Haskin's Preakness Report: Mucho Confusion

The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) was supposed to clear up the confusing 3-year-old picture. Well, did it or didn’t it?

It all depends on whether Animal Kingdom is as good as he looked in the Run for the Roses and will continue his roll or whether he will “bounce,” as many of the speed pundits believe he will. If it’s the latter, then we’re right back to where we were before the Derby – trying to decipher the puzzle that has been the 2011 Triple Crown trail.

From all the physical signs, Animal Kingdom should bounce alright – bounce all the way to the Preakness winner’s circle. He has thrived at Fair Hill, away from the hubbub of the racetrack and the crowds. He is still carrying excellent flesh with well-defined muscle tone, he’s been enthusiastic in his training, and has not left an oat since arriving at Fair Hill.

He likes it so much at Fair Hill he will become the first Derby winner in memory to ship to Pimlico the day of the race, leaving the media to search for their big stories elsewhere.

As for the big bounce theory, Animal Kingdom made a huge jump in the Derby to run a “3-plus” on the Ragozin Sheets, faster than the vast majority of Derby winners, including Seattle Slew and Affirmed. On the Thoro-Graph figures, he went from a “3 1/2” in the Spiral Stakes (gr. III) to a “zero” in the Derby. So all logic points to a regression.

But let’s remember, in the Spiral he made big jump from a “7” to a “3 ½” and not only did he not bounce off that jump, he made another big move forward in the Derby. So, perhaps he’s just getting so good he can continue the roll he’s on. Perhaps his stay at the idyllic and tranquil setting at Fair Hill will allow him to recover easier from his Derby effort than if he were at the racetrack.

That is something we will not know until the Preakness. But from what we’ve seen over the past two weeks, there is no reason why he cannot run another big race. And even if he does regress a little off the Derby, he could do so and still win the Preakness.

But, Animal Kingdom is going to be a solid favorite in the Preakness, and of course, we have to try to find some potential bargains, of which there are several.

We have to start by saying that we have been following Astrology closely since last year and have been getting steady progress reports since he underwent minor surgery to correct an entrapped epiglottis. We loved his two efforts this year, and despite his drawing the rail, we feel as if he should be ready to take it to the next level and start fulfilling his potential. He looks great and has been doing everything right, so we definitely will be making a win bet on him, even though 23 of the last 26 Preakness winners ran in the Derby. One of the three who didn’t was Rachel Alexandra, who was coming off a two-week rest from the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). So the “fresh horse” theory really doesn’t hold much water.

Speaking of fresh horses, the “Best hair coat” award goes to Mr. Commons. If you want to see what the term “bursting with dapples” looks like, all you had to do was watch this colt grazing Friday morning. Nobody can get a horse to shine quite like John Shirreffs. Mr. Commons’ coat was resplendent and you couldn’t help but be impressed with his overall condition.

Now, back to the hard-core analysis. We have to stick with success of the Derby horses, because they all (Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, Dialed In, and Midnight Interlude) all came out of the race in great shape.

No one has trained better than Shackleford, who has been machine-like in his gallops, and Animal Kingdom also has been extremely strong in his gallops. Dialed In had his best gallop on Friday and will be dangerous with a much better pace scenario.

Some question Shackleford’s inability to win the Derby after setting such a slow pace. Don’t be fooled by that pace. The track was on the cuppy side that day and that takes a toll on a horse going a mile and a quarter. From a visual standpoint, the field was not bunched up, as it should have been had that been a legitimately slow pace. Instead, the field was strung out almost 20 lengths, which normally signifies a fast, now slow, pace. That means those horses may very well have been using the kind of energy they would have had the actual fractions been faster. So, we’re not taking the slow pace all that seriously.

We haven’t seen several of the others, such as King Congie, Norman Asbjornson, and Concealed Identity, so we can’t comment on them. And we really haven’t enough of Dance City to get a good handle on him. He has tremendous potential, but is still a bit inexperienced. He’s no doubt talented and is as gutsy as they come, but is a question mark, experience-wise. Would it be a major surprise if he won? No, but as we said he will have to overcome his lack of experience, as will Flashpoint and Mr. Commons, two other gifted colts.

Taking into account pace scenario, consistency, durability, training and looks, and room for improvement, the pick at a somewhat decent price is Mucho Macho Man.

In fact, with Nehro gone, the 1, 3, 4 finishers of the Derby look strong to come back and make that a 1, 2, 3 finish, with Dialed In completing a Derby superfecta.

