The forecast is not promising for this year’s second leg of the triple crown. There is one horse in the 11 horse field who is doing an “exaggerated” rain dance. First, we will take a look at a salty undercard stakes race the Sir Barton, where Winstar’s Gettysburg looks to score his first stakes win. This $100,000 stakes sandwiched between two graded stakes came up quite tough, drawing a full field of 14. Gettysburg ran a great race in the Arkansas Derby where he did all the dirty work pushing the front runner Cupid through very fast fractions. He still managed to hold for a very creditable fifth place, the only horse close to the front end who was still around close to the wire. Unfortunately, Gettysburg drew the far outside post number 14, he likes to do his best running up front. Johnny V’s will have no choice but to send him from the gate and try to clear the whole field going into the first turn.
It looks on paper that Gettysburg’s main competition will come the highly touted American Freedom and Dazzling Gem. Dazzling Gem is coming out of two Kentucky Derby Prep races, most recently the Arkansas Derby where Gettysburg also ran. In that race Dazzling Gem sat much more off the pace than he did in his other races, he ended up only 3/4 of a length ahead of Gettysburg there. He has not run on an off track in his short career yet but looking at his breeding being by Misremembered and out of a Vindication mare, he has a very high wet track number. If he breaks well he should be able to lay a stalking trip and have a lot to say at the end of this race.
American Freedom was one of the most talked about horses during Derby week. This was represented when he went off the very heavy favorite in the Pat Day Mile off only a maiden win. Bob Baffert showed his hand before this horses first race which was the last race of the day on Santa Anita Derby day, when the track was a sloppy mess. This colt posted a gaudy 98 beyer when he won his first race and Baffert liked him enough to throw him to the wolves in his second start in a Grade 3. He did not have the best break and was forced wide, this would be alot for any colt to overcome in his second start let alone in a graded stakes race on the Derby undercard. He tried hard and got tired down the lane on an extremely speed favoring racetrack. Remember, Sharp Azteca who won the Pat Day Mile was one of the most impressive performances all day. For Baffert to come back in two weeks with this colt shows you how much confidence he has in him, before his first race he told the media this was his Belmont Stakes horse, plus if the track is sloppy like it very well could be we know he is a “mudder”
If American Freedom lives up to the hype, and Baffert is too good and has trained too many good ones to be this vocal about this colt, then he may just blow out this field. It is all going to come down to the break for Gettysburg, as long as he breaks well and can get good position going into the first turn he should have every chance to run a big one. This will be another test for Dazzling Gem to see if he will be a competitive stakes horse this summer, the connections thought about entering into the Preakness but opted for this spot instead, understandable. Also, keep an eye on Kingslayer, offspring of Ghostzapper absolutely love the off going and he did win by 12 lengths two races back in the slop.
Picks: American Freedom, Gettysburg over Dazzling Gem and Kingslayer
For the Preakness, I have a feeling we are going to see an Affirmed/Alydar or Easy Goer/Sunday Silence rivalry beginning between Exaggerator and Nyquist. Of course the Exaggerator connections are hoping for a wet track because of his performance in the Santa Anita Derby. I don’t think the wet track was the only factor that moved him up. I believe it more of the connections figuring out exactly how to ride the horse, in the San Felipe it was the first time they took the horse back and made one run, he made a big move and flattened out down the lane. The Desormeaux brothers used the same tactics in the Santa Anita Derby and he blew the field away and in the Derby he made the same big move and ran just as big on a fast dry track. I wouldn’t be so sure that a wet track wouldn’t move Nyquist up either, being a speed horse he may really like a wet track.
All the experts said there was no speed in the Derby, then they set a 45 for the half and 1:35 for the mile, and the finishing time was almost a second faster than last years final time. Now, all the experts believe there is an abundance of speed in the Preakness, this is usually when all the jockeys take back and someone gets loose on the lead, a la Oxbow, but the horse who would be loose on the lead this time would be the champ Nyquist, I don’t think any of the 10 other connections want to see that happen. There are only two other horses who I think could have an impact on the outcome they would be Stradivari and Lani. Stradivari is another horse who has an immense amount of talent, which he has shown in his last two blowout wins, but his wide post draw and lack of experience won’t be in his best interest. It is alot to ask of a horse to make his first stakes appearance in the Preakness Stakes, but if he is as good as the Pletcher camp believe maybe he is the fresh horse who could upset the field. I also think Lani ran a really good race in the Derby, while going very wide the whole way around, I think he could fill some of the spots underneath, especially with many horses looking to be pressing the pace.
Picks: Nyquist and Exaggerator over Lani and Stradivari