TimeformUS Stakes Plays - The Preakness, Plus Fri and Sat Stakes at Pimlico and Belmont


Pimlico, Race 12
The Preakness
By Robert Finnegan


If handicapping the 2014 Kentucky Derby was nasty, brutish, and long, handicapping the 2014 Preakness was nasty, brutish, agonizing, and almost as long. Here is where we ended up, for better or worse:

The TFUS Pace Projector indicates that the Preakness will be run at a fast pace, and that Social Inclusion will be on a clear lead at the opening half, with Bayern in second place and California Chrome in third, and General a Rod, Ring Weekend, and Pablo Del Monte not far behind them.


Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 9.22.52 AM

Pace Projector for the Preakness.  We offer Pace Projectors for all North American races.  
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#1 Dynamic Impact (12-1): Capitalized on a nice trip to beat Midnight Hawk by a nose in the Illinois Derby, running a speed figure of 99, which was a 20-point lifetime top. Game though the effort was, MidnightHawk will not be his target this time. California Chrome is a horse of a different color. Another big jump will probably be required from Dynamic Impact. And we don't like the chances that he will have it in him so close on the heels of his previous jump. We don't like him today.

(Note: The fractions/pace figures lines beneath the running lines are set to Pace Figures/This Horse.  Click here for more information on our Pace Figures and our Fractions Preferences feature.)

#2 General a Rod (15-1): In the face of trying circumstances, he did enough in the Kentucky Derby to warrant staying in the mix today. But the fact remains that his lifetime top is a 101, and he's hooking a lot of early speed today. So if he is going to produce the improvement he needs to win the Preakness, then in all likelihood, he is going to be obliged to earn every last bit of it. That's a tall order.

#3 California Chrome (3-5): Our admiration for this horse is practically endless. We believe he is the most talented horse in the race. Visually, we love him. We could happily watch replays of his races for hours. We love his style of running. We love the way he cruises at high speed, accelerates just as his opponents are feeling enervated by his cruising speed, and lays waste to his rivals. We love a lot more about him, too. We even love the fact that he trains at tiny Los Alamitos (our second home during our misspent youth). But betting on him at microscopic odds, during a grinding campaign, on two weeks' rest, when one of his rivals matches him on numbers and a few others are not that far behind? That is a step further than we are willing to go.

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#4 Ring Weekend (20-1): His best race came when he controlled the early pace, which won't happen in here, and his best race isn't close to being good enough anyway. We are excluding him from all our tickets.

#5 Bayern (10-1): Inveterate frontrunner will be racing without the blinkers he wore in his debut and in the Derby Trial. His trainer, Bob Baffert, has said that he wants Bayern coming from off the pace today. Baffert is adept at pulling off style changes. We'll see how much cooperation he gets from his horse. In any event, Bayern is a blatantly talented colt who ran a 100 in the second start of his career and then had a physical setback. He was then jammed into the Arkansas Derby, where he managed to run a new top (a 101) even as he was comprehensively beaten by Danza. His nose victory (overturned by the stewards) in the Derby Trial has to be read as a disappointing effort. The Race Rating for that race was a mere 99. And now he's going to be mixing it up with California Chrome and the hyper-talented speedster Social Inclusion. To our way of thinking, anybody successfully backing Bayern to pull off a victory here deserves to be paid at odds quite a bit higher than 10-1.

Bayern's last race received a rating of 99.  TimeformUS Race Ratings take the guesswork out of evaluating complex race conditions.  
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#6 Ria Antonia (30-1): Nice filly comes in off a lifetime top of 98, a number earned in a race she lost by almost 16 lengths, which says quite a bit about the phenomenal filly who won the race. There are a lot of spots where we'd like to see Ria Antonia. Alas, the Preakness is not one of them.

#7 Kid Cruz (20-1): This colt fascinates us at a big price. Yes, he is too slow. His lifetime top is only a 95. But he has been visually impressive in the extreme. He was choked down by slow fractions in his most recent start. He has a strong Pedigree Rating of 86 for this sort of race, and we feel that there is a lot of talent here that has not yet been revealed. The predicted hot pace would benefit him, given his running style. His trainer has been talking him down a bit, but we can live with that at a big price. Kid Cruz is our favorite longshot in the 2014 Preakness.