As we said we’re going to place a win bet on Astrology for old-time and new-time sake, and another win bet on Sway Away, because of the unknown factor and the big price he likely will be. He has never even finished in the money going two turns and could turn out to be a one-turn closer. He has a noticeable sway back, carries his head very high when he runs, and certainly isn’t as eye-catching as some of the others. But he still scares us because he just might be as good going two turns as he was in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II). And he is by one of our all-time favorites Afleet Alex, who turned in one of the top two or three greatest Preakness performances of all time, maybe the best. He is a guess, but an intriguing one.

So, in summation, Animal Kingdom is going to be very tough once again and should win with a clean trip. But if you’re looking for a somewhat better price, paying in double digits, we’ll go with Mucho Macho Man and box the Derby horses in the exotics. We would be very surprised if Shackleford was not in the top three for all you across-the-board players. And he should be a fairly attractive price. The key with him is how the pace scenario plays out.

And finally, we’ll put saver bets on Astrology and Sway Away at a big price.

32 Comments

Leave a Comment:

sniper1

Animal Kingdom-Shackleford-Dance City, Macho are my top four which may be wrong but I feel much more confident than in the Derby.

A lot depends if the soup-up the track as they have in the past for big races---not up to date but in the first few weeks of the meet it was definitely a closers track.

The turf was impossible to win on the lead or close at the opening but that changed---could be the same for dirt although the bias was not as strong.

Good Luck to all

20 May 2011 2:16 PM
JayGo

Great analysis as usual. Agree the slow pace in the Derby is a red herring.  I couldn't hear the call of the race where I was and didn't know it was a slow pace until I read it in the newspaper the next day. If you toss the slow pace argument, it does not bode well for either Dialed In or Shackleford. I will play both a bit in exotics, even on top once or twice, but I think they're likely outclassed even if they look good in the morning.

Your Mucho pick put me over the top to use the horse heavily.  MMM beat me out of the triple in the Derby and I won't let him beat me again.  I can take a hint.

Animal Kingdom should win this race handily.  The horse is proving itself to be a beast on any surface and looks strong for tomorrow.  The Belmont will be a challange; the Preakness should not.

Also using Dance City and Midnight Interlude.  I'm a New York guy, love Ramon Dominquez and the scuttlebutt around here is that Ramon loves and is talking up the horse. I thought Midnight Interlude actually ran a decent race in the Derby, and once again we have the Baffert jockey change thing that worked before.

Good Luck!

20 May 2011 2:18 PM
DanC

I would love to see a Triple Crown winner finally, however, I am rooting for Astrology, who I hope exhibits the same talent that his closely related brother Bernardini showed in 2006!

20 May 2011 2:56 PM
Ida Lee

As always, I just want everyone to come back safe. But, if my life depended on it, I have to go for the Triple Crown chance and go all out for Animal Kingdom. I want a TC horse more than anything in the sports world. But, if not him, then my precious Mucho Macho Man is it for me. Love that boy.  He's going to be a major star.

20 May 2011 4:04 PM
CharlieCigar

PEOPLE!!!!  HOW CAN YOU GIVE ME 9/2 ON DIALED IN WITH NO UNCLE MO IN THE RACE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  THIS HORSE WON WITH A HAND RIDE IN THE FLORIDA DERBY AND ALL THE OTHER PREAKNESS CONTENDERS ARE COMING OFF OF CAREER BEST RUNS!!!  WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT THAT SCENARIO IN THEIR NEXT RACE?  THEY ALL WILL FLOP OF COURSE( WITH THE EXCEPTION OF NEHRO, ANIMAL KINGDOM, SHACKLEFORD IN THE KY DERBY).  DIALED IN IS A STANDOUT AND A GIFT AT 3-1 OR BETTER!!!!

20 May 2011 4:43 PM
Terry M.

Mucho Macho Man is my choice, But I like Animal Kingdom as well. I like both sires, but especially Leroidesanimaux, who may be getting better mares now that he has sired a Derby winner.

20 May 2011 5:17 PM
SACK THE SECRATARY

I will wait to see the exotic odds to make my wagers.The derby runners odds will reflect the way they already ran so I dont see any insight into betting them.I am not discounting the new shooters for the win going agaist the 20 for 23 stat two in particular.So I will use my strategies to make exotic bets based on the odds.AK will of-course be included but the closers that are running in the same pack will move when he does.

