Ten Questions That Don't Need Answering

You can attempt to actually answer these questions if you wish, but they’re meant to be rhetorical questions merely designed to inspire thought.

1--When was the last time each of the first three finishers of the Preakness went into the race with 10 or more career starts?

You’d probably have to go back a number of years to find the answer. The point of the question is that it’s good to see seasoned horses with a solid foundation competing in and performing well in the classics once again. Nowadays, we’re so used to seeing lightly raced horses with little or no 2-year-old experience and only two or three starts at 3, there is something satisfying about watching battle-tested horses bounce out of the Derby in great shape and run huge in the Preakness.

2—What was more surprising, Palace Malice going to the front in :45 1/5 and 1:09 4/5 in the Derby or Goldencents not going to the front in :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5 in the Preakness?

Both completely turned the Derby and Preakness upside down. What helped Orb in the Derby hurt him in the Preakness. What hurt Oxbow in the Derby helped him in the Preakness. Making snap decisions and knowing when to take the initiative is essential in these big races, where pre-race strategy often disappears quickly, and that’s when you want a Hall of Fame rider like Gary Stevens. If you present Stevens with a gift, like the one he was given in the Preakness, be prepared for him to say “Thank you,” and then hit you over the head with it.

3—Why make a big deal about the Preakness time of 1:57 2/5 being the slowest since 1961 when the Pimlico Special was run in 1:58 3/5, the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan in 1:52 3/5, and a 1 1/16-mile allowance race won by the stakes-placed Code West in 1:46 3/5?

The track obviously was very slow on Friday and Saturday in distance races (why?), and Oxbow’s final three-sixteenths in :19 2/5 was pretty solid. And runner-up Itsmyluckyday and third-place finisher Mylute came home faster than that, so they were running pretty good at the end. The slow time didn’t prevent Oxbow from earning a 106 Beyer.

4—Could it be that the unsung hero of the Preakness was Cee’s Song, a winner of only one of her 18 career starts who died in her sleep in 2011 at age 25?

All Cee’s Song has accomplished is having produced two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner  and Santa Anita Handicap winner Tiznow; Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Hollywood Gold Cup runner-up Budroyale, a $50,000 claim; and the dams of Preakness winner Oxbow and Haskell Invitational winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter. Here is a former $40,000 claimer who earned only $82,000 as a racehorse responsible for four horses who earned a combined $11 million. And Oxbow and Paynter aren’t through yet.

5—This is a four-part question: Should Joel Rosario have eased Orb off the rail and into the 3- or 4-path early on when there was no one even close to him? Once Will Take Charge came up on his outside passing the sixteenth pole, he was all but committed to the inside, which was said by opposing jockeys to be “extremely” deep. Part Two is, even if the track was that much slower on the rail, would it cause an odds-on favorite like Orb, who actually did ease out off the rail, to back out of it so early in the race and so quickly and let longshot Titletown Five, who was inside him, outrun him to the half-mile pole? Part Three: Is it possible that Orb simply isn’t as effective running inside horses? And Part Four: Did Orb work too fast (:47) five days before the race?

Perhaps the correct answer is none of the above. We’ll never know for sure, but it is quite possible that Orb simply had a bad day. If Orb had flattened out in the stretch, then maybe you could blame his defeat on being on the inside. But he was done too early to use that as a definitive reason. Deep rail or not, he’s too good a horse not to last a lot longer than that. If he didn’t like being inside or between horses, then why was he able to find another run late, splitting Departing and Goldencents in the final sixteenth to salvage a fourth-place finish when it looked like he was a cinch to finish sixth? The bottom line is, there is no bottom line. In Rosario’s defense, whether he should have eased out early or not, he, like Stevens, at least took the initiative and put his horse in contention after sensing the slow pace. Why the colt didn’t go on is anyone’s guess. As for his work, I’ve heard opposing views from two trainers. Itsmyluckyday turned in an almost identical work as Orb’s one day earlier and he ran a big race. Both Orb and Itsmyluckyday certainly did it easily enough, so, once again, who knows?

6—Can Palace Malice bounce back in the Belmont off his suicide mission at Churchill Downs?

Let’s throw everyone out of the Derby and pretend it was a match race between Palace Malice and Oxbow, who got a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for being anywhere near that torrid pace and still finishing a respectable sixth.

If it were a match race, Palace Malice’s past performance line would look like this: 1-1 ¾ -- 1-5 ½ -- 1-3 ½ -- 2-½ -- 2-3 – 2-3¾. If you notice, after setting the fastest fractions in Derby history over a sloppy or muddy track, and one of the fastest fractions ever even on a fast track , he wasn’t that far behind Oxbow at the finish and lost very little ground to him from the eighth pole to the wire. The only other time they faced each other, Palace Malice finished ahead of Oxbow, out-battling him in the Risen Star Stakes, despite never having been two turns in his life and coming off only one seven-furlong allowance race in nearly seven months.

Making a major equipment change in the Derby is always a risky move, especially putting blinkers on a horse in a 19-horse cavalry charge -- a horse who has shown sprinter’s speed in his early races. Now the blinkers come off and it is pretty obvious we’ll see a more relaxed horse. Failed experiments are usually short-term, whether you stick with it or not. Remember when Flower Alley ran in the Derby with blinkers on for the first time and got caught too close to an almost identical and senseless pace set by Spanish Chestnut, who should never have even been in the race. Flower Alley continued to wear them and eventually they helped, as evidenced by his Travers victory later in the year. But, like Palace Malice, they did more harm than good in the Derby.

7—Can you remember so many jockey changes on the Derby trail in one year, whether initiated by the trainer or the jockey?

Of the nine Preakness starters, only three were ridden by the same jockey who had been on them all year. And those three jockeys were Kevin Krigger, Brian Hernandez Jr., and Martin Garcia. Not exactly the riders you would expect. In the Derby, only three of the 19 starters were ridden by the same jockey who had been on them all year.

In the Preakness, Orb (Joel Rosario) was ridden by John Velazquez two races back; Oxbow (Gary Stevens) was ridden by Mike Smith three races back; Itsmyluckyday (John Velazquez) was ridden by Elvis Trujillo in his last race; Mylute (Rosie Napravnik) was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan two races back; Will Take Charge (Mike Smith) was ridden by Jon Court in his last race; and Titletown Five (Julien Leparoux) was ridden by Gary Stevens in his last start. These six horses have been ridden by a total of 15 jockeys this year alone. I won’t even begin to list all the jockey changes of the Derby starters.

8—What do Preakness starters Oxbow, Mylute, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie, and Titletown Five have in common?

Here’s a hint, it’s the same thing Derby starters Revolutionary, Palace Malice, and Java’s War have in common.

They are all sired by Breeders’ Cup winners. (Three sired by a BC Classic winner, three sired by a BC Juvenile winner, and two sired by a BC Sprint winner).

9—When was the last time an owner ran three horses in the Belmont Stakes?

Mike Repole actually has four candidates this year in Overanalyze, Unlimited Budget, Midnight Taboo, and Micromanage, all of whom have strong enough pedigrees to get the distance. If he runs three, he will equal the record set by Price McGrath, who finished first, second, and fourth in 1875. The Belmont is No. 1 on Repole’s bucket list, and you can be sure he will give it his best shot.

10—When was the last time a trainer saddled at least 10 horses in the Triple Crown…and none in the Preakness?

You’re not expecting an answer are you?

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