Kid Cruz has a pedigree rating, for dirt routes, of 86.  Click here to learn about our Pedigree Ratings.

#8 Social Inclusion (5-1): If there is a "TimeformUS Data Horse" in the 2014 Preakness, Social Inclusion is certainly it. Our Pace Projector shows him on a clear early lead. He has improved his speed figure in each start. The speed figure of 111 that he ran in his second start matches the best figure California Chrome has ever run. The 114 he ran in the Wood is a better speed figure than any horse in this race has ever run. He ran that number in the Wood despite going very wide around the first turn while running a fairly punishing early pace figure. He is 5-1 on the morning line. What's not to like? Well, there is a question about Social Inclusion's physical condition, in light of his May 3 scratch, and we don't love his workout pattern. Something seems slightly off here. But, again, our data on this colt is indisputably strong. So there is no small amount of agonizing to be done here.

#9 Pablo Del Monte (20-1): Connections chose to skip the Kentucky Derby and take their chances here. His best efforts have come on synthetic surfaces. His sire, Giant's Causeway, is a splendid synthetic sire. But even Pablo Del Monte's best synthetic efforts would be insufficient today, and he could be up against it from a pace standpoint. A toss for us.

#10 Ride On Curlin  (10-1): Has been victimized by one criminal trip after another. He is vastly better than he looks on paper, and he doesn't look bad on paper. Adjust this colt's speed figures for his awful trips and you'll see numbers that can play in here--at a price. Can he work out a decent trip today?


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The play:

  • Win bet on Kid Cruz.
  • Use Kid Cruz and Social Inclusion in multi-race wagers.
  • Use Kid Cruz under Social Inclusion and California Chrome in exactas.
  • Use Kid Cruz in trifectas under Social Inclusion and California Chrome, with General a Rod, Bayern, Ride On Curlin, and Dynamic Impact included in the lower holes.



Pimlico, Race 11
G2 Dixie Stakes
By Mike Beer

The Grade 2 Dixie drew a field of 10 turf runners and figures to be a good race from a betting perspective, especially if the morning line holds up. Hey Leroy (#6, 5-2 ML) has been installed as the ML favorite on the strength of three consecutive turf wins in Florida, a run that includes the Grade 3 Appleton. He has run back-to-back TimeformUS speed figures of 110 in his two most recent wins. And he projects to be sitting up close to the leaders early in a race that favors that running style. With all of that said, we are betting against Hey Leroy if he is the favorite, or close to it, come post time. It is not that he can't win. Clearly, he can. We just aren't big fans of the races he has been running in at Gulfstream. We very much want to see him run as well somewhere else.

The horse we feel is the horse to beat in the Dixie is Up With the Birds (#8, 5-1). After watching him go 4-for-6 during a strong three-year-old campaign, and seeing him close it out with a Grade 1 win over the Belmont turf course, we are expecting good things from Up With the Birds this year. He will have to do better than his run off the layoff, however, as he offered no real kick while finishing last in one of those tough Keeneland allowance races.


If he just needed that one off the bench and can rebound here, we expect him to be tough, but that lackluster return gives some cause for concern, as does the expected set-up, since Pace Projector has him last early in a race without much pace.

Pace Projector for the Dixie.  Click here to learn more about Pace Projector

Our selection to post the upset, or at least get a big piece at a price, is Fredericksburg (#1, 12-1). Fredericksburg will need some help if he is to come out on top in this race, but he may get just enough of it with an expected moderate pace, and he is supposed to be in front early on. He simply got the wrong ride when finishing behind Hey Leroy in the Appleton the last time he ran, showing no aggression from the outside post and getting himself hung up five-wide through the first turn, before ultimately dropping back to last in the field. Those were the same tactics employed by the speedy Five Iron in that race, and that horse returned to his front-running ways to post an upset win vs. graded stakes company at Belmont two weeks ago.


Five Iron, who finished behind our top pick, Fredericksburg, came back to win with a 112 figure in his next start. TimeformUS result charts allow you to see all next-out (and prior) results for every horse. Click here for more information on our result charts.

With an inside draw in the Dixie, and a projected pace scenario that has him comfortably on the early lead, it is quite possible that Fredericksburg can post an upset of his own on Saturday.

