05/21/2011 12:09PM

Preakness Day 2011

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12:10 pm: Three races down and 10 to go, including the second leg of the Triple Crown and five other graded stakes,  in the 13-race, 8 1/2-hour marathon that is Preakness Day. 

The track is dry and fast, the turf still slow and soggy but officially "good.". In the opener, Graham Motion-trained Technique ($14.00) was a 3 1/4-length winner over 3-2 Boreal Forest in a 6f N1x times in 1:11.16. The second, a starter handicap for statebred $7500 claimers, went to No Brakes ($7.60) in 1:45.88 for 8.5f.

In the 3rd, it took Golden Causeway ($6.00, Motion again) 1:49.24 to negotiate 8.5f on the turf, nine full seconds off the course record.

Ten minutes to the day's first graded stakes, the G3 Allaire Dupont for older fillies. The early pick-4 starts at 12:58 with an N2x filly turf sprint. Later on I'll be posting my cheat-sheet and tickets for the pick-5 (starts 2:57 pm) and pick-4 (starts 3:39 pm) ending with the Preakness. TV coverage begins on Versus at 2:30 p.m. and switches to NBC from 4:30 to 6:30.

 

12:30 pm: Life at Ten turned in her third straight poor performance going back to the Breeders' Cup Distaff debacle, finishing a distant third at even money to Super Espresso and Payton d'Oro in the Dupont.

Life at Ten, beaten five lengths at 3-10 in her season debut at Gulfstream last month, was perfectly placed third just off a quick pace and moved to the leaders on the stretch turn as if she might be back in top form. Instead, she had nothing left and could not keep up with Payton d'Oro, who slipped through at the rail and then drifted out. Super Espresso, a Pletcher trainee uncoupled with the favorite, finshed best out in the middle of the track to run down Payton d'Oro.

 

1:30 pm: Good news for NYRA Rewards customers: The 50-cent minimums are available on the pick-4's and pick-5 today.

 

1:45 pm: Vengeful Wildcat held off a stubborn Chipshot to win the $100k Chick Lang for 3-year-old sprinters, a finish that suggested the track is fair. The top two finishers alternated on the lead throughout the race and Chipshot hung in very well racing on the rail.

 

2:10 pm: Here's the breakdown of the all-graded-stakes pick-5 which starts with the G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at 2:58 pm and ends with the Preakness, scheduled for 6:19 pm.

With fields of 9, 8, 6 and 7 in the first four legs, and three heavy favorites, it's going to take a serious upset or two. Bettors face the same dilemma in the Gallorette and Dixie: Stand alone with, or try to beat, a serious Grade 1 performer who hasn't been out since the Breeders' Cup. Shared Account and Paddy O'Prado tower over their opponents and probably don't have to run their best to beat the fields that have been hustled up to oppose them. On the other hand, the soggy and tiring turf course may not be the ideal surface to return from long layoffs. 

They may be similar prices but I'm more inclined to try to beat Shared Account than Paddy O'Prado. There's a smaller talent gap between her and her opponents than there is between Paddy and his, and while both are racing at shorter distances than their preferred one, 8.5f may be more of a hindrance to Shared account than 9f will be to Paddy.

The third strong favorite in the sequence is Apart, a generous 5-2 on the ML for the G3 Schaefer, but likely to go off shorter.

 

 

2:55 pm: Here's the pick-5 play, where I cast a wide net, upgraded some b/c-level longshots to A's, and will not get my money back if Shared Account, Apart and Paddy O'Prado all win:

 

3:03 pm: Stewards looking at a foul claim by the rider of Immortal Eyes, a very game and close second under the wire to favored Ventana in the Maryland Sprint Handicap.

 

3:08 pm: They left it up. Immortal Eyes hung in admirably at 20-1 in what turned out to be a two-speed number around the track, but Ventana prevailed despite losing the whip and the stewards judged (correctly, as I saw it) that the contact between the two nearing the wire was incidental.

Hate to see one of the few seemingly wide-open races on the card going to a $5.20 favorite, but it beats being dead after the first leg. 

 

3:21 pm: Still 15 minutes to post for the Gallorette but Shared Account is a chilly 2-1 vs. her 4-5 ML and is only the third choice in the place pool at the moment.

 

3:48 pm: Shared Account failed to fire at all at 3-2 and the only three other Gallorette entrants resembling graded-stakes filies ran 1-2-3 as No Explaining ($8.80) won by a length, outfinishing Desert Sage and Dyna Waltz, who dead-heated for second. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Shared Account in fourth.

 

4:30 pm: Pretty good hoss race in the Schaefer as Apart wore down a stubborn Colazeo with Icabad Crane third. Those looking for a leader of the fractured handicap division may want to keep looking: Apart's winning time of 1:43.70, albeit with a slower pace (1:13.19 vs. 1:10.64), doesn't stack up very well against Super Espresso's 1:42.85 in the DuPont earlier on the card.

The six starters finished in the precise order in which they were bet.

Coverage about to move from Versus to NBC for the next two hours, then back to Versus for a post-race half-hour.

 

4:45 pm: Twenty minutes to the Dixie, then another 72 until the Preakness. Is it time for a Black-Eyed Susan cocktail? The "traditional" recipe calls for 1 1/4 cup vodka, 1 1/4 cup light rum, 3/4 cup triple sec, 4 cups orange juice, 4 cups pineapple juice, and lime slices or maraschino cherries. My own preferred recipe is to discard all of those ingredients except the vodka and lime slice, and serve over ice.

 

5:15 pm: Have they run the Dixie yet? Who knows? It's eight minutes past post time, NBC hasn't mentioned it, and no one else is allowed to show it live because it's in NBC's exclusive window. This seems to happen every single year with either the Woodford Reserve, the Dixie or the Manhattan, which are carded one race before the Triple Crown race.

You can't argue that NBC is obliged to show a grass race that most of its audience couldn't care less about, but then why tie everyone else's hands?

It's official: Paddy o'Prado won and paid $3.20. That's all I know.

 

7:00 pm: Didn't like Shackleford going in and liked him even less after watching him contest a first quarter in 22.69, but hats off to the 136th Preakness winner for a gutsy victory. Congrats too to Dale Romans, still somewhat underrrated despite all his successes including five straight 1-2-3-4 finishes in Triple Crown races with three different horses.

Animal Kingdom confirmed he's a nice horse with a good late run for second, but he had no real excuse -- and a horse truly deserving of a chance at the Triple Crown would have run down Shackleford today. This is a contentious and entertaining group of classic colts, but not a stellar bunch. The winner's time was the slowest in 17 years and I'd be surprised if the race got a much better Beyer Speed Figure than the subpar 103 of the Derby.

Will we get a rematch of the Derby and Preakness winners in the Belmont? Way too soon to tell, but one factoid may play into the decision: Of the last 20 horses who won two Triple Crown races, 19 won the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old, even though several never won again the rest of the year. (The one exception was Holy Bull, the 1994 divisional champion and Horse of the Year over Preakness-Belmont winner Tabasco Cat.)