by Jerry Shottenkirk
May 19, 2018
A race with the bona fides of the Preakness usually isn’t a forgone conclusion, but even the least chalkiest horse player would have to admit a Justify defeat in the Preakness would be a surprise of the likes we haven’t seen in a while.
Therefore, from this corner, Justify is a single in the $2 million-guaranteed Pick 4 for Races 10 to 13 over the strip at Pimlico. If you want to double your cost, make an addition in the 13th. However, this one is $60, which is plenty and a little more than usual in the suggested Pick 4 plays from here.
Justify’s win in the Kentucky Derby was particularly impressive after being part of fractions that were not that common when it comes to 1 1-4-mile races. Good Magic had a good power move toward the leader, but when it came down it, he probably wasn’t going to get by no matter the distance. Taking a trek a 1-16th of a mile less than the Derby should make Justify even that much tougher.
But, of course, there’s more going on than the Preakness. The Pick 4 starts out with the 10th, which is the Maryland Sprint Stakes followed by The Very One and the Sir Barton Stakes. If you can fish out singles in that group, you have handicapper’s courage. This ticket suggests using three in the 10th, four in the 11th and five in the 12th.
Lewisfield, Switzerland and Long Haul Bay have the credentials to be big players here. Lewisfield was very good at Laurel, and Long Haul Bay is the favorite in his 2nd of the year. Long Haul Bay won the Grade 3 Bay Shore last year and began his 2018 campaign with an easy win over New York-breds at Aqueduct. Switzerland makes his 1st stakes start, and judging from his last three races, he’ll be comfortable at this level. He cruised easy and fast wins at Oaklawn and clearly has figured out this game. He lost his 1st nine and then won his last three.
Fillies and mares will have free for all in the The Very One. Chanteline, Girls Know Best, Smiling Causeway and Just Talkin all are on the ticket and will mix it up for the five furlongs on turf.
The Sir Barton Stakes is once again a mystery as 3-year-olds that might be just a notch below the Preakness level. Pony Up, Dream Baby Dream, Ax Man, Prince Lucky and Title Ready warrant consideration in the wide-open event.
Here’s the suggested ticket for $2 million-guaranteed Pick 4:
Race 10: #4 Lewisfield, #5 Switzerland, #9 Long Haul Bay
Race 11: #1 Chanteline, #7 Girls Know Best, #11 Smiling Causeway, #12 Just Talkin
Race 12: #2 Pony Up, #6 Dream Baby Dream, #8 Ax Man, #10 Prince Lucky, #11 Title Ready
Race 13: #7 Justify
50-cent Pick 4: 4-5-9 with 1-7-11-12 with 2-6-8-10-11 with 7-2. ($60).
We correctly tabbed the Derby result in this space, touting winner Justify as The One to Beat and second and third-place finishers, respectively, Good Magic and Audible as ‘Ones That Can Do It.’ However, we didn’t do quite as well with our suggested wagering strategies. We suggested keying Justify in the first, second and third legs of $1 Trifectas. Ultimately, we cashed the tri but didn’t make any money. How can a handicapper be so correct—that Justify was the horse to beat and that Good Magic and Audible were second and third best—and yet be so incorrect. It’s easy: through poor money management. Instead of putting the bankroll’s lion’s share on the most likely outcome, our Derby wagers were all the same denominations. In a word: Bad! The Preakness field is more than half as small as the Kentucky Derby gathering and the price on Justify, the favorite, will be considerably shorter than it was on him winning on the first Saturday in May. Also, Good Magic, probable second choice in the Preakness, will be less than one-third the price he was in the Derby. Horseplayers, therefore, will need to be laser-like in their approaches to the race, wagering more money on most likely outcomes and less on more rare possibilities. One common denominator between Preakness and Derby is rain. And plenty of it. At this writing Thursday, the wet stuff is predicted to continue to fall through the weekend. There’s little hope that the track will be anything but soaked come the Preakness ‘They’re Off!’. Then again, weather forecasters are a bit like horseplayers—they’re wrong more often than right. Let’s hope either Friday or Saturday the sun appears to dry up all the rain and the inky-dinky spider can go up the spout again. Here’s one man’s analysis of the 143rd Preakness Stakes, followed by a suggested wagering strategy. 