- Like Now (Jules) is more than a one-dimensional speed horse. He’s shown the ability to throttle down his speed and conserve energy for the latter stages of races. He wasn’t taken seriously in the Gotham, was allowed to set a slow pace, and finished up in 30 4/5 for the last 2 ½ furlongs. In the Lexington, Like Now was engaged every step of the way, exchanged bumps in the stretch, but still showed grit to hang on for second behind the very highly-regarded Showing Up. He has a freshness advantage over the Derby horses, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin feels that he’s on the upswing. “He has just improved and improved. Everything is there. He's ready and raring to go." [Pittsburghlive.com] Many feel he’s not up to the task of winning the Preakness, including Gary Stevens, who told the Washington Post that “he's in a different league. I don't think he has a chance." I don’t totally disagree with that assessment, but I do think he’s going to give anyone who tries to pass him, including Brother Derek, enough of a fight to be a big factor in this race.
I’ve had a difficult time getting a handle on Brother Derek (Benchmark). He’s supposed to be an early speed type, but he’s never shown blazing early speed, at least not in the first half miles. Running on the fast California tracks, he’s set or tracked some relatively dawdling paces; his strength has been his persistence – his ability to crank out 24 second or so quarters throughout. We saw that in the Derby when he rallied for 4th despite being taken completely out of his comfort zone. Brother Derek galloped over the Pimlico track yesterday and Dan Hendricks said that “he handled [it] just fine, like he's handled every other track he's been on.” [Thoroughbred Times] I believe that he’ll be tracking Like Now around the first turn, and that he’ll have his hands full with that rival down the backstretch. He should have the lead turning for home, but will he have enough left?
The bettors in the Philly area can’t wait to get their money down on Barbaro (Dynaformer). Eager beavers showed up yesterday at the Brandywine Turf Club in Concordville, but they had to be turned away. He’s even money in the morning line, but will likely be lower than that come post time. There’s been a lot of talk about the two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness, but this was the plan all along, to have a fresh horse for the Triple Crown. As Andy Beyer points out, Barbaro may be sharper than ever after the short rest. [Washington Post] This is a big strong horse and a magnificent physical specimen, and my personal opinion is that those that are hoping he will bounce will be sorely disappointed.
Sweetnorthernsaint (Sweetsouthernsaint) is the one I’m going to stand against in order to try and create some kind of value in the exotics. His wins have come against minor competition, and in the Illinois Derby, which was an impressive performance no doubt, especially with his strong closing furlong of 12 1/5. But he couldn’t possibly have had an easier trip that day, stalking those slow fractions before drawing away in the stretch against second stringers (at best). As in the Derby, the pace scenario works against him. He won’t have the lead, and we’ve seen no indication that he can pass horses in the stretch. And Dave Litfin in the Form does a good job putting his middle move up the rail in the Derby into better perspective.
Notably, that slow second half [50.95 seconds] allowed Brother Derek to stay within range of the first flight despite racing wide, and meant Sweetnorthernsaint's middle move was not the herculean effort it first appeared.Let the late money pour in; I’m standing against him this time.
Bernardini (AP Indy) is a wild card, making just his 4th lifetime start and his first around two turns. He has tons to prove, especially if you consider that his win in the Withers was accomplished against just three others of questionable quality; and trainer Tom Albertrani seems realistic about his chances when he says: "Even if he runs a credible race, we'll be pleased." [USA Today] Still, he could add some juice to the pace as thereby play a role in the outcome.
On first glance, Diabolical seems to have a pure sprinting pedigree, being by Artax out of a Dayjur mare. But he actually has a fair amount of stamina in his pedigree – his second dam is the Roberto mare Wings of Grace, a multiple graded turf stakes winner, he’s inbred to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, and has a dosage index of 2.25. He’s also shown some high speed in the past, leading the Nashua last year (eventually won by Bluegrass Cat) through six furlongs in 1:09 2/5. Nice colt for Steve Klesaris, and though I don’t expect that he’ll finish in the money, he’s another one that could contribute to the pace.
My mom bet on Platinum Couple (Tale of the Cat), because she knows someone whose brother-in-law is trainer Joe Lostritto’s son Glenn. Or something like that. No, I didn’t try to talk her out of it. Lostritto is a guy who’s been around; he keeps his horses on his farm on Long Island, and is a one man breeding/training/owning show. He always shows a low win percentage, but Joe Drape takes a closer look in the NY Times today, and he's a pretty interesting and not so unsuccessful story.
Lostritto persevered and prospered in the rough-and-tumble waste management business, survived a life-threatening aneurysm in 1991 and, as an accidental horseman, became proficient enough to train the horses that he breeds in New York into money makers.So I’ll stick him into the third spot just because it’s a nice story, and because my mom will be happy.
Last year, he sent out 121 starters and finished in the money 26 percent of the time for purse earnings of more than $467,000.
"For all my dad's been through, just for him to put the saddle on that horse on Saturday will be one of my happiest days," his son Glenn said.
Greeley’s Legacy (Mr. Greeley) has little speed, and not all that much more of a closing kick; but he’s clearly the best of the longshot plodding types. The presence of Hemingway’s Key (Notebook) here is inexplicable, so he doesn't even get bold type.
Not much of a betting race for me. I’ll go easy and use Barbaro on top of some triples with Like Now and Brother Derek, and throw in some others – Bernardini, Greeley’s Legacy and Platinum Couple in for third.
- Before you go to the windows, I thought it might be instructive to take a look at my record on this blog in Triple Crown races. Last year I picked Bellamy Road to dominate the Derby (7th); Closing Argument in the Preakness (said I: If he continues to improve he could blow them away) (9th, and has never run again), and (gulp) Chekov in the Belmont. And then I started off this year with Bob and John in the Derby (17th). Just thought you’d like to know. There’s full disclosure for you.