Haskin's Preakness Report: Initial Observations

With Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom not scheduled to arrive at Pimlico until Saturday, the focus was on…well, everyone else.

First, let’s look at the post position draw, which was fairly uneventful. The most interesting aspect of it was the placing of the four speed/pace horses, Flashpoint (post 4), Shackleford (post 5), Midnight Interlude (post 7), and Dance City (post 8).

With all four horses bunched together, Flashpoint, by drawing inside the others, will be the controlling speed, and jockey Cornelio Velasquez will dictate what the others do. Although it was the intention of Peachtree Stable owner John Fort and trainer Wesley Ward to sit back a little and try to settle in the garden spot, the colt likely will have to commit first, and the others will react accordingly.

If Velasquez decides to reel Flashpoint in at the break, then Shackleford and Jesus Castanon should be happy to do an encore of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and dictate the pace, preferably slowing it down as much as possible.

There is also something to be said for the reverse psychology. Shackleford is one horse who has matured both physically and mentally and is now experienced enough to set a faster pace in the Preakness and try to take the others out of their game. If you string out the field and make the others run faster early than they’re used to, you could take away some of their closing punch.

Shackleford has an advantage breaking right outside Flashpoint and clocking him right from the start. The other two who are expected to be close to the pace are Dance City and Midnight Interlude, who trainer Bob Baffert said will be showing more early lick than he did I the Derby and will try to return to the strategy that won him the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). So that is your pace setup.

As for the extreme posts, 1 and 14, if Astrology can break cleanly and sharply coming out of the 1–hole, and not get bothered by Norman Asbjornson in post 2, he actually could have an excellent trip, saving ground right behind the top four. The 3-horse, King Congie, will drop back, so he should not be of any concern. Astrology is more of a long-striding horse than a nimble-footed horse, so he is going to need a little luck easing off the rail.  But remember, Pimlico is a track where you want to save as much as possible, so it could work out well for him.

Mr. Commons has to overcome two obstacles from the outside post. First, Victor Espinoza is going to have to be well prepared at the break and try to prevent the colt from ducking to the outside fence, which often happens, especially at Pimlico, where the outside horse is on the other side of the crown of the track. The second obstacle is the first turn, and you definitely want to try to avoid going too wide on this turn. Therefore, Espinoza is going to need some luck finding open paths to his inside during the long run down the stretch for the first time.

Astrology and Mr. Commons are two of the more handsome colts in the field and made quite an appearance on the track this morning. Astrology has a beautiful alert head and stood for nearly a minute at the barn entrance yesterday staring at the photographers outside the barn and taking in his new surroundings.

There isn’t much to say about Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In, and Animal Kingdom, who all drew well in posts 9, 10, and 11 respectively. Mucho Man Man, who looks to be filling out and finally growing into his 17-hands frame, is the grinder of the field, and if he can put himself into contention earlier than he did in the Derby and try to out-muscle and out-stay his opponents without racing greenly, he could be a formidable presence to deal with down the stretch..

He is a horse who just keeps running his race and seems to have great lung capacity.

Several Preakness horses jogged this morning, their first morning at Pimlico, but of those who galloped, the two who looked most impressive were Midnight Interlude and Shackleford, who also schooled at the gate.

Midnight Interlude, according to trainer Bob Baffert, is sharper now than he was going into the Derby, and looked particularly impressive out there, moving with powerful strides, his head straight and focused, and ears straight up. He is a colt who was packing a great deal of flesh before the Derby, and while he still is, he looks to be more finely tuned.

Shackleford was extremely impressive in his gallops at Churchill Downs and has picked up right where he left off. He covers a great deal of ground and moves with tremendous power and authority. He also has been sharp and on the muscle since arriving, and it is apparent the Derby took very little out of him.

The Derby horses as a whole all seem to have come out of the race in great shape. Mucho Macho Man, as we said, is doing super mentally and physically, and Dialed In is as dappled as ever.

As for Animal Kingdom, his muscle tone is still pronounced and has been galloping with authority over the Tapeta and dirt surfaces at Fair Hill.

So, all in all, from a physical standpoint, we’re dealing with an extremely impressive group of horses.

26 Comments

Leave a Comment:

calico cat

Mr. Haskin,

Great article! I'll re-read it again to make sure I don't miss something really important... but for now, maybe in the second to last paragraph, you meant to say Animal Kingdon, not MI.

19 May 2011 3:43 PM
Griz23

Thanks for the update Steve. I personlly think this race is AK's to lose. Who of the new shooters do you think has the best chance of filling out the exotics, if you felt that Ak was to win?

