By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
How times flies! The 146th
running of the Preakness (G1) will take place on Saturday at Pimlico, just two
weeks after an ultra-competitive renewal of the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The second leg of the Triple
Crown has attracted a field of 10, including seven newcomers who skipped the
Derby. Let's take a horse-by-horse look at the field:
#1 Ram (30-1): Son
of American Pharoah has made rapid progress in recent weeks and was a flashy
allowance winner on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs. But Ram was the
beneficiary of a fast pace, and the waters will be much deeper at Pimlico.
#2 Keepmeinmind (15-1): Pure stretch runner unleashed a wide rally to pass tired
rivals and finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Winner of the Kentucky Jockey
Club (G2) as a juvenile, Keepmeinmind seems to have hit a form plateau this
season and may need a step forward to factor in the Preakness.
#3 Medina Spirit (9-5): Although the Preakness will mark Medina Spirit's seventh
start in five months, the stoutly bred son of Protonico is thriving on his busy
schedule. A minor operation to correct a breathing issue seems to have worked
wonders; after finishing second with a wide trip in the Santa Anita Derby (G1),
Medina Spirit led from start to finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), battling
across the finish line half a length in front.
The latter effort was
achieved in the rapid time of 2:01.02 (the eighth-fastest Derby in history), in
part because Medina Spirit finished fast, sprinting the final half mile in :49.81.
The Bob Baffert trainee is clearly at his best when setting the pace and daring
his rivals to catch up, so drawing post three (with deep closers to his inside)
should afford Medina Spirit every opportunity to secure the early advantage.
From there, he'll be tough to run down.
It's also worth noting
Baffert saddled six Kentucky Derby winners between 1997 and 2020, and five of
them came back to win the Preakness. The lone exception was Authentic, who lost
the 2020 Preakness by a neck when the race was postponed due to COVID-19 and
held four weeks after the Derby. In short, Baffert's Derby stars thrive when
wheeling back on short rest for the Preakness, and I expect Medina Spirit to
deliver a big effort.
#4 Crowded Trade (10-1): Chad Brown trainee boasts a racing record astonishingly similar
to that of 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing. The son of More Than Ready
arguably fell too far off the pace when rallying to third in the Wood Memorial
(G2); two starts back, he was beaten a nose in the Gotham (G3) after tracking
the pace. Crowded Trade has been pointed specifically to the Preakness and
figures to secure a mid-pack closing trip at Pimlico. I'm keen to include him
in trifecta and superfecta tickets.
#5 Midnight Bourbon (5-1): A slow start forced Midnight Bourbon to rally from
mid-pack in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished sixth with a wide trip. The
son of Tiznow is more comfortable racing on or near the lead, as he did when
posting a gate-to-wire victory in the Lecomte (G3).
With an alert break in the
Preakness, Midnight Bourbon figures to return to forwardly placed tactics,
perhaps stalking Medina Spirit and Concert Tour. If a modest tempo unfolds, the
three favorites can potentially run 1-2-3 around the track. My only concern is
the possibility Midnight Bourbon might be starting to regress after a busy
#6 Rombauer (12-1): If
there's a double-digit longshot capable of outrunning expectations in the
Preakness, I believe it's Rombauer. Winner of the El Camino Real Derby and
runner-up in the American Pharoah (G1), Rombauer ran a deceptively strong race
when finishing third in the Blue Grass (G2) last month. After chasing a slow
pace from third place (a much more forward trip than usual), Rombauer sprinted
the final three furlongs in a snappy :36.84 to remain in third place, 5 3/4
lengths behind champion two-year-old Essential Quality.
Rombaur skipped the Kentucky
Derby to target the Preakness, which will mark his third start of the season.
The son of Twirling Candy has been cranking out fast five-furlong workouts at
Santa Anita, so I expect him to show a bit more tactical speed again in the
Preakness. I believe Rombauer is a must-use runner for trifecta tickets, and even
a top-two finish isn't out of the question.
#7 France Go de Ina (20-1): Japanese raiders have consistently outrun expectations in
the American classics, so I won't dismiss France Go de Ina from consideration.
A slow start compromised his chances when sixth in the UAE Derby (G2), but the
son of Will Take Charge had previously dominated 1,800-meter maiden and
allowance races in Japan. Hot jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount, and France
Go de Ina is bred to relish classic distances, so I can envision a scenario
where France Go de Ina comes running down the stretch to catch a spot in the
superfecta. But the Belmont (G1) is the race where I'll be especially
interested in supporting France Go de Ina.
#8 Unbridled Honor (15-1): Closed from last place to finish second in the Lexington
(G3), but did benefit from a pace meltdown over a sloppy track. Previously
fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Unbridled Honor is progressing in the right
direction, but might not get the same favorable setup at Pimlico.
#9 Risk Taking (15-1): If
you draw a line through Risk Taking's seventh-place effort in the Wood Memorial
(G2), his form is encouraging. The Chad Brown trainee broke his maiden racing 1
1/8 miles and dominated the Withers (G3) by 3 3/4 lengths during the winter. But
was his Wood Memorial disappointment a fluke, or was it the result of stepping
up against tougher competition? That's a key question to consider when
analyzing Risk Taking's Preakness potential. His form wasn't really flattered
when Withers runner-up Overtook returned to finish third against a small field
in the Pater Pan (G3).
#10 Concert Tour (5-2): The second Baffert trainee won his first three starts in
impressive fashion, including a dominant gate-to-wire score in the Rebel (G2).
But the son of Street Sense disappointed as the 3-10 favorite in the Arkansas
Derby (G1), faltering to finish third by 2 1/2 lengths.
Perhaps pressing the pace
through quick fractions compromised Concert Tour's chances, but the fact
pacesetter Caddo River battled back to finish ahead of the favorite suggests
Concert Tour simply regressed off his Rebel romp. The good news is, he's
trained forwardly in the interim and picks up Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith
for his second attempt at the Grade 1 level. If Concert Tour settles into a
relaxed stalking trip, he'll have every chance to crack the top three.
1st: Medina Spirit
2nd: Concert Tour
4th: Midnight Bourbon
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the Preakness?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.