20 May 2011 5:45 PM
Ascot_Doll_wins

Afleet Alex is one of my all-time favorites and his Prekness win in 2004 the most dramatic that I have seen.  Sway away is quite an intriguing horse and I have heard that he is difficult to ride.  

I like Astrology's pedigree quite well and would not be surprised either to see him win.  That being said (and since betting is not available anymore where I live) I will be rooting for Animal Kingdom because he looks strikingly similar to my rescued thoroughbred ex-racer Ascot Doll.  

Thank you for a brilliant analysis.  

20 May 2011 5:50 PM
Splits of 12

Here's how I see the race breaking down. Flashpoint gets the lead with Shackleford collaring him in second. Astrology breaks sharp from the rail and sits a length off the speed in third. Mucho Mach Man, Norman Abjorson, Midnite Interlude, Dance City and Mr.Commons sit 3-5 lengths off the leaders rounding the first turn. In the next flight  it should be Sway Away, Animal Kingdom, Concealed Identity, and Isn't He Perfect, with Dialed In and King Congie in last. As they hit the backstretch Shackleford decides h's had enough of Flash and grabs the lead and quickly disposes of him. As Flash drops back MI and Mr. Commons come up to pressure Shack while he relaxes to a two length lead. As they leave the back-stretch those two run out of gas and MMM advances into the three path. Next up comes Dance City, while Animal Kingdom begins his rally. The others are waiting patiently as Shackleford rounds the far turn and opens up another length as they straighten out for home. Then in one fell swoop Animal Kingdom goes four-wide and inhales Shack who starts to flatten. As they hit the 1/8 th pole, MMM and Sway Away make a move at AK he starts to feel the pressure. Dialed In and King Congie come with their rallies as the others start to sputter. MMM inches closer and Sway Away fights on gamely. With 200 yards  to go AK and MMM battle on and Sway Away digs in but can't go with the Top 2. As the fight it out MMM gets his head down on the final jump to defeat AK. Sway Away holds off King Congie who beats out Dialed In to fill out the Superfecta. 1. MMM 2. Animal Kingdom 3. Sway Away 4. King Congie 5. Dialed In.

20 May 2011 5:57 PM
TJLuvsTizs

I agree that the derby horses coming back should be very tough to handle.  You can't fault Astrology for his efforts, as he has finished on the board in every single race.  However, I don't think he is good enough to win or compete for the tote board.

I get the feeling this could be a chalky race like it was in '07 with Curlin, Street Sense, and Hard Spun.  Aside from last year, the Derby winner usually competes for the top two spots.  I am very confident that boxing AK and MMM is the way to go, and use the other derby runners under those top two in the trifecta.

Can't wait for tomorrow!

20 May 2011 6:34 PM
PomDeTerre

Call me overly cautious, but I disagree with AK shipping in Saturday.  It's a minimum 90 minutes on van with no traffic (right) and no tranq, obviously.  And that is at BEST.  At worst- a flat tire, an accident, traffic, bad weather- this could be a disaster, possibly with an unsettled, washed out or a no show Derby winner at the gates.  I realize AK benifitted from his Fairhill stay, but this is cutting corners way too close imo.  I'd want my horse at the track at least a day or 2, settled in and familiar with his surroundings; I hope this isn't a huge error in judgement.

This colt, Nehro, MMM and Shack owe me absolutely nothing after the Derby;   But I would like to see another TC winner, & I think AK is the real deal.  I really hope they made the right call on shipping.  I hope the racing gods are on that van on Saturday.

20 May 2011 7:01 PM
calico cat

Splits of 12,

Wow! That was exciting!!! Almost as good as a real race. :) However, Kingdom wins the Preakness and goes on to Belmont with the TC on the line.

GO ANIMAL KINGDOM!!!

20 May 2011 7:48 PM
skyfire

Sorry, it felt like you picked ALL - I think MMM will win, with Astrology second.

20 May 2011 8:49 PM
El Kabong

charliecigar

very nice. I can't stop laughing.

20 May 2011 9:05 PM
Alex'sBigFan

I don't feel all that confusion of the Derby this time.  It seems a clearer picture.  I pick Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In, in that order.  We are on the TC trail with Steve and all I know is that I really don't want to see 3 different winners of the 3 races again.  The sport needs stars and I want that TC winner badly.  Wouldn't it be great to have an equine athlete all over the media.

Move over Jeter!!!  Motion threw out the pitch at the Yankee game the other night, cool.  

Good luck Johnny V & Animal Kingdom, bring it on home to New York!!!

