05/16/2014 11:28AM

Fornatale: A contest player's perspective on the Preakness


There is no arguing about the most likely winner of the Preakness Stakes. Based on the ease of his Derby romp and what history tells us, California Chrome is probably 50/50 to win the race. But from a contest perspective, big favorites like California Chrome are rarely useful. Perhaps if you were in first place going into the anchor leg of a contest, with four other players within a few dollars of the lead, then could you play California Chrome.

Realistically, contest players are going to want to go another way in the Preakness. The most intriguing option might be #1 DYNAMIC IMPACT. At 12-1 on the morning line, Dynamic Impact isn’t far behind the 3-5 favorite on speed figures. He has improved steadily, has a similar tactical running style to California Chrome, and should be a multiple of that rival’s price.

Very often in tournaments, as in life at the windows, things can change by post time and it’s useful to keep several horses on your radar. #8 SOCIAL INCLUSION is an obvious contender who should be monitored. If he were to go off a bit higher than his 5-1 morning line, and if speed is holding well through the day, and he behaves himself going to post, he could be an excellent contest play. While many speculate an Oxbow-like front end theft will not happen again this year, Social Inclusion has the speed to clear and the talent to step up – those are attributes you don’t want to ignore under the right circumstances.

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Contest players who are farther back in the pack may need a cap horse who others aren’t likely to have. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, take a look at #4 RING WEEKEND. His flop at Calder last time was inexplicable, but this is where trainer analysis comes in. Graham Motion isn’t a conditioner who enters horses in big races just to saddle horses in big races. This is an unusual spot for him and there might just be a reason why he’s chosen it. Ring Weekend’s other form since being gelded is solid and strange things can happen in Triple Crown races (though granted, not usually in the Preakness). Still, contest players have to reach sometimes, and you could do worse than to reach with a Graham Motion horse at 25-1. Ring Weekend should be all of that on Saturday.

** For more on the Preakness, and tournament play in general, please join me and Matt Bernier at Belmont tomorrow for a seminar on the 4th Floor of the Clubhouse. The first 100 people to register at http://www.nyra.com/belmont/handicapping/free-handicapping-seminar/ will receive a free copy of "The Winning Contest Player."