From the sale of Rachel Alexandra, to Calvin Borel opting off the Derby winner in favor of the Oaks winner, to the firestorm caused by a pair of owners threatening to block the filly from the Preakness, the past week has certainly sparked a lot of debate. No matter what you opinions are on all of the above, one thing is for sure - this is certainly one of the most highly-anticipated Preakness Stakes in a long time.
On Saturday evening, the week's worth of intrigue will all go out the window and they will run Preakness 134. May the best horse win. Personally, I was a bit surprised that Rachel Alexandra was installed as such an overwhelming favorite. Since I will be taking her, I am hoping to get 2-1 by post time. We shall see.
From a tactical perspective, I have no problem with her drawing post 13. It keeps her out of trouble at the break and with her speed, she will have little trouble clearing horses into the first turn. I also have no problem with her coming off two weeks rest. Why is a big deal made of a Rachel entering off two weeks, but it's not for the other contenders? Because she's a filly? I don't buy it. She's a superb athlete - male or female.
In breaking this race down in its simplest form, Rachel is just faster than rest of these. She has run faster splits and better final times than her rivals - and the amazing thing is, she has done it while being geared down in the final sixteenth in nearly every race. Remeber what Borel has said, we haven't even seen her best yet. A lot of people will throw out speed figures now based on what happened in the Derby, but they are still a useful tool. You cannot get past the fact that the filly has much better numbers than most every horse in the race. She has earned four consecutive Beyers over 100. Nobody else can come close to that.
If Rachel were a runaway freight train who needed the lead, I would be skeptical. If that were the case, she could very easily find herself caught up in a speed duel, especially facing the boys for the first time. But she is not that kind of horse. She has shown the ability to rate on several occasions and should find herself just off the lead heading into the final turn.
Big Drama is not a runaway freight train either. Don't let his record-breaking Swale fool you, he has rated in the past. That being said, I envision him going to the front and holding the lead into the stretch. I like the way this colt comes into the race. David Fawkes opted not to run in the Derby so he could have a fresh horse for the Preakness. All this horse has done is win six of seven starts, including a pair around two turns. He shouldn't have anyone other than Rachel to contend with in the early going and if he can get the distance, might just take them all the way around the track.
I see Big Drama and Rachel Alexandra as the two leaders in mid-stretch and Rachel pulling away late to become the first filly since 1924 to win the Preakness.
Who else will factor? Well, I wouldn't be surprised to see Friesan Fire bounce back with a big race. The Derby was a throwout based on his poor trip and Larry Jones wouldn't bring him back so quickly if he didn't think he was ready. Leave him out of your tickets at your own risk.
Pioneerof the Nile cannot be left out of exotics either. The colt has not finished out of the money against the best 3-year-olds in his last five starts. Baffert, a four-time Preakness winner, will have him ready again. I just don't think he's fast enough to beat the filly.
Mine That Bird? Well, if it rains I will include him on the bottom of my tickets. Otherwise, he's a toss.
The other horses I would use underneath are General Quarters, mostly because of Leparoux, and Musket Man, who fires every time, and perhaps Take the Points, who seems to do his best running on dirt and under Prado.
The Play: A large win bet on Rachel Alexandra. A smaller win bet on Big Drama at 8-1 or better. An exacta box with Rachel and Big Drama. A trifecta key with Rachel and Big Drama over Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile, General Quarters, Musket Man, Take the Points and Mine That Bird, if there is rain.
Best of luck!! Let me know who you like.