20 May 2011 9:29 PM
PomDeTerre

guess you'll be tearing up a bunch a tix tomorrow CIDAR CHARLIE A?K?A KY VET

20 May 2011 9:53 PM
vapaul67

According to TRAKUS  MMM ran approx 100 feet less in the Derby than A.K. and still got beat 3 lengths to a horse making his debut on dirt and did not have a favorable pace setup while MMM had everything set up perfectly for him, and now people honestly believe this horse can make all that up in 2 weeks where he is less certain to have a good trip and the pace should set it up for DI, AK and even Sway Away. But hey, I hope all of you throw your cash at money burners Shack and MMM b/c I won't be on them that's for sure. Mainly hoping for a good race without incident, regardless who wins.

20 May 2011 10:48 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

Ragozin hocus pocus aside, the three Derby horses will be there again.  Mucho Macho Man is yet to turn three years old and will only improve.  His jockey made premature move in the Derby and this good horse came back to be third, on his own.  He should wear down the tough and excellent Shackleford who will have the lead at some point after the half.  Dialed In may be third if the pace is suicidal as he used the Derby as a prep for this race.  He will have to be as good as Zito says he is to win it.  Maybe.  Animal Kingdom?  Another time, maybe.

21 May 2011 12:01 AM
Coldfacts

The last time the most powerful force in Kentucky Derby history was kept off the board was 1999. There were only two starters from the Raise A Native sire line in the 2011 Derby. One was Master of Hound who under a poorly judged ride was a close 5th thus breaking  an 11 years sequence of top four finishers for the RAN sire line. The Preakness field contains four starter from the RAN sire line.  The RAN sire line has produced 7 of the last 10 Preakness winners and there is no reason it cannot go 8 of eleven. Who are the starters from this sire line? Norman Asbjornson, Sway Away, Dance City and Concealed Identity. The most accomplished of the quartet is Dance City who is also the least experienced with only 4 starts.  He is the colt I like to win the Preakness.

It is rare for me to be selecting a horse in a TC race trained by Mr. Pletcher. His record in TC races has forced me to regard him as dismal Todd. He has never won the Preakness as most of his derby starters are rarely wheeled back in 2 weeks. Super Saver being an exception and he bit the dust. If Mr. Pletcher’s record in the TC series of races is dismal, that of Mr. Dominguez is worst. While Todd has won the Derby and Belmont, Ramon is still on zero in the series. So why would I be focused on a lightly raced May foal against such a strong field? The simple answer is I love May foals and his top end speed and bottom end stamina are extremely appealing. He is expected to be forwardly placed possibly just off the lead pack that should include Shackleford, Flashpoint, Concealed Identity and Mr. Commons. Both the sires of his first and second dams (Pleasant Colony/Northern Dancer) won the Derby and Preakness and were 3rd in the Belmont. He  therefore should have far more bottom end stamina which should allow him to run by the leaders from his expected striking position close to the pace. With this colt’s tactical speed, I foresee Mr. Dominguez with a ton of horse tracking the leaders and unleashing him at a time of his choosing. I do not foresee the 2011 Preakness being won from well off the pace. The horses that will be upfront are not a bunch of cheap speed pace setters. I expect the pace will be far more honest than the ridiculous 48, 1:13 of the derby.

A victory by Dance City will be difficult based on all the negatives. His trainer amidst all his achievements has never won the Preakness. His rider has never won a TC race. The most telling negative is the fact that of 34 broodmares that have produced the winners of 45 TC races for the RAN sire line, none were sired by a stallion from the Ribot line. Dance City dam sire Pleasant Colony is from the Ribot line. History was made in the Derby and I see no reason why it cannot be made in the Preakness.

Both Mr. Motion and Mr. Pletcher lost their #1 derby prospects. Mr. Motion won the Derby and I think it's Mr. Pletcher’s turn.

21 May 2011 7:41 AM
Wabstat

Big races call for big opinions.  Four turf/synthetic horses won on the main track at CD on derby day, including Animal Kingdom.  I'm taking a stand that the Derby winner will not hit the board at Pimlico.  Mucho Macho Man and Sway Away sit behind the fast pace and are the players in the stretch run.

21 May 2011 7:46 AM
Swale1984

Splits of 12, interesting analysis.  I get the feeling that Animal Kingdom has some tactical speed, and I look for him to sit off the pace, no worse than 7th or 8th.  He ran there for a bit in the Derby and came out no worse for it.  I also see a stretch battle for the ages with MMM, but I see AK holding on for the win.  If he does win, I think the biggest threat to a crown is Master of Hounds in the Belmont.  