1. Quip (Brisset/Geroux) - 12/1This son of Distorted Humor has won three of five starts, including the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. He had enough points to start in the Kentucky Derby, but his connections elected to skip the race to give him additional time to develop. It should be noted that some of Quip’s owners also have an interest in Justify, Audible and Noble Indy, so they probably figured that that they already had their Kentucky Derby bases covered without him in the lineup. Quip’s lone pair of losses came in a troubled Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and while chasing Magnum Moon around the track in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. He’s speedy enough to be close and probably will be forced to go for the lead early from the rail. It’s difficult to imagine a trip that makes him win because he’s just not as fast as some of the others in here. But he’s tough, well-rested and making only his third start of the season. An in-the-money finish is possible. 2. Lone Sailor (Amoss/Ortiz Jr.) - 15/1We listed Lone Sailor as our ‘bomb’ play in the Kentucky Derby. Although he outran his odds to finish a troubled eighth, the play didn’t work out. Pre-Derby we considered ‘Sailor as an improving horse, but he really didn’t jump forward in the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps he’s developed as much as he can at this point. He has no speed and will need to rally from far back. There’s a chance an honest pace could develop, and longshot deep-closers often historically find a spot in Preakness exotics. A significant rider switch from James Graham to Irad Ortiz, Jr suggests that connections are bullish on their chances. Not to discount Graham’s ability, but the adjustment to a more prominent rider ought to benefit this son of Majestic Warrior. Lone Sailor will be a decent price and should be included in exotic considerations. 3. Sporting Chance (Lukas/Contreras) - 30/1 He didn’t have enough points to start in the Kentucky Derby, so he ran in the Pat Day Mile instead. Of course, that field wasn’t nearly as strong as the Derby lineup and Sporting Chance’s well-beaten fourth-placing is far from impressive. Please note: he had trouble in the race, but eventful trips are something he’s used to. Twice he’s veered out late in the stretch: once while winning the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and again in the Blue Grass when he was disqualified from third to fourth because of interference. How he will behave in the Preakness is anyone’s guess? There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for his unusual behavior. He’s really not fast enough on figs to be a ‘win’ threat, but if he behaves he could cut out a slice of this at a huge number. 4. Diamond King (Servis/Castellano) - 30/1 He gets a ‘free-roll’ in the Preakness by virtue of his narrow, three-quarter length win in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel. He’ll be a longshot here, but connections can’t be blamed for taking a shot. He’s got speed, enough to set or force the early pace, but it’s difficult to imagine him holding off Justify to the end. The real question regards his chances of hanging around for a share of the purse. We’ll assume those chances are not good. 5. Good Magic (Brown/Ortiz) - 3/1 Second in the Kentucky Derby, Good Magic ought to appreciate a cut back in distance from the mile and one-quarter Kentucky Derby. After making a determined run at Justify in early stretch at Churchill, Good Magic seemed spent and was barely able to hold off the closing charge of Audible. Trainer Chad Brown has suggested that because Justify has had to squeeze so many races into such a short time Good Magic might have a chance to upset him in a Pimlico rematch. We don’t share the trainer’s enthusiasm. We don’t like that Brown waited so long to commit to running Good Magic in the Preakness. We get that Brown doesn’t like to run horses back in two weeks. However, if Brown was on the fence about running and Justify’s perceived issues tipped the scales, that’s not going to be enough. Like Bolt d’Oro did in the Santa Anita Derby, Good Magic hit Justify with his best punch in the Kentucky Derby. And the unbeaten son of Scat Daddy hardly blinked. No reason to believe things will be different in Baltimore. The real question is can Good Magic be relied upon to finish second? We think there’s a decent chance he may not respond well to a quick return to the races against a foe that’s clearly better than him. He may just throw in the towel Saturday and finish third or even worse. 