19 May 2011 5:10 PM
Mike Relva

HELLO STEVE

Thanks for your observations for Preakness. So many here I like difficult to select.

19 May 2011 6:25 PM
Ranagulzion

The Preakness has provided the most epic stretch battles of the Triple Crown series in the past; the most notable ones being Sunday Silence vs Easy Goer (1986), then a three-the-hard-way battle in 1995 with Timber Country vs Oliver's Twist and Thunder Gulch, and more recently, Curlin vs Street Sense (2007).  

This year could produce another epic struggle between Dialed In, Flashpoint, Mucho Macho Man, Animal Kingdom and Shackleford.  It would certainly suit both Flashpoint and Shackleford to dawdle through another slow opening half mile but I think that Rajiv Maragh on Mucho Macho Man will be wiser this time and police the pace along with Dance City.  I expect Dialed In to be closer at the half way stage of the race and outkick Animal Kingdom in the rush for the wire.  Flashpoint is the most dangerous new comer and has the potential to be a fast time runaway winner if he has a clear lead turning for home IMO.

I'm sticking with Dialed In to gain sweet redemption and cop the 5 million bonus for his connections.  He is the kind of horse that I don't see losing two races in a row, however I would not be surprised if any of the aforementioned were to pull it off.

19 May 2011 6:29 PM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your analysis and insights.  Anything and everything is possible at the Preakness.  As you describe them above they all seem primed and ready to go.  I had no idea the MMM was so tall.  Does it take a little while for him to get rolling - like it did Zenyatta?  Is that why he had a nice kick at the end of the Derby?

This crop of three year olds does not seem mediocre to me.  They just seemed to have needed time to come into their own to mature physically and mentally.

As always, I'll accept whoever wins.  All I require is that they come home sound and uninjured.

19 May 2011 7:18 PM
IOWay

What was Midnight Interlude's excuse two weeks ago that would make someone think he is going to turn things around here?

19 May 2011 7:34 PM
Paula Higgins

Nice to see that Mr. Commons looks good. Would love to see John Shirreffs with another winner. Barring that, Mucho Macho Man or Animal Kingdom. Would be very happy for Kathy Ritvo too. I think Mucho Macho Man has a ton of ability and with those lungs, a good chance to win the Belmont too.

19 May 2011 8:36 PM
Bill in Atlanta

Steve

Thanks for the on-site report....especially for those of us that won't be there until Saturday. Your report makes me feel pretty good about my bets. I think MMM and AK will be on the board. And Dialed In has those 5.5 million reasons to be on top. But I think Flash Point has a good chance to go wire to wire, even if his pedigree says otherwise. So Shackleford, Dance City, and Astrology will have to fight it out with the top group.

Please keep the reports coming.

19 May 2011 9:19 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Thank God for Steve, he's our eyes and ears at Pimlico.  I am happy Steve you got to spend some time in Paradise at Fair Hill.  I'm glad the contenders all look well and are in fine shape.  

I will be interested to see Mr. Commons since Artie Schiller, papa, is a grand looking horse.  The speed horses posted together is interesting and I hope Animal Kingdom settles in right behind them ready to pounce to the win.  

Dialed In and Sway Away have one long run, if not timed correctly I don't know. I wish Bloodhorse had its own tv channel so we could watch this stuff all night leading up to the Preakness.  TVG hasn't kicked in yet with a Preakness show.  So what am I doing, reading pedigrees!  I found that way back in Animal Kingdom's pedigree was a horse named High Hat, just like the one in the Marx Bros. movie "A Day At The Races," which incidently was on the week of the Derby but I could not get in to blog to inform anyone.  So, I just named one of Animal Kingdom's future kids, "chapeauxdesanimaux."

That's Animal Hats in French! I hope it's all hats off to Animal Kingdom at Belmont Park while he gets the crown put on his beautiful chestnut head!  Is there really an actual crown representing the 3 races of the Triple Crown and do they get another trophy besides the Belmont one with the horses on the bottom of it if a TC is won?  

19 May 2011 11:56 PM
lam1970

Love the first hand reports on how all the horses look and feel, Mr. Haskin!! This Preakness should be a rather exciting event, as the Preakness usually seems to be. There has been a lot of talk about the pace of the race and how Animal Kingdom (and many others) will fare if the pace is really hot. One thing that has intrigued me with Animal Kingdom is his ability to handle any kind of pace. Watch his past races... he's won on the lead, won from last place, rated just off the lead, the pace has been slow, the pace has been fast, and even the races he finished second in he was always kicking into another gear right at the end. This horse is very impressive! There are tons of reasons to root for the other Derby horses, and I like them all, but I'm very curious to see if Animal Kingdom can do it again!!