Win bet on Fredericksburg at odds of 10/1 or higher.

Exacta box with Up With the Birds.

Press exacta underneath Up With the Birds.

Smaller exacta boxes with Charming Kitten and Hamp.Saturday



Belmont, Race 10
G3 Vagrancy Handicap
By Mike Beer

The Grade 3 Vagrancy appears to be a good spot for Todd Pletcher's Kauai Katie (#4, 3-5 ML) to get back to her winning ways after a disappointing effort in Grade 1 competition at Saratoga cut short her three-year-old season. Given that she was already a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter before arriving in Saratoga for that Prioress last summer, it wouldn't have been all that surprising had we heard that she was being retired after that no-show performance. So the fact that she was brought back for a new campaign as an older horse is a positive sign for her. That she earned a new top TimeformUS speed figure for that effort is an even better sign, and earning that 110 while forced to chase in a fast-paced race suggests that she can still move forward in the Vagrancy, which, in reality, she will not have to do.

Kauai Kate is 3/5 on the ML, and if we are going to try to make money in the race, it will likely have to be by finding horses underneath.

Rather than go to the logical second choice in the race, Five Star Momma (#5, 3-1), who Pace Projector indicates will be on the early lead in the Vagrancy, we will go in a different direction. Merry Meadow (#2, 6-1) has been a consistent performer from the start of her career, and while she would need to find the right spot in order to ever become a graded stakes winner, she has been in career-best form for Mark Hennig, earning three consecutive 100+ speed figures over the winter.


The play:

Straight exacta: Kauai Katie over Merry Meadow.



Pimlico, Race 10
G2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
By Mike Beer


The Black-Eyed Susan has recently lacked the cachet of its Kentucky Derby-weekend counterpart, the Kentucky Oaks, but it is a race with a long history of its own, and it has been won by some very nice fillies in the past, the most recent being Royal Delta in 2011.

This year's group of 11 includes only a single previous graded stakes winner, that being Todd Pletcher's Stopchargingmaria (#4, 7-2 Morning Line), who took last year's Tempted and Demoiselle at Aqueduct. More often than not, those credentials for a Pletcher trainee would by themselves be enough to make us leery of standing strongly against the horse in question, but that is not the case in this race. Stopchargingmaria is a fine horse and can certainly win this race. But we are going to hope that she goes favored in this spot because we are against her in the Black-Eyed Susan. We will point out, in her defense, that she has made only two starts so far as a three-year-old, both of those over speed-favoring tracks at Gulfstream Park (denoted by the race ratings in red), and is eligible to move forward as she makes her third start of the year. But her graded stakes wins last year came in decidedly weak renewals of those NY fixtures, and she is going to have to run the fastest race of her life to win the Black-Eyed Susan.

(Note: The fractions/pace figures lines beneath the running lines are set to Pace Figures/This Horse.
You can set them as you wish with our Fractions Preferences feature. Click here for more information.

The race rating box is color coded to indicate the presence of a track bias on that day.
Click here for more information on our track bias indicators.


Were Stopchargingmaria to be some kind of interesting price in this race, we would have absolutely no argument with anyone who likes her, but she is not the kind of horse we would be looking to take at low odds.

Still, we think Pletcher has the horse to beat in the Black-Eyed Susan, in the form of the more lightly raced Sloane Square (#8, 5-1). Not only is Sloane Square the fastest horse in the race, having posting a 98 speed figure in her dominating allowance win two starts back, but Pace Projector places her in an advantageous position on the early lead in this race.


Pace Projector, shown above for the Black-Eyed Susan, is available for all North American races.
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Sloane Square is 2-for-2 on dirt so far in her career, and while the nine-furlong distance of today's race is uncharted territory for her, she has the pedigree to handle it (by Giant's Causeway and out of a Grade 1 winning dam, she has a full sister, also trained by Pletcher, who is a stakes winner over this distance on turf). Since Sloane Square last raced in the Bourbonette Oaks over Turfway Park's synthetic surface, we will also mention that Pletcher's last two Black-Eyed Susan winners, In Lingerie (2012) and Panty Raid (2007), both ran in the Bourbonette prior to taking this race (Panty Raid also ran in an allowance race after the Bourbonette Oaks, on Keeneland's synthetic track). We believe Sloane Square to be talented with upside. We like her chances in this race.

sloane square

Our other horse will be Shanon Nicole (#3, 6-1), who has run well in both career dirt starts, while earning figures of 95 and 97, and projects for a ground-saving trip from somewhere off the pace.

