Saturday, 16 May 2009

Get Lucky Laying Rachel?

First of all, I love the Preakness. I admit I’m a bit partial about this race and track.

For the record, the reason is not my secret craving for being part of a frat party, it’s that Preakness Day is one of few events in American racing that manages to attract a huge crowd out of all walks of life, the vast majority of them not being simultaneously drunk and stupid. I also have a general sympathy for Baltimore, which is in part fueled by The Wire, although Pimlico only gets brief stints as a drug-infested neighborhood in what I consider one of the greatest works of art in history.

I guess ultimately the reason is the human inclination to root for the underdog. The Preakness, tucked in between the glamorous Derby and the more prestigious showdown at the Big Apple, is always the ugly duckling of the Triple Crown. Promoters never seem to be quite sure what to make of it, frequently concentrating on the alleged anachronism of the date, or the lack of beauty in the surrounding neighborhood. In any recap of Triple Crown sweeps the Pimlico race is sure to be the one least talked about.

This is especially weird because the Preakness is often the most meaningful 3YO race of the year, returning the top finishers from the Derby to race under more conventional circumstances, with less of the trip trouble and destructive pace scenario that usually characterizes the Run for the Roses.

This year’s edition looks like a potential one-for-the-ages:

#1 Big Drama – not confident he’ll stand the distance; really hasn’t done anything wrong so far, but somehow I’m far less impressed than most observers are

#2 Mine That Bird – Fool me once... As I said before, I don’t expect him to win this, but I wouldn’t be shocked; hard to handicap a horse that improved so much on his last start; he won’t have such a favorable trip twice, but his Derby move was too good to be explained away as merely a circumstantial fluke, figures to be a contender again

#3 Musket Man –I had him sized up for an honest racehorse who could get into the money, but not one to really menace before the Derby, which may have been underestimating him a little; went spectacularly wide for the final turn, but then again several outlets mentioned that 6 or 7 wide may have been better than 3 or 4 wide on that CD track; all in all I don’t have him on the shortlist this time either, but would consider him if playing the trifecta

#4 Luv Gov – broke his maiden on the 10th attempt; his undercard win on Derby Day was nothing to write home about; he went clear late on a muddy track after a perfect trip, but didn’t beat much and did it in less-than-impressive time, giving his opposition much more headway than he can afford this time; horrible stable form in Graded Stakes, too; frankly I don’t see why he’s entered in this race

#5 Friesan Fire – I share the concerns about him returning so soon after suffering an injury in the Derby; pretty much depends on whether you think the quarter crack story was overblown; starts from a tricky post statistically

#6 Terrain – stable drops sharply in Graded Stakes, plus there is no real reason why he should suddenly improve over horses that have distanced him before

#7 Papa Clem – nice effort in the Derby, but he was true to form there, and being true to form again isn’t enough here; I think he’s a fine racehorse, but a level below the creme of this crop, also starts from a tricky post statistically

#8 General Quarters - As great a story as he is, I never shared all the optimism; the reason is simple: I think those Keeneland preps are way overblown because of their historical importance, in the Polytrack era they have so far been entirely meaningless for the Classics; the Blue Grass aside, he’s shown some useful performances, but none that make him a contender in this field.

#9 Pioneerof The Nile – ran a very good race in the Derby and may find it a bit easier here (although his Derby trip was far better than it could have been); if RA fails, he’s the go-to candidate, although he might be singled out (hence bet) more than he should be; I don’t find his speed figs too slow at all, he got a 95 Beyer or 103 BRIS going 3 wide both turns on a rail-favoring track, which translates into a very reasonable performance

#10 Flying Private – didn’t like him in the Derby, and I’m starting to think D. Wayne Lukas (who trains Luv Gov too) is going for the tail end exacta here. To be fair, he faced adversity in pretty much all of his starts, but his running style and post do little to inspire hope for a reversal of fortunes.

#11 Take The Points – the return-to-dirt and return-to-winning-jock angles are working in his favor; has shown some potential and at 30-1 ML he might provide good value, but may well be parked wide again and needs to step up anyway.

#12 Tone It Down – Well, he was competitive at Laurel, wasn’t he? Pacesetter who doesn’t nearly have the early speed to overcome post 12, let alone the quality to finish it off.

#13 Rachel Alexandra – By far the most important question concerning this race: will she boom or bust. To repeat from an earlier post: “if there’s one race Rachel Alexandra looks vulnerable in, it’s the Preakness. The filly has been re-directed to this race less than ten days before post time, her previous owners obviously never entertained the idea, whereas it must have been lingering in the back of any Derby owner’s or trainer’s mind to some degree. Plus she has changed stables in between, adding an extra stress factor that should more than offset any advantage she may have gained by not running the Derby”. Add the fact that she hasn’t been seriously tested all year, she might get surprised this time. Plus, Borel is the best squeezer around, but squeezing is always a risky tactic, and not one I like to see when I rate a horse superior to the field. Not sure if Borel will try the rail, though.

The more general question: how good was her Oaks win? After a perfect trip she pulled off for a record-shattering 20 ¼ lenght romp, Borel didn’t push her in the stretch. But to assume that a horse could have gone much faster just because it wasn’t urged to is one of the most frequent mistakes in handicapping. Besides, victories by a canter can be deceptive, I’ve seen 6yo Class 3 handicap horses look like the second coming of Eclipse when cantering home in a weak field. I expect her to be at the very least one of the best of this crop, but with all of the above plus the trip scenario from gate 13 going against her, I guess she won’t prove it today.

Pretty wide open for a Preakness,
Considerations for the Win: #2,9,13, of which I wouldn’t play the 13, rest may only be played if Betfair offers some good value, or if you’re a fervent believer in the the get-lucky-laying-Rachel theory; Longshot bet #11 if available for 30-1 upwards.
Exacta: any combination of the above, add #5
Trifecta: add #3 and #7 to the pool

Best Bets: Definitely in the exotics range, I might try a 2,9,11 with 2,5,9,11 with 2,3,5,7,9,11,13 trifecta. If you have more money to spare, consider backing this up with smaller trifectas singling the show-spot horses for win and place.

Finally, I swear this post was all but written before I found out that several parts look like I copied them right out of Joe Drape’s or the DRF’s analysis.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that we both used the same idiom about MTB; I swear I hadn't read your post.