May 20, 2016
This weekend the Triple Crown moves north to the great state of Maryland and its industrial capital Baltimore. While the weather appears to be a little dicey, with heavy rain expected, most of the horses have run well in such conditions; so I don't expect it to make that big a difference...unless of course you are on track in the infield!
A cocktail conversation about the Preakness trophy--the Woodlawn vase. This trophy was created by Tiffany and co. in 1860 to be given to the winner of the Woodlawn challenge cup. It was first presented in Louisville in 1860, but when the Civil War broke out it was buried in 1866 on Woodlawn farm in Kentucky. It's owners took to burying the trophy, so it was not found and melted into shot for the confederate army. Once peace secured, it was unearthed and has been associated with the Preakness and Pimlico racecourse since 1917.
Who will have this annual privilege of hoisting the trophy, as fans sing Maryland my Maryland? Personally, I believe it will be the connections, who just 13 days ago, enjoyed the blanket of roses parading around the Kentucky Derby's infield winner's circle.
To reflect...what a horse race the derby was, wow. Nyquist had speed horses thrown at him and he settled, tracked them, and then put them away with ease. In spite of going three wide at the top of the stretch, he really toyed with the competition. My favorite moment was when Mario Gutierrez takes a long, long, look back at the horses behind him with about 100 yards to go. If you want to get fired up for tomorrow, here is the Derby replay.
So what has changed in these past 13 days? Not a lot, but enough to make it a very compelling race.
As you will recall, the Preakness is the shortest of the three triple crown races 1 mile and 3/16; making it 1/16 of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby. More importantly, Pimlico is a very tight race track, meaning the turns are at sharper angles than either Churchill Downs or Belmont. This contributes to making the track very fast and caters to speed horses who race close to the inside rail.
Of the 11 horses set to line up in the Preakness, only 3 competed in the Derby (Nyquist, Exagerrator, and Lani), which means 8 fresh challengers will lineup to take on the best horse in at least a year!
As I handicap the race I believe there will be a lot of speed horses, all running towards the same position as Nyquist, wanting to be on or near the lead. I expect this will create a very fast pace, and Nyquist will have to call on his patience to avoid a speed dual.
He has drawn post 3, which should serve him very well to place in a good position going into the first turn. I expect Uncle Lino and Nyquist to be running head to head into the first turn, with a number of horses all chasing to their outside.
The most interesting newcomer, I think, is Stradivari, who won an allowance race (2nd condition race) by 14 lengths, which is unbelievable. Stradivari and Exaggerator have similar running styles, so I expect they will be sitting off the pace, letting the speed horses run by them into the first turn and settle into the second flight. Their challenge will be navigating through traffic as the horses in front grow tired from setting a very fast pace.
Pimlico is not known as a track closers can make up ground, due in large part to the tight turns and short stretch. If Exaggerator and Stradivari have a lot of racing luck I expect them to be charging hard at Nyquist down the stretch, in what would be a very exciting stretch dual. If they encounter traffic trouble, then I think Nyquist wins more easily than he did the Derby, and the stage will be set for an amazing Belmont, as it is the most demanding race and the one that favors closers the most.
I hope you all enjoy the race tomorrow. I know I am looking forward to seeing Nyquist run again. I have been so impressed by how he physically dominates his competition. He is such a stout strong horse, to see him carry his speed and beat other horses is just amazing to me.
Tune into NBC at 5pm (EST) tomorrow to catch the action live.