6. Tenfold (Asmussen/Santana Jr.) - 20/1 With just three career starts, including none as a 2-year-old, this is a colt on the move, according to Hall-of-Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. How much can he improve? That’s the money question and what Asmussen plans to find out along with the rest of us. Fifth in the Arkansas Derby from a perfect trip, Tenfold has had time to rest and develop since that April 14 start—only his third career outing. There’s reason to believe he could make a forward move in the Preakness and outrun his odds. He also should be close in the early going. This is a big step forward--his fourth career race and second Grade 1 stakes—so it’s difficult to expect too much. He could improve enough to hit the board and the price should be right. 7. Justify (Baffert/Smith) - 1/2 The unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner will be a very short-priced favorite to make it five wins in five starts and he could set the stage for a shot at a Triple Crown. He has so many handicapping factors in his corner—size, strength, conditioning, fastest speed figs, pace advantage, Hall-of-Fame jockey and trainer, off track ability, etc. However, the week following the Derby was a bit eventful for Justify—at least in social media circles. The morning after the Derby, Bob Baffert brought Justify out of his stall and paraded him before an overflowing group of media. During that time, Justify took a bad step or two, suggesting all was not kosher. Baffert deflected concerns and blamed the poor step on gravel stones under hoof, ‘scratches,’ and lingering remnants from racing over a wet Derby surface. He said he wasn’t worried about Justify at all and soon returned to California leaving capable assistant Jim Barnes in charge at Churchill. In the next few days a variety of additional explanations for Justify’s Sunday stutter steps surfaced, including a bruised hoof and/or a quarter crack. Later in the week, when Justify returned to the track, on schedule, he seemed fine. However, photographs showed he was wearing a three-quarter shoe on the hoof in question. By last Monday, according to Baffert who was back in Louisville to oversee proceedings, all was well, and a full shoe had been attached. How much attention (if any) one pays to such news will determine how Preakness wagers are crafted. Justify seems a Preakness cinch and should be the focal point of most investments. However, if previous reports of discomfort influence a player significantly enough to anticipate a regressed Preakness performance, then small wagers can result in mad stacks! From this chair, we view the favorite’s post-Derby health concerns as a mountain fabricated from a molehill and fully expect Justify will annex the second leg of the Triple Crown. 8. Bravazo (Lukas/Saez) - 20/1 He had a wide trip in the Kentucky Derby and finished a creditable sixth at nearly 67-1. Not an awful Preakness prep. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas isn’t in the Hall of Fame for nothing. He knows how to win this race (6 times)—with favorites and longshots alike. He upset the applecart with Oxbow ($32.80), in 2013 and Bravazo’s pre-Preakness past performances resemble Oxbow’s. Bravazo has won two of four races this year, including the Grade 2 Risen Star. Bravazo’s pre-Derby stock was low because he lugged out on the turn in the Louisiana Derby. However, he did nothing of the sort in the Louisville version. His speed figs are below what will be needed to win this but respect for a trainer who’s won this race a half-dozen times suggests including Bravazo in at least some exotic slots. Bottom Line The One to Beat 7. Justify The One That Can Do It None Most Probable Exotic Candidate: 5. Good Magic Most Profitable Exotic Candidates: 2. Lone Sailor, 6. Tenfold Suggested Wagers ($96 Total): $3 Trifecta ($36 Total) First: 7. Justify Second: All Third: 2. Lone Sailor, 6. Tenfold $1 Superfecta ($60 Total) First: 7. Justify Second: 2. Lone Sailor, 6. Tenfold Third: All Fourth: All Race On!
