It’s not likely you will find many people who have strong convictions and opinions on next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I). At least not yet. Although it will have about a half-dozen fewer horses, the second leg of the Triple Crown is in it’s own way almost as confusing as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Let’s start by focusing on one of the horses who will be coming out of the
OK, so he had every chance in the Derby and not only couldn’t catch Super Saver but lost second to Ice Box, who was putting in a Mine That Bird/Street Sense type of move on the turn, only to have the rest of the race turn into a nightmare.
But there is a lot more to Paddy O’Prado’s trip than meets the eye or is revealed in the chart and footnotes.
Let’s take it from the start.
Kent Desormeaux was aggressive early on Paddy O’Prado, getting him to the inside from the 10 post, moving in on Stately Victor and Lookin at Lucky , then putting him right on the rail, about five to six lengths behind Super Saver . He had a dream trip around the first turn and down the backstretch, with no one in front of him and no one to his immediate outside. Unlike Borel, who had Super Saver flush up against the rail, “scraping paint,” Desormeaux had Paddy O’Prado a few feet off the rail, but still well clear of any traffic.
He began to move up steadily along the inside, without the proverbial straw in his path, similar to the trip he had on Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. Approaching the far turn, Desormeaux brought Paddy O’Prado right in on the rail but quickly came off it when he ran up behind Mission Impazible , who had dropped to the inside. Borel, meanwhile, still was hugging the fence and about to take over fourth.
Desormeaux, now three-wide, split horses while in tight quarters and found a wide-open rail again staring him in the face. All he saw, however, was Borel and Super Saver in the exact same spot they were earlier, only now closer to the lead. He began asking Paddy O’Prado, who pulled to within three lengths of Super Saver.
As Borel moved out to go around a tiring Conveyance , Desormeaux began to follow him and was moving fastest off when a tiring Sidney's Candy came in on him and pushed him back in on the rail, right behind a tiring Conveyance as they passed the five-sixteenths pole. Super Saver was now passing Conveyance, and Desormeaux once again came out to follow him to avoid running up on Conveyance’s heels.
He was now less than two lengths behind Super Saver, who headed right back to the rail, going inside Noble's Promise . But that incident with
At the top of the stretch, Paddy O’Prado found an opening outside Noble’s Promise and inside Devil May Care, who had made a strong move into contention. But as soon as they turned for home, that opening closed up when Devil May Care came in as Paddy O’Prado was moving out to go through it. It was difficult to tell if there was any contact, and if so, how much. But it was enough to force Paddy O’Prado back in directly behind Super Saver and Noble’s Promise. By the time Desormeaux was able to get Paddy O’Prado back out in the clear, Super Saver was 3 1/2 lengths ahead of him and beginning to draw clear of Noble’s Promise. That incident, although not dramatic, cost Paddy O’Prado even more momentum, again at a crucial point.
He closed fast, passing Noble's Promise on the outside, but drifted in a bit, once again losing just enough momentum. With winning now out of the question, he appeared to have second place secured, even with Make Music For Me rallying out in the middle of the track. Desormeaux took a look back just inside the sixteenth pole and saw he had Make Music For Me measured. But Ice Box , who had that absolutely dreadful trip, had swung out widest of all and suddenly emerged outside of Make Music For Me, while kicking into another gear.
As Ice Box bore down on Desormeaux, Paddy O’Prado jumped over to his left lead some 30 yards from the wire and was totally out of rhythm just as Ice Box charged by to snatch second by a neck. So, even if Paddy O’Prado had an inclination to fight back, he was in no position to do so. He managed to get back in stride galloping out into the clubhouse turn and actually galloped right on by Super Saver.
Some were critical of Desormeaux, saying he stopped riding hard in the last few yards after feeling he had second wrapped up. But from the long-range TV camera, it didn’t seem conclusive enough to say that he did for sure. Yes, he stopped whipping him, but we have no idea what else he was doing to encourage his horse. Desormeaux has had a reputation over the years for not persevering to get second or third, so perhaps that worked against him in public opinion. But it looked more like it was the horse clumsily changing back to his left lead that made it appear he was not striding out with any authority nearing the wire. And, as mentioned earlier, he did it just as Ice Box was flying up on his outside. Whether Desormeaux let up on Paddy O’Prado or not is up to each person to decide. It just didn’t seem that clear-cut from here.
Looking at the race in its entirety, Desormeaux did everything right trying to get the best ground-saving trip for Paddy O’Prado and was the only one who seemed honed in on Borel and intent on following him as best he could. He just ran into too many obstacles, while Borel had another dream trip from start to finish, never losing his momentum. But you have to give him credit for making those dream trips possible.
Speaking of Ice Box, his move around the turn along the inside was reminiscent of Mine That Bird’s breathtaking move last year, the main difference being he had to check when a hole closed up just as he was about to reach contention. After that, every hole he tried to go through in the stretch closed up until he finally was able to swing out to the middle of track and kicked into a gear we haven’t seen in the final furlong of the Kentucky Derby in many years. This has to rank right up there with the best losing performances in
But getting back to Paddy O’Prado, enough little things happened to him to suggest he would have finished closer to Super Saver had he not lost momentum on three occasions at crucial points in the race. No, he wasn’t better than Super Saver, and certainly wasn’t better than Ice Box. And he had a dream trip compared to Lookin at Lucky. But Ice Box is not in the Preakness and Super Saver will be a lot lower than his 8-1 odds. And you can bet Lookin at Lucky will be bet heavily as well. That leaves Paddy O’Prado as an intriguing horse. But who knows if the public is going to latch on to him again, especially after his big effort at Churchill?
Either way, he still is a horse who is moving forward with every start, is on a roll, and should be a very dangerous horse in the Preakness with a good trip.