We are officially in the thick of the Triple Crown season with The Preakness happening this weekend and although the top finishers in the Kentucky Derby won’t be present, the good news is that it doesn’t make the race any less competitive. There’s a rock-solid undercard on tap at Pimlico as well where I have some VERY strong opinions. Let’s get started.
Pimlico Racetrack – Race 5 – The James W. Murphy
This edition of the James W. Murphy came up strong for an ungraded stakes race. I have a strong opinion here and at 4-1 I think Current is the goods. Current is a regally-bred son of Curlin and began his career on grass for Todd Pletcher. An atypical move for Pletcher as he normally starts his well-bred stock on dirt which tells me this one has been turf-meant from the beginning.
After winning two and running competitively in all of his turf starts, Todd Pletcher thought enough of Current to enter him in the Florida Derby – a race which produced the Kentucky Derby winner (prior to dq) Maximum Security and Code of Honor. Current ran a very respectable 5th after being taken off a slow pace and closed into a deceptively-fast closing figure. Current is lined at 4-1 and I truly think anything higher than 2-1 on him is value. I think he wins by open lengths.
Pimlico Racetrack – Race 6 – The Maryland Sprint (Grade 3)
The Maryland Sprint is always a fun race. My fondest memory happened in 1999 when a drunken fan ran into the middle of the racetrack during the race which ended up being won by champion Artax. The fan was apprehended and lucky to be alive. The race was declared a no-contest for betting purposes. Hopefully this year’s running is less eventful as it features a solid field of 7 sprinters looking to make a name for themselves this year.
While others might have flashier resume’s, I’m going with New York Central whom I believe is improving at the right time. Regally-bred, by Tapit out of Fashion Cat, New York Central broke his maiden in his second start and took a stab at the Kentucky Derby trail last year only to be sidelined after a strong runner up finish in the Pat Day Mile at long odds.
Since his return in February, New York Central has run back to back races that put him right in the mix here. Most recently he finished a strong fifth to Bobby’s Wicked One in the Commonwealth in what was a better-than-it-looked race.
Pimlico Racetrack – Race 7 – The Searching (19:07 GMT / 14:07 EST)
The Searching is a 1 ½ mile marathon for fillies & mares and features an evenly matched field of mostly older fillies and mares. I had to decide whether or not I was going to handicap this over the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes in my 4 race analysis and I picked this one because I have a strong opinion about Osare to upset likely favorite Ickymasho (GB). Osare is out of the dam Bubbler making her a half sister to the great Arrogate. While Arrogate never raced on turf, Osare has only raced on turf.
Trainer Jonathan Thomas is probably best known for his work with Catholic Boy – who turned into a turf BEAST. I think Osare is his next monster. She’s coming off a September layoff but has been firing bullets in her works which signals her readiness. Her trainer is currently winning at a 26% rate in turf races AND in graded stakes races. That tells me Jonathan Thomas sends his horses ready and this one looks live.
Pimlico Racetrack – Race -13 – The Preakness (Grade 1) (23:48 GMT / 18:48 EST)
The Preakness didn’t draw many entrants from the Kentucky Derby this year but it did draw an evenly matched field of three-year-olds. I’m picking Bourbon War to win from off the pace. Bourbon War exits the Florida Derby which is the most-live race of any of the Kentucky Derby preps producing, Maximum Security, Code of Honor and even a strong performance from Bodeexpress in the Kentucky Derby.
Bourbon War closed into a slow early pace in the Florida Derby but the piece that everyone keeps overlooking is how fast the closing figure was. This is why Maximum Security and Code of Honor were able to back up their form. Bourbon War will add blinkers and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz who’s one of the best in the world. Trainer Mark Hennig started the year strong and is due for a big win.
If Bourbon War ends up with a tough trip, I think Laughing Fox is the other strong closer in the field. Laughing Fox finished a length behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Country House in the Arkansas Derby and rebounded by winning the Oaklawn Park Invitational with a strong closing kick. I like him at LONG odds to crack the superfecta.
Market King is my third choice. I see Market King as the speed-of-the-speed and if the other riders aren’t careful, he could get away to a clear early lead. While his speed figures haven’t yet backed up his hefty purchase price, Market King is trained by D. Wayne Lukas. A master in Triple Crown races. I see Market King putting away the speeds before dog-fighting it out with the closers for the win.