Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012 Preakness Stakes Field Analysis

With the excitement of the Kentucky Derby (GI) behind us, the focus shifts to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (GI). Contested at a mile and three-sixteenths at Pimlico Racecourse in Maryland, the middle jewel of the Crown is half a furlong shorter than the Run for the Roses. The Kentucky Derby victor, I’ll Have Another, will continue his bid for the Triple Crown and should he emerge as a winner on Saturday, he will proceed to the Big Apple for the Belmont Stakes (GI) for the final leg of the Triple Crown in attempt to receive title that has not been captured since 1978. The Preakness features a record of many notable winners, having produced a three-year-old Eclipse Champion in ten of its last eleven runnings. This year’s Preakness at Old Hilltop is sure to be one that will be remembered for years to come.

Listed below are all of the horses entered to run in the 2012 Preakness Stakes, along with descriptions of their recent racing and training endeavors, as well as the chances I believe they each have. The entrants are listed in post position order.

#1. Tiger Walk: Following two easy wins at Laurel Park, the son of Tale of the Cat ran well in three graded stakes at Aqueduct: two thirds in the Withers Stakes (GIII) and the Gotham Stakes (GIII), as well as a fourth in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI). I believe the Preakness field will prove to be too much for him, despite the fact that he has had more training over Pimlico’s surface than any other entrant.

#2. Teeth of the Dog:
He ran a good third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI), but the top two finishers in that race - Gemologist and Alpha - did not make much of a dent in the Kentucky Derby, though Gemologist did emerge from the race with an injury. Though he is on a rise, he appears to be outclassed here.

#3. Pretension: Coming off a stakes win at Pimlico, the son of Bluegrass Cat clearly has an affinity for Old Hilltop. However, he has not fared well against graded company, having finished fifth in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) and ninth in the Illinois Derby (GIII). I do not expect for him to run very well in the Preakness.

#4. Zetterholm:
After an eleventh-place finish in his debut, Zetterholm has finished no worse than second and is coming off a three-race winning streak. However, he has never won anywhere other than Aqueduct and has never faced tremendously high-quality athletes. The Preakness is too large of a step up for him.

#5. Went the Day Well:
A colt that I have much confidence in, Went the Day Well finished more strongly than any other horse in the Kentucky Derby. Given a smoother trip, the son of Proud Citizen could have given his connections a repeat victory in the Run for the Roses. I believe he has a very good chance at providing his connections with redemption at the Preakness. For more on Went the Day Well, please click here.

#6. Creative Cause: This colt
ran a great race in the Kentucky Derby, but just did not have the acceleration necessary for a victory. However, the race seems to have taken quite a bit out of him and between traveling from Kentucky to California to Maryland, the colt may be quite fatigued. He’s gifted, but he may not be on the top of his game, which he will need to be. For more on Creative Cause, please click here.

#7. Bodemeister: He ran
an absolutely spectacular race in the Kentucky Derby, but there is the worry that he may have fatigued himself too much in doing so. However, the fact that Bob Baffert is sending him to the middle jewel of the Triple Crown just two weeks after his amazing performance is encouraging. Bodemeister will need to be more relaxed than he was in the Preakness, but the pace should be much less taxing this time around and he could very well get an easy lead. Should he continue the brilliance he has shown, he will be very difficult to defeat. For more on Bodemeister, please click here.

#8. Daddy Nose Best:
Despite nice wins in graded stakes prior to the Run for the Roses, Daddy Nose best finished tenth in the Kentucky Derby. He is a physically impressive horse, and though the smaller field should be easier on him, the colt has never fared very well against the best of competition, so the Preakness will not be an easy race for him.

#9. I'll Have Another:
Though he has his work cut out for him, the Derby winner is a very gifted horse and has had the great opportunity of getting much training in over Pimlico's surface. Undefeated in three starts this year, I'll Have Another is entering the Preakness with much confidence. He is not receiving quite the amount of respect he deserves and could be underestimated here, especially considering how confident trainer Doug O’Neill is in how well the colt has been training. For more on why I'll Have Another, please click here.

#10. Optimizer: The D. Wayne Lukas ran a fairly respectable race in the Derby, but he has not won since his maiden and has never been victorious on dirt. Optimizer seems to be the type of horse to never get there. It would be a big surprise to me to see him win the Preakness.

#11. Cozzetti: A winner of only a single start in seven races, Cozzetti has run respectably in his three starts this year, finishing in the top four in three stakes, two of which were graded – the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GI). He has made up ground in his past couple of starts, but those rallies were never enough to score a victory and likely would not be in the Preakness, either.

Mostly, I expect for horses exiting the Kentucky Derby to have the largest impact on the Preakness. I believe this race is between those who ran in the Kentucky Derby, most notably those who finished in the top five in the Derby: I’ll Have Another, Went the Day Well, Bodemeister, and Creative Cause. 

Of course, it is I'll Have Another that many will be pulling for to win. There is never a bigger build-up of excitement than a Derby and Preakness winner approaching the Belmont. So, despite being the second choice on the morning line, I'll Have Another is the only horse with a chance at the Triple Crown. Would a win in the Preakness be an easy task for I'll Have Another? No. Would a win by I'll Have Another be the best thing for racing? Yes.

Shackleford, winner of the 2011 Preakness Stakes
Photo: Terri Cage

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