt in North America last year, Good Magic was runner-up to Justify in the Kentucky Derby and will be aiming to bridge the 2-1/2 lengths deficit. With Jose Ortiz aboard, the chestnut is a 3 to 1 chance, and realistically speaking constitutes the sum and substance of the challenge to the favourite. 

Six others are in the fray, of which D. Wayne Lukas’s Bravazo (by Awesome Again), and Tom Amoss’s Lone Sailor (by Majestic Warrior), finished in the ruck in the Kentucky Derby. Both get new riders in Luis Saez and Irad Ortiz, Jr., but that is insufficient reason to feel that they can turn the tables here and their odds (20 to 1 and 15 to 1 respectively) reflect that.

Every Preakness Stakes sees some so-called “new shooters” who attempt to gun down the favourites. Just 8 such horses have succeeded in the past half century or so, including the afore-mentioned Cloud Computing last year. The best of this lot in this year’s field appears to be the 12 to 1 Quip (by Distorted Humor), schooled by Rodolphe Brisset. Though in a different barn, this colt shares a number of his owners with the favourite. He had enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby but bypassed that event for a shot here. The in-form Florent Geroux takes the reins on the 12 to 1 chance.

Diamond King (by Quality Road) comes off a victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes, run at nearby Laurel Park four weeks ago. Trained by John Servis, who handled Smarty Jones in 2004, he will enjoy the services of Javier Castellano and could provide some value in the exotic bets. Sporting Chance (by Tiznow), another from the Lukas barn, was a leading two-year-old last term when the won the Gr.1 Hopeful Stakes. From 4 starts in 2018, his best has been a place in the Gr.3 Southwest Stakes, so Luis Contreras will somehow have to find more. His future appears to lie at shorter distances.  Tenfold (by Curlin) has won twice from 3 starts for Steve Asmussen, who sent out both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra to Preakness victories. That will give encouragement to his supporters. However, he’ll have to make tenfold improvement to be able to emulate his sire. Ricardo Santana, Jr., will be his pilot. Each member of this trio will start at odds of 20 to 1 or higher.

Here is the field:

143rd Preakness Stakes

Purse: $1,500,000. For Three-Year-Olds. One and three-sixteenth miles at Pimlico.

Card No.

Draw No.

Runner Name

Sire

Jockey

Trainer

Expected Odds

1

1

Quip

Distorted Humor

F Geroux

R Brisett

12/1

2

2

Lone Sailor

Majestic Warrior

I Ortiz, Jr.

T M Amoss

15/1

3

3

Sporting Chance

Tiznow

L Contreras

D W Lukas

30/1

4

4

Diamond King

Quality Road

J Castellano

J C Servis

30/1

5

5

Good Magic

Curlin

J L Ortiz

C C Brown

3/1

6

6

Tenfold

Curlin

R Santana, Jr.

S M Asmussen

20/1

7

7

Justify

Scat Daddy

M E Smith

B Baffert

1/2

8

8

Bravazo

Awesome Again

L Saez

D W Lukas

20/1