05/13/2009 3:16PM

Preakness thoughts


Tired of reading all the headlines hyping the impending Battle of the Sexes?  How about a couple of betting alternatives for Saturday's Preakness Stakes?

While both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra are obviously logical contenders to wear the Black-Eyed Susans once the second leg of racing's Triple Crown is all said and done, there are holes in their form to address. 

The Derby winner's race was such an anomaly compared to his previous past performance lines that one must wonder where it came from.  Is he simply a horse reaching his peak at an opportune time?  Did all he need was a change in riding tactics to fulfill his true potential?  Or, and more likely, did the little colt relish the slick Churchill Downs racing strip better than his competition? 
If you're looking for wagering value in the Preakness, you'll have to move elsewhere.  Mine That Bird won't be anywhere near his Derby odds of 50-1.  Can he win the Preakness?  Absolutely, but considering that he was an underlay at 50-1 on the first Saturday in May, odds of 9-2 or so in the Preakness look somewhat unappetizing if the track comes up fast.

It's hard to knock a horse with the brilliance of Rachel Alexandra, but she is wheeling back on two weeks rest to face a stronger cast than the bunch of ladies she disdainfully disapatched of in the Kentucky Oaks.  The pace looks to be perhaps five lengths faster in the Preakness than it was in the Oaks.  Taxing fractions may work to the big filly's disadvantage.  She'll be on or near the lead, and should be in strong contention as the field roars into the final turn.  Can she win?  Absolutely.  But while playing a filly off such short notice at slight odds may give a handicapper temporary bragging rights (until the next race, that is), it won't pay off in the pocketbook.   

Without knowing the post positions, I found two intriguing horses that look poised to make their presence felt at Pimlico.

Big Drama has finished first in six straight races at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. He showed both speed and class in his recent tough-luck disqualification in the Swale at Gulfsream.  That race was his first since grabbing a quarter in the Delta Jackpot, and then being sidelined in the early Spring following surgery on his left hind shin.  Despite the time off, he didn't show any rust.  After coasting through an easy first quarter, Big Drama was engaged by the solid This Ones for Phil, and the two sped off through a middle half-mile in 45 1/5. Big Drama was drifting out in the stretch, but refused to let This Ones for Phil pass in deep stretch. 
While Big Drama went gate-to-wire in the Swale, he has shown a willingness to sit just off the leaders.  He was fifth after the first call in the Delta Jackpot, and relaxed off a 49 3/5 half when winning the In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.  He'll probably either be in front early, or sitting just off Rachel Alexandra's hip for the backstretch run. 
While his pedigree isn't exactly geared to the classic distances, the Montbrook - Notebook breeding 'nick' has produced Outofthebox, the winner of the Grade 1 Super Derby at 10 furlongs. 

Don't dismiss Papa Clem.  I think the short comment for his Derby run is a bit misleading.  "Steadying restraint" either indicates that the horse was bounced around in traffic or was so rank that he was impossible to handle.  Neither was the case.  Papa Clem was eager, as he always seems to be in the early portion of his races, but he soon settled in behind horses for Rafael Bejarano.  While no match for Mine That Bird, Papa Clem kept on in the stretch to lose a three-horse photo for second.
Perhaps Papa Clem doesn't run as well on mud as he does on firm going.  In his three races on dirt, he caught two wet tracks, and two freakish winners (Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby, and Mine That Bird) emerged with the lion's share of the purse money in those races.  In his only start on fast ground, he won the Arkansas Derby at nine furlongs.
In trying to visualize how the Preakness will be run, I keep seeing Papa Clem as the recipient of a perfect trip.  Big Drama and Rachel Alexandra may be disputing the issue while Papa Clem sits in a comfortable pace-tracking spot two to four lengths off the leaders.  I expect Papa Clem to get the jump on the late closers from that spot.  Whether he's good enough to beat these horses is certainly open to debate, but teh price should be right.

As it stands right now, I'll probably key Big Drama and Papa Clem with Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird as underneath considerations.


Some quotes from the most recent press release from Pimlico:

*Wayne Lukas on if he trained Rachel Alexandra:

"Believe me, if I had Rachel Alexandra, she'd have been in the Derby.  Are you kidding me?  That would have been a no-brainer.  I'd have led her over there and said, "Boys, just get in the gate, you're in deep crap."

*Lukas on Luv Gov:

"That son of a gun is starting to do good.  He ran a bang-up race to Summer Bird in Hot Springs and he came back on Derby day and his numbers for that race are pretty darn good in relation to ones who ran a little later in the Derby.  A horse that is improving at this time of year is always dangerous...My ultimate goal for him...is the Belmont...He could make a little noise here.  We don't have grandiose ideas that he's going to jump up and beat these horses, but he might figure in the superfecta."

*Derek Ryan on Musket Man facing Rachel Alexandra:

"The more the merrier.  I'm not worried about anybody else in the race."

*Todd Pletcher on Rachel Alexandra:

"I'll find it very interesting to see how she handles a step up in class because the field is greatly different than the field she faced in the Oaks.  I think it's great for the sport and it's going to be very exciting to see how she performs."


Do the same rule apply to the Preakness HG as the did the Derby HG?
Are we allowed to bet the Black-eyed Susan - Preakness double?
Is there such a thing as a Black-eyed Susan - Preakness double being offered this year?
Is there a cap to how much we can spend on this bet?
Could i do a bet such as:
$96 BES-PD Oro Blanco/Rachel Alexandra
$1 TRI RA/BD, terrain/BD, terrain, FF
I want some guidelines beacuse i am very tempted to put in this bet for the HG.

Saturday's HandiGambling 133 exercise will be the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico. 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. 

The same rules for the Kentucky Derby HandiGambling exercise will apply for the Preakness.  There is a $2 minimum Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Daily Double wager.  You can spend the $100 in any fashion.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.  The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought process about wagering, it would be appreciated


Every year we hear about the tight turns of Pimlico. And also every year, at least one TV analyst - maybe it is Randy Moss year after year - will say that the tight turns are a myth. So do the turns have an impact or not?

I'm not a big proponent of the "tight turns" angle.  There's enough of a run going to the first turn for horses from outside post positions to get over and not lose too much ground.  As always, keep a watchful eye on the earlier dirt races to see if there is any sort of bias in effect.


Should I assume there are no P6s for BES or Preakness Day?

I don't think there are any Pick 6's for those cards.  There are eight pick-threes and two pick-fours on Friday.  On Saturday, there will be rolling daily doubles, eight pick-threes, and two guaranteed pick-fours.


Back with more tomorrow.

Take care,