The play:

We'll make Sloane Square our key in the Black-Eyed Susan, though we would not bet her to win at anything less than 5/1. We will also play her in exactas, mainly with Shanon Nicole, and less so with America (#2, 8-1), Arethusa (#6, 8-1), and Fortune Pearl (#9, 12-1). We will use those horses in trifectas, as well.




Pimlico, Race 12
G3 Pimlico Special
By Robert Finnegan

Nine horses are signed up for the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, and if the early weather forecasts prove accurate, as they occasionally do, handicappers will be grappling with a racetrack that is something other than fast.

The TFUS Pace Projector indicates that the Pimlico Special will be run at a pace that is both fast and contested, with Moreno, Valid, and Golden Lad locked in a duel at the opening half. Those three are followed by the mid-packers Major King and Cat Burglar, with Bourbon Courage, Carve, Prayer for Relief, and Revolutionary at the back of the pack, which may prove to be a friendly place to be if the Pace Projector is right about the pace being fast.

pim special pp
Click here to read about recent refinements we've made to Pace Projector.


Let's go in order of post position:

Valid (#1, 10-1): Quite a puzzle, this gelding. He showed serious talent early in his career, running a 91 at Laurel as a two-year-old. But after he ran four times on dirt, his connections tried to prove he was a grass horse. (Medaglia d'Oro leads many trainers into this temptation.) Then came a barn switch and a switch back to dirt, and now, consequently or coincidentally, we have a different horse, one who has the numbers to compete with these. He also shows a strong race on a sloppy track. And he has the ability to rate off a hot pace.


But will his Florida heroics transfer to Pimlico? That is the big question with this gelding, but at a juicy morning line, we can't blame anybody who opts to break the tie in his favor.

Cat Burglar (#2, 4-1): Baffert colt has the best last-out speed figure in the race, and we love the way he earned it. Bottled up behind a slow pace, shuffled back and taking a ton of dirt, he found room, accelerated with style, and took command of the race, earning a speed figure of 116. Yes, this was against allowance competition, but the Race Rating for the race was a respectable 113, and Cat Burglar ran the way horses run when there is more to them than we just saw. With a strong Pedigree Rating of 85, and a trainer who knows what to do when he gets to Pimlico, Cat Burglar is eligible to improve further in this race. And there is nothing wrong with his off-track breeding. Strong contender.

Cat Burglar
Click here for more information on our Pedigree Ratings.

Moreno (#3, 7-2): Ran an odd race in the Charles Town Classic, engaging with Game On Dude early, backing off, and then putting in some semblance of a run late. The lifetime-top speed figure of 112 he received makes him competitive in here--provided he can repeat it. And this is a race that may not have a pace to his liking. But he is 1 for 1 in the mud.

Golden Lad (#4, 6-1): Pletcher colt was a disappointment in the Oaklawn Handicap, where he failed to capitalize on good early position and then had some trouble after the barn door had closed. Needs to rebound to his (wet) Razorback Handicap form.

golden lad

Carve (#5, 5-1): Rode the rail in the Oaklawn Handicap and earned a lifetime-top figure of 111. Goes third off the layoff today and could easily have another top in him.

Revolutionary (#6, 5-2): Likely favorite had a rough stretch run in the Oaklawn Handicap. He goes fourth off the layoff today. He has a big back-number. He figures to benefit from a fast pace. But on our speed figures, he has no edge in here. Much as we respect him and his chances, we find him hard to take at a short price.


Major King (#7, 50-1): Not for us.

Prayer for Relief (#8, 12-1): Had a "second-over" trip in the Oaklawn and could make little impact. We think he will need pace help to compete here.

Bourbon Courage (#9, 15-1): Consistent horse seems a cut below the best in here.

The play:

Key Cat Burglar.

Make use of Valid if his actual odds look anything like his morning line odds.

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