20 May 2011 12:04 AM
trackjack

Thanks Steve for your report.  I'll be visiting my grandson out-of-town so will have to catch on TV.  Will box:

 AK, MMM, Shackleford and Concealed Identity for an Ex. with AK to win.  Throwing in Concealed Identity because of his experience over the track, he can get the distance and the way most of the major races have gone this spring, a long shot will not be surprising.  

But in the end I hope AK can repeat and we all can look forward to another TCW at the Belmont.

20 May 2011 7:41 AM
JerseyBoy

Much has been made of the pace in this year's Kentucky Derby. It is mainly a rationalization.

What is overlooked is how fast the entire race was run. The DRF Speed Figure for Animal Kingdom was 99. This means Animal Kingdom was only 1 point off the best time recorded at the distance at the track over the last three years, and the last time I checked the only time that matters is the final time.

Some have pointed out that Dialed In had a fast closing time. Well, he covered the first 6 furlongs in about 1:17. He was supposed to finish fast.

Note however, the horse that was 15th after 6 furlongs finished ahead of Dialed In.

However,I will not bet on this race because Animal Kingdom is drawn wide.

20 May 2011 8:30 AM
Slew

Just because those visions of a TC are still swirling in my dreams, I really want AK to win.  However, I think the handicappers are dismissing a prime winning candidate in Midnight Interlude.  Just because he had a dismal run in the Derby, doesn't mean he should be disregarded as a dangerous contender.  I think he's much better than he ran 2 weeks ago, and Baffert wouldn't have him entered if he didn't think he could win.  He did it last year with LAL...and...Martin Garcia.  It looks as though MI's odds will be high, and without The Factor, the race is as wide open as the Derby was without UM.

20 May 2011 9:20 AM
Runfast159

KY Vet - you probably know all this, but Animal Kingdom is the product of a sire best known as a turf miler - Leroidsanimaux (who's french name by the way means King of the Animals) and he hasn't produced the quantity or quality of runners that Dialed In's sire line has.  In addition to AK, his best known offspring is probably Always A Princess. His mostly european pedigree, while outstanding, isn't that well known or appreciated here in the states. He stands for just $12K at Stonewall, but expect his popularity to soar if AK continues to run well on dirt.

Dialed In is the product of what some people believe are two great American lines: AP Indy on the top and Storm Cat on the bottom.  It's the kind of breeding that can make him a valuable sire himself if he runs well enough on the track.

20 May 2011 10:56 AM
PomDeTerre

KY VET- does your diatribe about these horses' sale prices have a point to it?

20 May 2011 10:59 AM
MikeM

KY-VET  YOUR POINT?

20 May 2011 11:06 AM
PomDeTerre

Can Flashpoint be "reeled in"?  If the connections could train this colt to rate, he could possibly outrun his pedigree, but Shackleford outlasted him in the Fla Derby, so I'd think twice about his ability to win.

What bothers me most in this race is that AK's people are waiting til Saturday to ship.  Considering this horse will see a minimum of 1.5 hours trailer time on the day of the race- and that's barring traffic or other delays with, obviously, no tranq. It's not a decision I'd make if he were my horse.  I'd have shipped him Wed or Thurs, let him settle in and be adjusted to surroundings, rather than run him out of a transient barn, right off the van.  With so much at stake, I can't understand how this decision was made.

20 May 2011 11:11 AM
merlinmerry

Just an interesting bit of history, courtesy of the NTRA:

"On May 13, 1973 Secretariat worked 5 furlongs in :57 2/5 at Pimlico Racecourse in preparation for the May 19 Preakness Stakes.  He was eased after completing his workout distance, but still ran 6 furlongs in 1:10."

20 May 2011 12:09 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks as always for your on site observations, Steve! It is interesting that the speed horses drew post positions close together... I don't know how Animal Kingdom will run second time on dirt or after vanning in the morning of the race, but I just think the finish will involve Shackleford, MMM, and Animal Kingdom in some order.

Runfast159----Your observation about Leroidesanimaux's stud fee rising if AK continues to do well on dirt is a good point. I checked his current fee status right after the Derby and found it to be only $10,000--I doubt it will stay there for much longer.

20 May 2011 12:13 PM
Slew

Well, you have to know I sat right up straight in my chair when I heard this news...my hero....

