05/17/2010 11:00PM

Preakness selections and analysis


1. Super Saver

2. Lookin At Lucky

3. Pleasant Prince

4. Jackson Bend

Bettors who missed Super Saver at 8-1 in the Kentucky Derby might feel sheepish backing him at 2-1 or less in the Preakness. Bettors who preferred Lookin At Lucky in the Derby might feel obligated to stick with him after another bad trip.

The selection of Super Saver as the most likely winner is obvious. His speed and versatile style adapts to any scenario, and he could be the controlling speed. History is on his side - seven of the last 13 Derby winners returned to win the Preakness. Super Saver won the Derby with a perfect trip, and though perfect-trip wins should be viewed with skepticism, he figures for another good trip in the Preakness.

Lookin At Lucky has had nothing but bad trips. Breaking from post 1 in the Derby, he was slammed early and shuffled to 18th before he rallied to sixth. He also had compromising trips in two starts this season at Santa Anita and Oaklawn.

Lookin At Lucky is not fast, according to the figures. But the synthetic surfaces on which he raced seven times rarely produce high figures; they bring fields together in a clump. On dirt at Oaklawn, he earned a career-high 98 Beyer Speed Figure despite trouble, while his Derby fiasco was a toss.

If the Preakness pace unfolds slowly, no problem. Lookin At Lucky ran well in slow-pace synthetic races in California.

Finally, Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia have a 31 percent win rate the past 12 months. This year, Garcia won five graded stakes for Baffert (Game On Dude, Mythical Power, Misremembered, Conveyance, and Gabby's Golden Gal). All five were ridden by Garcia for the first time. Lookin At Lucky will be ridden by Garcia for the first time.

It's an upset if any others win. Pleasant Prince jammed three starts from late March to late April. Now, he benefits from a three-week "freshening." He previously finished a nose behind unlucky Derby runner-up Ice Box.

Jackson Bend figures for a forward trip that suits the likely pace; trainer Nick Zito has a history of big-stakes surprises. Caracortado had a brutal trip in the Santa Anita Derby and also should be forwardly placed. Paddy O'Prado, third in the Derby, might prefer turf or wet. Schoolyard Dreams finished a half-length in front of the Derby winner one back.1. Lookin At Lucky

2. Super Saver

3. Schoolyard Dreams

4. Dublin

Lookin At Lucky was eliminated passing the stands for the first time in the Kentucky Derby, a victim of his inside draw in a 20-horse Derby field, almost getting forced into the rail a couple of times. Just as many thought it would, the draw proved his undoing, just as it has for many horses in the Derby in recent years. Remember, no horse has even hit the board in the Derby after starting from the fence since Risen Star was third in 1988.

Lookin At Lucky can rebound in the Preakness. He seems the best horse in the race, based on his championship year in 2009 and a troubled-trip victory in the Rebel in March. He needs a clean trip to show what he can do.

The Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver appears to hold a speed advantage in a relatively paceless Preakness, but will be overbet for that reason. His Derby win came under dream conditions - a sloppy track he loved, a fast pace that left the front-runners fatigued, and trouble for the closers, such as runner-up Ice Box and Lookin At Lucky. And last but not least, for all but maybe 10 seconds of a two-minute race, this horse was skimming the fence under Calvin Borel, who is at his absolute best when the Churchill track is wet.

Schoolyard Dreams, fourth in the Wood Memorial, outfinished Super Saver for the place in the Tampa Bay Derby in March, though he had the benefit of a 2010 race, something Super Saver did not. Nevertheless, the powerful turn move he exhibited in that race was eye-catching, and though he seemed to loaf upon making the lead, the race rated highly on figures. Training swiftly and is fresh.

Dublin looks like a candidate for use on the bottom of the exotics. Though he has not won since taking the Grade 1 Hopeful late last summer, he has repeatedly contended in graded stakes this year while keeping some of the toughest company around. He was second to Conveyance in the Southwest, third behind Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel, third behind Line of David and Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby, and a respectable seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Now Garrett Gomez, booted off Lookin At Lucky, picks up the mount.1. Aikenite

2. Lookin At Lucky

3. Super Saver

4. Paddy O'Prado

This is a difficult race to handicap because all the leading contenders have legitimate knocks against them. I'll take a chance on a value play. Aikenite finished a respectable third behind Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth. He was rested for a few weeks, then regressed in the Blue Grass. Keeneland can play differently from day to day, so I'm willing to look past that race. I like Aikenite's performance in the Derby Trial. He made an eye-catching move and finished second behind Hurricane Ike with a career-best 96 Beyer, and has the look of an improving horse at overlaid odds. It's hard to say whether the muddy track helped him that day, but with Aikenite at 20-1 morning-line odds in this race, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lookin At Lucky was stuck in the disadvantageous rail post, then was roughed up and took up during the run to the first turn in the Derby. He rallied into striking distance, then tired late and finished sixth. He would have been closer with a clean trip, and he is a tempting pick for that reason. But it is still hard to take 3-1 morning line odds on a horse who owns a career-best 98 Beyer from nine races.