While the weather calls for rain, rain and more rain, reports from Pimlico state that the hope is the turf races will stay on the grass, so we’ll tackle Friday’s big Pk5 (R7-11) with that in mind (though main track selections will appear beneath the analysis of the turf races). *** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 36 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 12pm Friday for an update. *** Race 7: GIII Miss Preakness for 3yo fillies at 6 furlongs Sometimes being stubborn as a bettor can be a good thing, especially when you’re dealing with a wide open race that doesn’t have a solid favorite, so I’m a bit lucky that I have a very strong opinion of #1 HAPPY LIKE A FOOL (5-1), who is one of the few gals in here with a rating gear in a race loaded with speed. Her comeback at Keeneland in a good GIII was the perfect tightener for this, she should trip out beautifully off the expected hot pace and she’s a bold single to kick off the sequence. Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 1 There are countless others who could be an A, but that’s also the rub, as this has the ole “use one or use them all” kind of feel to it. The pair I’ll use as backups are #8 ALMOND ROCA (5-1), who has a hint of a rating gear and drew well to be outside the other speed, and #10 LIMITED VIEW (10-1), who exits an extremely tough stakes against older and is another who should be coming from off the pace. Favored speedsters #3 Artistic Diva (6-1), #6 Lezendary (4-1) and #9 Good Move (3-1) can all win, but they’ll do so without me, since they seem destined to duel early and often and set it up for the three gals I’ll be using. Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 8,10 Race 8: N1X for 3up at 1 1/16 miles on the turf If we are fortunate to stay on the turf, there’s little doubt there will be a ton of give in the ground, which is why I’m landing on #11 TENNESSEE WILDCAT (8-1) as my top pick, since he freaked at Laurel over yielding ground in November and got a tightener out of the way last time, presumably with this start in mind. There’s little doubt #6 DOUGLAS ROAD (3-1) is the horse to beat, and though Delacour is sterling 25% off a long layoff, the fact he hasn’t started since October is a bit of a concern, especially since he will be running over a demanding course. The same can be said for #2 HOLIDAY ROMEO (9-2), who also hasn’t been out since October, but Motion is a solid 19% off this kind of break and you know he wants to win in front of the home crowd this weekend. Pk5 A horses: 11,6,2 The wildcard is #7 SOUTH SEA (6-1), who did some good things on turf for Bill Mott early last year and now gets back to the grass after two meek dirt runs off a long for Montoya, who signals he means business by reaching for Irad. There are definitely hurdles for #1 PIZMO TIME (10-1), who comes in off a September layoff, but I have a lot of respect for Eddie Graham, who is another local that might have the screws a bit tighter than most for today, plus this guy drew best of all, has some solid form to fall back on and will be a big price too. Pk5 B horses: 7,1 If on dirt: 1-7-4-13-5 Race 9: GIII Pimlico Special for 3up at 1 3/16 miles If the 5-1 ML on #8 SOMETHING AWESOME holds, I apologize in advance for pushing you out of the way on my way to the window, because I’ll be sending it in. Not only is he in career-best form, he figures to get a very energetic pace to stalk, has run by far his best two races once stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in his last two, and is 2-for-3 over an off-track. He’s the lone A in here, in part because I do love him, but also because I think that 5-1 will be replaced by 5-2 by post, which is hardly appealing and will force me to leverage him in other ways. Pk5 A horses: 8 If I love Something Awesome then I have to use #7 AFLEET WILLY (10-1), since he was beaten just 1 ½ lengths to him in the GII Charles Town Classic last time and really moves up over an off-track, as he’s 4-for-5 over them. I’m not sure if #3 RATED R SUPERSTAR (8-1) is good enough, but the race flow figures to suit him, and he’s another who should relish this tricky distance. As you can tell, I’m dead-set against the favorites here, as #1 Irish War Cry (3-1) is impossible to trust, was dreadful last time with no excuse and has never beat older horses, and #2 One Liner (7-2) and #5 Hedge Fund (7-2) seem up against it in terms of the race flow, as they both want to be involved early and could come up wanting late. Pk5 B horses: 7,3 Race 10: Jim McKay Turf Sprint for 3up at 5 furlongs on the turf I was fortunate enough to see #3 