As of Monday afternoon, it looks as though there is going to be a full field of 14 for the Preakness. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver will have no easy task if he is going to take the second leg of the Triple Crown--for many reasons.
The son of Maria's Mon will not have the advantage of having a win--or a race--over the Pimlico oval, as he did at Churchill Downs. He likely won't have a sloppy track (the current weather forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy with only a slight chance of showers), which he excels over. He probably won't get the perfect, ground-saving trip that he did in the Derby. And his jockey Calvin Borel is just another solid rider in Baltimore--not a God like he is in Louisville.
But even more than the aforementioned reasons, Super Saver is going to have to face a very formidable field--one that will include Derby favorite Lookin At Lucky, who should receive a much better trip this time, third-place finisher Paddy O'Prado, and several fresh-and-ready 3-year-olds ready to fire their best shots.
With the graded earnings being inflated as much as they were this year, a more-than-usual amount of solid horses that would have normally been in the Derby were left out. It has made Super Saver's task that much more difficult. Two of those 3-year-olds in particular, I believe, are very live for the Preakness.
Schoolyard Dreams finished a half-length ahead of Super Saver in the March 13 Tampa Bay Derby when beaten a whisker by Odysseus in a heart-breaking decision. Had that photo gone the other way, Schoolyard Dreams would have not run in the Wood Memorial, instead likely training up to the Derby. In the Wood, Schoolyard Dreams finished a disappointing fourth, but trainer Derek Ryan said the colt was not 100% for the race and probably did not receive the best of rides from Ramon Dominguez. You can put a line through the race.
Ryan, who sent out Musket Man to finish third in last year's Preakness, has assigned Eibar Coa to ride Schoolyard Dreams. Coa was aboard for Schoolyard Dreams' fast :59.60 five-furlong work last week at Monmouth, confirming that the colt is ready to fire a big one. If you toss the Wood, he has never been off the board in five other starts and his turn of foot around the second turn in the Tampa Bay Derby was one of the most visually impressive moves of any 3-year-old this year. I think this horse will be very live at a price.
In most years, Caracortado would have had more than enough graded earnings to qualify for the Derby. Though disappointed in the weeks leading up to the race, breeder/trainer Mike Machowsky said in hindsight it may have been the best thing for Caracortado to sit out the Derby. I agree with him. I think the California-bred gelding is much better suited for the shorter and less congested Preakness, and it would have been a rush to get him ready for the race since he came out of the Santa Anita Derby a little banged up.
Caracortado was undefeated in the first five starts of his career, including the Feb. 13 Robert B. Lewis when he proved himself against open stakes company while going two turns. He had a wide trip in the paceless San Felipe yet finished only two lengths back of Sidney's Candy, and had all kinds of trouble in his fourth-place Santa Anita Derby run. He's had three solid works since that run, all at Santa Anita.
Caracortado has made all but one of his starts over synthetic surfaces, but he did break his maiden on dirt at Fairplex and has two wins on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, which is the most similar to dirt of all the California tracks. He seems like a legitimate threat.
Others Preakness shooters that command respect are Hurricane Ike and First Dude. It is shaping up to be an interesting field. Super Saver has all he can handle.