21 May 2011 9:34 AM
prudofrompuertorico

Safe trip to all,I am rooting for my fellow countryman, JOHN VELAZQUEZ In Puerto Rico we are wishing for a triple crown.Mr. Haskin comments about bouncing back is our hope. Thanks for your column as always, excellent!!

21 May 2011 2:13 PM
Old Timer

First you and George Costanza give us a $300+ exacta at the Derby. Now you gave us the Preakness $119 exacta (boxing the Derby horses). Steve, you are the man.

21 May 2011 6:44 PM
Slew

Oh fickle fudgesicles!  Another Triple Crown crumbles before my eyes, and my bucket list remains shy of that ultimate prize.  Dangnabbit!

Shackleford...AK...Astrology....butwhat a race it was!

21 May 2011 8:05 PM
Paula Higgins

Well, didn't expect Shackleford to win. Animal Kingdom did very well but had too much to do at the end. Makes one appreciate deep closers like Zenyatta all the more. He is a very good horse regardless. Astrology ran a very respectable race as well. Mucho Macho man was a surprise because he wasn't in the top 4. Donna noted he had lost weight and she didn't think that was a good sign. I guess it wasn't.

21 May 2011 8:42 PM
IOWay

As I predicted, Sway Away was a joke.  Such a shame that he missed the Derby.  Too bad for racing that Animal Kingdom is no longer alive for the TC but congratulations to the Shackleford connections.

21 May 2011 10:33 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, the next to last sentence in the statement you made in your article was re: Shackleford - "the key with him is how the pace scenario plays out." You were so correct. Once again he and Flashpoint had the key to the pace.

Flashpoint just tired and Shackleford didn't. Animal Kingdom got behind traffic which could have caused his loss.

Shackleford will appreciate 3

weeks to recuperate and then i hope he runs in The Belmont.

Shackleford's owners left Pimlico with the $600,000 The Preakness win brought, another $550,000 for a bonus for a previous Shackleford win and then whatever portion of $200,000 that Paddy O'Prado earned for winning The Dixie Stakes. Not a bad day at the track for The Owners of both Shackleford and Paddy O'Prado, for sure Romans, and the jockeys. Romans must feel very gratified.

Thanks Steve, will be interesting to see who is going to sign up for The Belmont.  

22 May 2011 4:51 PM
Wubert

"Some question Shackleford’s inability to win the Derby after setting such a slow pace. Don’t be fooled by that pace. The track was on the cuppy side that day and that takes a toll on a horse going a mile and a quarter. From a visual standpoint, the field was not bunched up, as it should have been had that been a legitimately slow pace. Instead, the field was strung out almost 20 lengths, which normally signifies a fast, now slow, pace. That means those horses may very well have been using the kind of energy they would have had the actual fractions been faster. So, we’re not taking the slow pace all that seriously."

Great heads up on Shackleford! Too bad I read this AFTER the race. The question now, can Shackleford win the Belmont? Animal Kingdom, Nehro and MMM caught him at the longer distance. Shackleford held them at bay at a furlong shorter. Can he hold them off at a mile and a half??

23 May 2011 1:18 AM
PomDeTerre

looks like another losing Preakness for the "professional gambler" KY VET, a/k/a Charlie Cigar with his "gift" of Dialed In "at 3/1 or better".  I'm happy with my exacta tix.

23 May 2011 10:30 AM
KY VET

THE MESSAGE ABOUT DIALED IN...WAS FOR THE DERBY! I THOUGHT 9/2 WAS GOOD ODDS....THEN I WENT OFF HIM AFTER MY PEOPLE DIDNT LIKE HOW HE LOOKED AT CD.....I BET MMM....THEN BET DIALED IN IN PREAKNESS....SO WHAT? IM NOT ALWAYS RIGHT...I DO MAKE A LIVING AT THIS GAME...

23 May 2011 9:07 PM
Slew

Wubert, I still think that the Belmont just be Nehro's turn.

KY vet:  Don't know how you make a living at handicapping, since you haven't been right yet.  You sort of remind me of Draynay....Always chalky...always wrong.

24 May 2011 9:47 AM
artistinwax

Is Shackelford over on the knee on his front right foreleg?  If he is, it certainly does seem to function okay at the moment.  

25 May 2011 1:31 PM

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