The Triple Crown ain’t what it used to be. For decades, it was a series in which the best three year old horses faced off in three classic races spread over five weeks. But racing has changed. Trainers don’t run their horses as much as they used to and most loathe running horses on short rest. While racing has changed, the schedule of the Triple Crown races has not. The Preakness is run a mere two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes three races after that. The schedule is as outdated as baseball was before it banned the shift and introduced the pitch clock.
The upshot is that only one horse that ran two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby is in Saturday’s Preakness. That’s the Derby winner, Mage, who is primarily running because the only way to win the Triple Crown is to win all three races. Every one of the other 18 Derby horses is absent from the Preakness, including the horses that scratched before the Derby was even run.
A modest fix would be to add an extra week between the Derby and the Preakness but that wouldn’t accomplish much. Trainers just aren’t going to run top horses without at least a month between races, at least not in the United States. My suggestion is to keep the Derby on the first Saturday in May, move Baltimore’s Preakness to the first Saturday in June and New York’s Belmont Stakes to the first Saturday in July. It makes a lot of sense but change in horse racing can take forever. This year’s Preakness mess might speed things up.
Messed up or not, you can still bet on the Preakness. You may recall, and if you don’t I’m reminding you, that last year I PICKED THE PREAKNESS SUPERFECTA COLD!!! I nailed the top four finishers in EXACT ORDER 1-2-3-4. Unfortunately, First Mission had been my strong pick to win the race until he was scratched. The remainder of the field is very mediocre and, by default, I’m ending up in betting bed with the infernal white-haired charlatan from California and his horse who will be the race’s “lone speed.” My plays on this race are only mild opinions
#1 National Treasure—Trainer Bob Baffert is banned from Churchill Downs and thus, the Kentucky Derby, but he’s not banned anywhere else and he has a legitimate contender to win the Preakness which the old cheat has done an amazing seven times. This is a serious horse who has run with the best in California. He has natural speed and Baffert is adding blinkers, which usually enhances a horse’s early speed. There is no doubt the plan here is to try to win the race wire-to-wire. Not only is National Treasure likely to be in front, he might be way out front and has a chance to simply run away from everybody else.
#2 Chase the Chaos—The longest shot in the field, this horse has been an also ran when facing top California horses.
#3 Mage—I was sure surprised this horse won the Derby. He’s only the third horse ever to win who didn’t race as a two year old and didn’t seem to have the seasoning needed to win. But he not only won but powered away in the stretch in an extremely impressive performance. It was by far the best race that any horse in this field has ever run. But the question of his inexperience is still there and you have to wonder if he will regress on the type of short rest trainers hate to run horses on. On the other hand, the majority of horses that run big in the Derby come back to run big in in the Preakness. If he wins here, he will be in three weeks one of the more unlikely candidates to sweep the Triple Crown.
#4 Coffeewithchris—This is a local Maryland-based horse trained by a guy with a history of bringing in longshots. But the trainer has never won a race like this one. The horse is very consistent and runs well in races about two notches lower than this one. He does have tactical speed and I think he may be running second in the early stages behind National Treasure.
#5 Red Route One—He comes from way, way, WAAAAAAAAY back. This is an improving horse with lots of experience coming off a win in a lesser stakes in Arkansas. But his closing style is not well suited to the pace scenario in this year’s Preakness. The trainer and the jockey are among the best in the country.
#6 Perform—After losing his first five races, he’s won two in a row against lesser competition but he’s clearly improving and is trained by a Hall of Famer. His speed figures are nowhere near fast enough to win the Preakness so he needs to make a major step forward. If you’re looking for a big longshot in a race that won’t have many high priced horses, this might be your guy.
#7 Blazing Sevens—Trainer Chad Brown won the Preakness last year with a horse that skipped the Derby and pointed for the Baltimore race. He’s trying the same thing here. The jockey is the absolute best in America, Irad Ortiz. But Blazing Sevens is a rare Brown-trained horse that hasn’t improved with age. He was one of the top two year olds last year but his two starts this year have been mediocre. He also has a running style that isn’t ideal, coming from well off the pace. But it’s risky to ever ignore a Chad Brown horse and Ortiz has an uncanny ability to make perfect riding decisions during a race.
#8 First Mission—SCRATCHED
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
|#1 National Treasure||4-1|
|#7 Blazing Sevens||6-1|
|#5 Red Route One||10-1|
(in order of preference)
(Adjust bet amounts to fit your budget)
$10 to win place and show on #1 National Treasure ($30)
$3 exacta partial wheel 1 with 3-4-5-6-7 ($15)
$1 exacta partial wheel 3-4-5-6-7 with 1 ($5)
$2 superfecta 1-3-7-5 ($2)
After what I did last year, I have to play that last bet
My opinion in the race is mild as I felt First Mission towered over the field, but alas…….
ONE OTHER RACE
I like a longshot in Race 5 at Pimlico, #7 Amani’s Image (8-1) (no play if race is taken off turf)