Don't let anyone fool you. The 126th Preakness Stakes is so riddled with questions, it's all but impossible to truly feel strongly about one horse. You can guess or deduce or surmise or assume, but there is no way you state with any authority you know what's going to happen. We have a different scenario from the Derby, and it's anyone's guess if we'll have a fast or slow pace; if Monarchos can come back in two weeks after becoming only the second horse besides Secretariat to break 2:00 in the Derby; if the lightly raced Congaree is going to "bounce" after turning in a sensational effort in the Derby; if Point Given's Derby was a fluke; or if A P Valentine and Dollar Bill can rebound after encountering nightmare trips in the Derby. How good are the newcomers? How far can Richly Blended take them? And so on and so on.
Unlike the Derby, we haven't seen enough training to latch onto a horse based on that factor alone. But we will give it a shot, and also resort to some gut instinct, which is as good a way to handicap this race as any logical method.Condition
We'll get this out of the way first, as all the horses from the Derby appear to have come out of the race none the worse for wear. Monarchos
has maintained his flesh and enthusiasm; Point Given
both came off the van Wednesday with their coats gleaming and looking in top shape. Congaree bounced all the way to the barn. Dollar Bill also has held his flesh well and still looks to be in great health. No help here.Works
We really liked the works turned in by Point Given
at Churchill Downs. Congaree relaxed early, and as usual was very strong through the stretch. Point Given's work impressed us more than his pre-Derby works. We especially liked the way exercise rider Dana Barnes just sat on him, and when she gave him his head just a tad around the eighth pole, he bounded away from his workmate under no encouragement, in much the same manner as Fusaichi Pegasus did last year. Dollar Bill
also looked strong in his five-furlong work.
Perhaps the most telling work was the one turned in by A P Valentine
, who went five furlongs in !:00 3/5, right after stablemate It's So Simple went in 1:03 and change. Unlike his works at Churchill, in which exercise rider Jamie Sanders had to ask him down the stretch, he needed no urging in the slightest and was more fluid. In short, he basically seemed much more comfortable on this track. In his subsequent gallops, he's been fighting the bit and throwing his head around, as if he's not comfortable with pressure on his mouth after having been snatched up twice and yanked around in the Derby. It may be time to let this colt have his head and allow him to take care business the way he wants to.
hasn't had an official work, he did blow out down the lane in his gallop on Monday, and actually threw in a :12 4/5 eighth during his gallop Wednesday. He's been aggressive and getting a lot out of his gallops, and we see no reason why that shouldn't be enough for him, especially considering how fast he ran in the Derby. Another colt who's been getting a lot out of his gallops is Griffinite
, as he bounds over the track with those humongous strides. On Wednesday, he galloped two miles, and was clocked in 1:45 for each mile, according to trainer Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen, which is near-workout time. Mr. John
looked very strong working a half earlier this week at Churchill Downs, and was reaching out with good extension.Point Given's morning adventuresPoint Given
was a gentleman in his gallop Thursday morning, but did try to rear once walking on the dirt path leading to the track, and had to whipped across the shoulder by the exercise rider. This morning, however, it was a totally different story. A few seconds after leaving the barn, Point Given took a bad step with his right front foot, turning his ankle. That set him off, and he proceeded to rear six times, a few them pretty scary, as exercise rider Pepe Aragon held on for dear life. At one point, the lead shank got tangled up around the colt's leg, and the groom had to let go of it. Aragon had to hold on to the colt's neck, then finally got him to settle down near the walking ring, a few feet away. This was hairy stuff, especially the thought of Point Given throwing the rider and getting loose. We particularly liked Dollar Bill's
gallop Thursday, as he was extremely focused throughout and never moved his head an inch. Another colt who's been galloping beautifully is Percy Hope
While Richly Blended
, Mr. John
, Percy Hope
, and Bay Eagle
all look to have a bright future, you're basically guessing that they're good enough at this stage of their career to be competitive against these kind of top-class Derby horses.Analysis
We certainly don't have the convictions we did for the Derby, but we'll try to put all this together, and see what we come up with.
Monarchos, Congaree, and Point Given are expected to battle for favoritism, so there really are no bargains here, especially with all the questions surrounding each horse. Of these, we think Point Given may be the forgotten horse, and significantly higher odds than he was at Churchill. If a horse is allowed a throw-out race, then Point Given's Derby could simply be a matter of his being too close to a scorching pace. Expect him to be near th back of the pack this time. If Congaree can jump up and win, then he truly will be regarded as one of the most exciting young horses seen in years. What he did in the Derby (stalking a ::44 4/5, 1:09 1/5 pace before opening a two-length lead) was remarkable. As for the Derby winner, if the pace is fast, or should we say honest, there is no reason why he can't duplicate that monster move in the Preakness. If anyone has left enough in the tank it's John Ward, with his carefully mapped-out program, geared around the horse and only the horse.
If you're looking for a big price, we're going to recommend our old friend A P Valentine
, because he may have telegraphed his blows in the final eighth of the Derby, where he passed seven horses, despite getting stopped cold twice. He could have called it quits, but found another run in him instead. He seems to like Pimlico, and his work was so far superior here than at Churchill Downs. The way he's been fighting the bit in his gallops following Monday's work, we expect him to be much closer to the pace, and allowed to run more freely.
Even though he was beaten more than 30 lengths in the Derby, we sure wouldn't be surprised to see Dollar Bill
pick up a piece of it, assuming, of course, he finally has a decent trip. Of the newcomers, we really like the way Griffinite
and Percy Hope
are coming up to the race. The big question here is whether or not they're ready for this kind of race, or even how far they want to go. With Griffinite, there's no doubt the talent is there, and we do love his stride, which virtually is a carbon copy of his sire Unbridled's Song's stride.
Any one of the three choices over A P Valentine, Dollar Bill, Percy Hope and Griffinite could prove lucrative. We're also going to break open our A P Valentine piggy bank and get those last pennies out and put it on the nose of the horse we've felt all along was as good as any of them. He certainly hasn't been showing it, but by no fault of his own, and just maybe this will be his time to shine.