IMPRIMIS (3-1) run twice in person this year at Gulfstream Park and left thinking he was the best turf sprinter in the country, so I get a chance to really starting campaigning for him here, as he tackles stakes foes for the first time. The soft ground could beat him, as he’s never been over anything but a hard, fast turf course, but I firmly believe, if all things are equal, the rest of these can’t. If you need a bit more swaying, go back and watch his last two wins and you’ll see the light. Pk5 A horses: 3 How cool is #7 HOGY (2-1), who is turning into an iron horse and deserves to be favored here. I have a ton of respect for him, but his dead one-run closing style is going to put him open lengths behind a budding star, and he’s been going two turns in his last two starts, which means he could be that much farther back early. He’s easy to root for, but is an underlay here, off a distant 9th in the GI Maker’s Mark at Keeneland too. if I’m championing the cause of Imprimis as the best turf sprinter in the country, then it doesn’t make sense to go too deep here, so I’ll just use him and Hogy, though #4 Oak Bluffs (6-1) wouldn’t be a total shocker, though he always comes up a bit short against this kind. Pk5 B horses: 7 If on dirt: 2-7-6 Race 11: GII Black Eyed Susan for 3yo fillies at 1 1/8 miles Talk about a race there for the taking, as none of these girls overwhelm on paper and several are a dicey proposition to get the 1 1/8 miles. Simply put, I trust no one and have some knocks on the favorite, so I want as much coverage as I can get. I can’t possibly see how you get 4-1 on #9 SARA STREET, as she was a very fast and close 2nd at the distance in the GII Gazelle at Aqueduct last time and has more upside than any of these, but she faces a lot of other pace in here, so while I have her on top, it’s with little to no conviction. There are a few reasons I like #4 RED RUBY (5-1), most notably her stalking gear and the fact her best career run was a win in the slop two-back at Oaklawn Park in the Martha Washington, plus her recent works suggest she’s put that no-show 4th at odds-on in their GIII Honeybee when last seen in March behind her. My huge bomber is #10 STAKES ON A PLANE, who isn’t too far behind these on paper, adds Lasix and will get plenty of pace to rally into. I’m not a huge fan of the ML favorite #3 COACH ROCKS (7-2), and she would be a big underlay at this price, but she has some class to her and should trip out, though her big win in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks was against a very weak group, though she could very easily get a similar set of circumstances today. Pk5 A horses: 9,4,10,3 I don’t know what version of #2 MIDNIGHT DISGUISE (4-1) will show up today, the one who looked great rolling home at today’s distance in Aqueduct’s Busanda three-back, or the one who was an awful 7th as the favorite in the Gazelle, but if she splits the difference she’s a player here, so I can’t completely toss her. The race flow should also suit #8 INDY UNION (10-1), who was well-beaten by fellow rival #7 Goodonehoney (5-1) when she was 2nd in the Weber City at Laurel Park last time, but is now second-off a December layoff and Jeremiah Englehart is a star in the making and the fact he reaches for Jose Ortiz says there’s something to go on here. You could use others, as #6 C.S. Incharge (15-1) just ran against Monomoy Girl in the GI Ashland at Keeneland and has a big win in the slop; the aforementioned Goodonehoney is 2-for-2 and just won a stakes by 7, and #1 Tell Your Mama (20-1) may still be a maiden (though Actress won this race as a maiden last year) but has Castellano and will like the pace, but all three have some knocks too and look a cut below. Pk5 B horses: 2,8 The main A ticket is a very simple 1x3x1x1x4 for $6, and that’s our starting point. There are sequences that advocate big spread tickets, but to me, this is not one of those. By adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we combined all the A’s and B’s, the ticket would cost $270 (3x5x3x2x6), whereas this way is a much more manageable $43. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re A ticket for $1 (or, in this case, a lot more), so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park. My Tickets Main Ticket: 1 with 11,6,2 with 8 with 3 with 9,4,10,3 = $6 R1 B Backup: 8,10 with 11,6,2 with 8 with 3 with 9,4,10,3 = $12 R2 B Backup: 1 with 7,1 with 8 with 3 with 9,4,10,3 = $4 R3 B Backup: 1 with 11,6,2 with 3,7 with 3 with 9,4,10,3 = $12 R4 B Backup: 1 with 11,6,2 with 8 with 7 with 9,4,10,3 = $6 R5 B Backup: 1 with 11,6,2 with 8 with 3 with 2,8 = $3