"There's nothing wrong with being a loser, it just depends on how good you are at it." - Billie Joe Armstrong
My Derby drought continues as American Pharoah outran his pedigree and Firing Line battled his way into second to completely upend my exacta and trifecta tickets two weeks ago. My probable pace did not get hit (half mile was actually in 47.2; not the 46ish time I had anticipated) - maybe the scratch of Stanford, who I had thought would negatively impact the early pace, had something to do with that? Regardless, it is over and done... on to the Preakness.
At this point last year, I was hunting for reasons to play against California Chrome, which I did, only to go to the dreaded rail and select Dynamic Impact... not one of my better picks over the last year. This year, try as I might to find any reason to play against the heavy favorite, I have trouble doing that. Some will contend that the rail is suicide in the Preakness with only one winner from post 1 in the last 54 years, but then again there have been some pretty weak horses breaking from the rail. Others will tell you to throw out or downgrade the inside half of this eight horse field, which in this case, as I will explain in my probably pace, you can eliminate #2 Dortmund and #3 Mr Z; but not #1 American Pharoah and #4 Danzig Moon.
This race favors speed - not necessarily suggesting any one of these can take the field wire to wire, but that the winner will be tracking along close to the lead and be within the top four spots by the half mile call. Closers tend to fall short here as well.
So here are my thoughts on the 2015 Preakness:
#1 American Pharoah (4-5) - Having watched how he went W-I-D-E early at Churchill to get good position and had enough left in the tank to run down Firing Line late, shows me that his tactical speed is a huge advantage in this field. He has faced hot fractions in the Arkansas and relatively moderate fractions in the Derby and handled both well. Despite the dreaded rail, he is the one to beat and will be tracking off of what appears to be a weak early pace.
#7 Diving Rod (12-1) - On the upswing showing patience in the Lexington last month. He figures to be right on the tails of American Pharoah watching the early pace unfold and this son of Tapit can certainly get the distance. I expect a forward progression here, but just short of the effort that American Pharoah will display.
#4 Danzig Moon (15-1) - Troubled trip in the Derby and still managed fifth. Bluegrass effort prior saw a wide run for second from mid pack and he has yet to win around two turns. Needs to prove he can finish the race and the bias here doesn't help, but I expect him to be a factor late.
#2 Dortmund (7-2) - Will likely take the bait of the early blast from Mr. Z which will find him short of top honors again here, but much like the Derby, don't expect him to finish to far from the money. As I mentioned in the Derby blog two weeks ago, his optimal distance seems to be 9 furlongs, so expect another steady drive, just not enough late kick to make a difference.
My spoiler for exotics looks to be #5 Tale of Verve (30-1). The bias plays against him and it did take him six tries to break maiden. Closing run will be short, but I expect him to be gaining ground late and he could sneak into the trifecta, or more likely, the superfecta. #8 Firing Line (4-1) certainly made a heck of a run in the Derby, but I think he regresses here and may also be around for a minor share.
Pace: I expect #3 Mr Z to bolt right out to the lead, which he never got a chance to in the Derby as he was checked repeatedly. #2 Dortmund takes the bait and doesn't let him get loose. This sets up for American Pharoah, #7 Diving Rod, and #8 Firing Line to settle back between two and five lengths off the pace. #3 Mr Z drops out before the stretch and both American Pharoah and Diving Rod overtake Dortmund. Firing Line runs flat in the stretch while #4 Danzing Moon and #5 Tale of Verve make a late charge to hit the board with the edge to the former.
How would I bet this race?
No real value in playing American Pharoah to win, but I may go across the board on #7 Diving Rod and play a small trifecta with 1 and 7 on top, something along the lines of 1,7 / 1,4,7 / 1,2,4,5,7,8 ; or maybe a small superfecta along the same lines.
Good luck all!