Super Saver had a perfect trip in his Kentucky Derby win. He saved ground and had no traffic trouble while his opponents were being bounced around, cut off, and raced wide. He also probably moved up on the sloppy track, with two wins from two races in the slop. He is also fond of Churchill, where he has won both of his races vs. one win from five tries everywhere else. Those are good reasons to play against him, but in a field this weak he'll still have a chance to win.

Paddy O'Prado ran a career-best race when he finished a contending third in the Derby, 2 3/4 lengths behind Super Saver. He might have moved up on the sloppy track, but he trained well enough on fast tracks coming into the race to suggest that he had a right to run an improved race in the Derby. Even so, he was a very tired horse in deep stretch, and the possibility of regression must be considered. Dublin finished only a neck behind Super Saver two races ago in the Arkansas Derby. But he was beaten fair and square by Lookin at Lucky in the Rebel, and settled for seventh in Louisville.1. Lookin At Lucky

2. Super Saver

3. Paddy O'Prado

4. Dublin

This year's Kentucky Derby was among the slowest in the past 20 years, but it's still a good bet the Preakness winner is somewhere among the five colts who ran for the roses.

Lookin At Lucky's travails have been documented at length, which may depress his odds, but the fact remains he began from the worst possible post positions in the two biggest races of his career, and now gets to start from the middle of the field.

By all accounts, Lookin At Lucky trained up to the Derby in fine fettle, so it's likely he retains good form for Bob Baffert, who saddled four Preakness winners in a seven-year span from 1997-2002.

Does Lookin At Lucky have much margin for error? Maybe not, but he's already faster than most of these and still hasn't had so much as a halfway decent trip as a 3-year-old.

Recent history suggests Super Saver has about a 50-50 chance to come right back and win again, as seven of the last 13 Derby winners have done. Much was made of his perfect trip, but he still had to absorb plenty of kickback from an unfamiliar position down the backstretch and then accelerate on the rail - though perhaps "accelerate" is a poor choice of words considering the final half-mile unfolded in slow-motion time (53.87 seconds).

There is considerably less early speed here, so Super Saver could conceivably find himself back on the lead or close to it, and still have plenty left for the finish. Remember how Calvin Borel handled Rachel Alexandra so aggressively and was rewarded in last year's renewal.

The $64 question is whether Super Saver will be equally sharp with two weeks between starts, which is not something Todd Pletcher ever asks his horses - the good ones, anyway - to do. In a promising sign, Super Saver has yet to take a backward step by the numbers, either pairing up or producing a new top figure every time.

Paddy O'Prado is still something of an enigma, but comes off three improved races over turf, Polytrack, and wet dirt, and has shown the versatility to lay close or come from behind. He should appreciate the shorter distance after being nipped late for second in the Derby.

Dublin hasn't won since the Hopeful, but was just a neck behind Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby, and may simply have disliked the off going two weeks ago.

Jackson Bend has run his best races from close up, and will likely be sent early after a sharp half-mile drill Monday.1. Lookin At Lucky

2. Dublin

3. Super Saver

4. Caracortado

The Kentucky Derby was over for my Preakness pick, Lookin At Lucky, three days before the race when he drew the 1-hole. With 19 opponents coming over on you and an inner rail jutting out at you, that is one Derby post everyone would like to avoid, and it put Lookin At Lucky at a disadvantage that was virtually impossible to overcome. Under the circumstances, Lookin At Lucky did well to finish sixth in the Derby after getting knocked back to a distant 18th in the opening furlong. But a manageable field in the Preakness and a start on the main track instead of a makeshift chute in the Derby means Lookin At Lucky won't again be at a huge disadvantage before the gate opens, because there aren't any truly awful post positions in the Preakness.

On Saturday, Lookin At Lucky won't be 14 lengths behind Derby winner Super Saver in the early running. In fact, without much pace in this Preakness, Lookin At Lucky could be stalking from fairly close range. He can certainly win from there, if he runs as well as he did in the Derby.

Dublin didn't have as much trouble as Lookin At Lucky in the Derby, but he didn't have the best of trips, either. Dublin was shuffled back in the early stages to be far off the pace himself, but he caught the eye with a bold six-wide run on the far turn before winding up seventh. He also should have a better trip this time.

I respect Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and would not be surprised if he won again. But Super Saver got a perfect trip in the Derby on a sloppy track he's known to like, and we just don't know if he can be as effective on a dry track. I can't pick him as the favorite.

Much was made of the bad trip Lookin At Lucky had when third in the Santa Anita Derby, but Caracortado, who finished fourth in that race, also had some trouble. Caracortado was compromised by slow paces in his last two starts and was perfect before that. I just wonder if there is enough pace here to set up his late run.

Jackson Bend didn't fire in the Derby and may not have cared for the track. All of his prior races were good, and he should be a forward factor from the start. Paddy O'Prado ran the best race of his life when third in the Derby, but his effort might have been slop-enhanced.