HRTV will have an Inside Information special...June 5th, 8pm Eastern time on none other than my all time love...SEATTLE SLEW.  Hope you all get to see it...I know I can't wait.

20 May 2011 1:30 PM
Linda in Texas

The closer it gets to race day, the more i tend to listen to my heartstrings. Cannot help but throw my support to Dialed In, whose sire is Mineshaft, by A.P. Indy, who is by Seattle Slew. And on his dam's side, Storm Cat. Gotta go with Dialed In.

Also in the Dixie Stakes would like to see Paddy O'Prado in the winner's circle,i do like the grays.

And would be pulling for Flashpoint in The Preakness if Dialed In wasn't racing.

Hope the Derby Gods are kind to all horses and that they come out of their gates safely and return to their stalls afterward on all fours for a well deserved shower, schnapps and supper!

Cheers everyone, and hope all your horses win their races!

Thanks Steve, you make this very exciting to so many of us who cannot be 1,600 miles away from home to be there.

20 May 2011 1:50 PM
predict

I think we will see Midnight Interlude improve off his Derby run, just because of the jockey switch to Martin Garcia. I have never felt Victor Espinoza was as good a jockey as Martin, and believe we could see a turn around performance from MI. Likewise, expect Victor to place Mr. Commons in a less than desirable position, and completely compromise any chance this colt would have.

20 May 2011 3:39 PM
Alex'sBigFan

PomDeTerre,

I agree, good point, I don't understand the shipping on race day either for Animal Kingdom.  Heck, I was upset Uncle Mo flew just 3 days prior to the Wood.  There must be something to it we don't know, maybe psychologically Motion is leaving AK in the beautiful setting of Fair Hill as long as possible, and maybe the "not acclamating" to a new surrounding is good in some cases prior to a race and AK will be sharper and more focused not processing new information?  I don't know but I sure hope it works.  AK seems incredibly versatile, can win from anywhere, can run on any surface, so hopefully he enjoys the van ride and it's a piece of cake for him too.  Go Animal Kingdom!!!!!!!!

20 May 2011 7:05 PM
Pedigree Ann

Alex's Big Fan, High Hat had the distinction of being bred by Britain's wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill. (I'll bet you didn't know he bred TBs, did you?) High Hat didn't win any races whose names would be familiar to you, but he raced with the best and actually beat the great filly Petite Etoile; he also ran fourth in the Arc.

As a stallion, he was represented by champion Irish 2yo filly Glad Rags, Irish St. Leger winner White Gloves, and many other winners. The average distance of races won by High Hat's offspring was over 11f, so it is no surprise that his most successful sire son High Line is a stamina influence.

By the way, Leroidesanimaux had a 3/4-brother (same dam, sires both sons of Blushing Groom) who won Brazil biggest race, the 2400m (12f) Grande Premio do Brasil. Leroi may not have been as stamina-limited as many think. He was never tried over a distance of ground.

20 May 2011 7:41 PM
Slew

Oh well...so much for Midnight Interlude.  The best looking horse in the post parade was Dialed In.  The most agitated was Shackleford, and it didn't hurt him one bit...though I was disappointed he took the bite out of a TC run.  

Motion said he's had horses at Pimlico earlier, and they didn't do any better than the horses that shipped last minute, so he felt it would have no bearing.  He especially wanted to avoid the hullabaloo at Pimlico pre-race, and kept AK at Fair Hill to keep him in calmer surroundings.

21 May 2011 8:13 PM
Aleine

Personally,

I don't start breathing again until

I've seen the horses pass "Barbaro's breaking point" which I believe was 100 yards out of the gate. Then I can relax and watch the race. Sorry, same track, same race, and equally fine horses...so the memory is still fresh of Barbaro's last tragic race....  Who can forget Ruffian as well....but that match race was just a testament to greed that fateful July day. Shackleford was my bet  yesterday...so I watched by 2 favorites for that race win 1 and 2. Sorry for Edgar Prado's ride though.. He's the best jockey out there these days so his horse must've been off his game. Would like to see Prado win another Triple Crown race. Thank God they all crossed the finish line safe and sound.  No horse carcass at the end. Good show.

I've met Edgar Prado at my local track a couple of times and he is a gentleman. Unlike Desormeaux who is self absorbed...just my opinion, but like any sport, the players of the game shouldn't ignore the folks who paid money to see them play.  Can heardly wait until next year's first Saturday in May!

22 May 2011 10:39 AM

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