05/12/2013 10:23AM

Freedom Child, Preakness Thoughts


I find it amazing how apparently so many people seem willing to side with Peter Pan Stakes winner Freedom Child in a match up against Orb – even if the Kentucky Derby winner takes the Preakness – in the June 8 Belmont Stakes. And I say that as someone who liked Freedom Child in the Peter Pan.

Look, Freedom Child ran well Saturday at Belmont Park. He rushed up after a slow start to set a legitimate pace for a nine furlong race, and he ran away to win the Peter Pan by just over 13 lengths. But whether Freedom Child ran Belmont Stakes-good in the Peter Pan is entirely another matter.

For one, after Declan’s Warrior and Battier were scratched, the eight remaining opponents Freedom Child faced had not won a single stakes race of any sort between them. Unless, that is, you want to call the Blue Square Bet Handicap Stakes and its $11,500 purse that Infinite Magic won at Lingfield in February a stakes race, and I don’t.

Then there is the matter of Freedom Child’s occasional gate issues. As noted, he broke awkwardly in the Peter Pan. He of course had that disastrous start in the Wood Memorial which wasn’t entirely his fault as he was in the hands of an assistant starter. But Freedom Child also got left in his debut last fall, so he’s really only batting .500 when it comes to good starts. And it isn’t as though Freedom Child is so good that he can get away with spotting a Belmont Stakes field a head start. Ask noted bad breaker Java’s War how that worked out for him in the Derby. Freedom Child was able to get away with it against a modest Peter Pan field. But in the Belmont? Uh uh.

As for his actual Peter Pan performance, although Freedom Child set a solid pace, he also got loose on a main track that was very kind to speed, especially as it took on rain as the afternoon progressed. The way Freedom Child continually drifted out through the stretch is cause for pause. And really, when you see a horse win a stakes by a double-digit margin in a sea of slop, you expect them to get a higher Beyer than the preliminary 99 Freedom Child was assigned in the Peter Pan.

Let me repeat, Freedom Child ran well Saturday. But if you can’t wait to take on Orb with him in the Belmont, maybe you should be careful what you wish for.

Hey, let’s get through Saturday’s Preakness first. For the first time since he was beaten 22 1-2 lengths in his second career start, Orb will be heavily favored (yes, I know Orb was favorite in the Derby; I said heavily favored), and he will take a world of beating.

I haven’t quite finalized my Preakness handicapping yet, but not for any particular reason. Orb wins on fast tracks and in the slop, so he’s not affected by weather. A late addition or defection from the Preakness field that could impact the pace scenario shouldn’t affect Orb, either. He came from well out of it when he encountered fast early paces in the Derby and Fountain of Youth, but he positioned himself closer to the lead when he saw a slow pace in the Florida Derby, the performance that demonstrated how much he had grown up. And post positions don’t mean a thing in the Preakness.

But while I haven’t committed my Preakness picks to stone just yet, I am fairly sure of a few things:

I’m picking Orb. I publicly picked him and bet on him in his last three starts, so I feel justified staying with him at the short price.

I am very skeptical of the new shooters. Departing and Govenor Charlie are nice horses, but I don’t think they are in the same league as the best colts coming out of the Derby.

I hope Normandy Invasion runs. I thought Normandy Invasion was second best in the Derby even if he finished fourth because I believe he moved prematurely. That said, if he runs, he will be second choice in the betting, and I find the continued uncertainty over his participation to be unsettling. UPDATE, Sunday, pm - It has been announced that Normandy Invasion is passing the Preakness, so that's that.

Finally, I hope Will Take Charge doesn’t snowball as the wise guy horse because I think he’s my firm pick for second. Everyone saw Will Take Charge move stride for stride inside of Orb on the far turn in the Derby, only to get stopped behind the tiring and drifting Verrazano. I do think Will Take Charge was being asked more than Orb was when they were moving together, so I have doubts he would have continued right with Orb in the run to the wire. Nevertheless, what I found most intriguing is, Will Take Charge made his nice far turn move on the kind of sloppy track he is supposed to despise. That, to me, is a very good sign.

Richard Berry More than 1 year ago
Heres my picks 1-3-4-7-6-8-9-2-5 if you pic 2 or 5 to win you must of been on the pot when they have run no way.
Riddle This More than 1 year ago
Folks do as you may...it's a two horse race on Saturday....Orb and Itsmyluckyday. Lucky picks up Johnny V which is a big plus (was Orb's boy before the Derby)...also it is apparent that Lucky did not take kindly to the Churchill slop, he was spinning his wheels right from the get go....wasn't over used in the race and should be better for it. Fast track Saturday you see a much better performance out of Lucky. Will Take Charge was never going to run on with Orb and the fact that he went as far as he did was the slop.
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
I read about half of the comments and did not see any mention of Mylute. He did finish fifth in the Derby. Baffert said Midnight Lute could have been a distance runner if he had fewer aches and pains. Napravnik won't hurt his chances even if she lowers his odds because of being a sentimental choice as a female jockey. He's had more races than the rest and I think that will have built his stamina. He should be in the superfecta, at least and the 1/16 less distance will help.
Steve Lonberger More than 1 year ago
Has anyone heard if Abstraction still poss. for Belmont. He had pretty good workout this week. I was hoping he would run in Preakness. He is 3 yr. old with all kinds of upside.
jttf More than 1 year ago
peter pan day was a big bias with frontrunners. the bias made freedom child look like he sprayed with pixie dust. when it comes to gate problems, the freedom child never grew up. how come no one has brought up the word, lasix ? orb and departing didnt use it at 2 years of age and they are both undefeated when using it. the new school and true handicappers never underestimate the good and the bad effects of lasix.
Alex Sterioff More than 1 year ago
neither did Freedom Child his first lasix was the Wood
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Dave More than 1 year ago
Anyone remember the Southwest Stakes? Super Ninety Nine won in a runaway on a sloppy track and everyone started marking him as a big Derby contender. I think Freedom Child has a lot of ability, but a mile and a half on the front end? It's tough to do. Let's see what other pace ends up in the race. I'm still thinking Revolutionary is going to have a big say in the Belmont.
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago
Horses on the lead always fare better than 1 run closers in The Belmont. Revolutionary has NO shot. A fast pace in the Ky Derby was Revolutionary's best chance at a triple crown win.
Richard More than 1 year ago
I, too, think so (Revolutionary). I believe the horse need not be so far back as was the plan of attack in the Derby. The inside post, slop, and pace made that the obvious option. The horse (with the exception of the LA Derby) is NOT a terrible breaker as was evidenced in his maiden score. Pre-Derby pundits (as I ) thought the horse would be mid-pack. It will be up to JC to decide where to place him. ORB certainly was best on Derby Day, but his Preakness performance leaves room for the legitimate contenders to score. I would be surprised to see Revolutionary trailing the field after the 3/4 mile.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
Mark More than 1 year ago
Lol. He smoked the peter pan field. Its how he did it. He will get his shot against orb. Then we will see . Can't knock him just yet.
Alex Sterioff More than 1 year ago
not to mention he already ran second to orb once before
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
With Normandy out Orb will look like Big Brown did in the Preakness. Total mismatch.
Mike More than 1 year ago
10 minutes after the race - Terry Finley proclaims he is going to the Belmont - What a bunch of promoter's and hucksters these partnership groups are.
John More than 1 year ago
First of all, it's promoters, not promoter's. Secondly, their horse won the Peter Pan by a dozen lengths! Where would you prefer him to go next? Disney World???
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
"The Game" wouldn't recognize a reel Promoter if one ran over their ***!!!...