Vinery LTD presents the Paulick Preakness Index: What Bodes Well in Baltimore?
An instant after I’ll Have Another crossed the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby, the first scream I heard was: “Bodemeister will win the Preakness!”
In the following days, that proclamation was also echoed by many perfectly sober people. This prevailing opinion seemed to be more about Bodemeister’s front-running, near-miss spectacle in Louisville than a knock on I’ll Have Another’s Derby triumph. Still, the chorus only grew louder with the Preakness defections of Hansen and Trinniberg, two of the speeds Bodemeister dusted in his freakish wake at Churchill Downs. Following yesterday’s post-position draw, Bodemeister was officially branded an 8-5 Preakness favorite based on the idea that he’ll be uncatchable in Baltimore.
After all, the Preakness is a sixteenth shorter than the Derby, and Pimlico is widely considered a Christmas present to speed. But I began to wonder – does recent Preakness history actually bode well for Bodemeister?
Let’s do the numbers.
In the last 12 runnings of the Preakness, only one winner has led at every point of call, and that was Rachel Alexandra in 2009. So the idea that the Preakness is easy gate-to-wire pickings isn’t borne out by the last dozen results. Of course, many of the frontrunners that failed to win at Pimlico had far lighter resumes than those of Bodemeister and Rachel, so the stat could be somewhat dubious.
Another noteworthy reality is that the Preakness fractions are remarkably consistent. In nine of the last 12, the first quarter went in :23 and change and also in nine of 12, the half went in :46 and change. While the Derby fractions can fluctuate wildly from year to year, the Preakness shape is pretty reliable. After clicking off :22- plus and :45-plus quarters in the Derby, Bodemeister should get a couple seconds of extra air. Perhaps, that will make all the difference.
It’s also true that having the lead by the eighth pole is almost essential in the Preakness. Only one winner in those previous 12 races didn’t have the lead with a furlong to run – Curlin in 2007. He was a length and a half back of Street Sense at the stretch call before collaring the Derby winner in the final strides. And it was Curlin, who went onto become North America’s top money-earner.
Curlin was also the only winner in the sample to be more than four lengths back at the 3/4-mile marker, so it’s accurate to say this isn’t a deep closer’s race. For those besides Rachel Alexandra, the average trailing margin for the past 12 winners at the 3/4 mark is just under two lengths. In other words, sit close or lose.
In addition, the victorious Preakness move almost always begins on the turn – not at the head of the stretch. The typical Preakness winner advances midway through the final turn, sling-shots off the corner to the front of the pack and never looks back.
I can see I’ll Have Another offering that surge, sending us to New York with a Triple Crown on the line for the first time in four years. I can also see a couple of the other Derby runners making the same bid.
But in my own mind’s eye, I envision Went The Day Well doing the deed. He was a little short coming into the Derby, found enough trouble to make winning impossible and blitzed the final quarter in just over 24 seconds. The son of Proud Citizen is sitting on a big race in one of his next two.
It might be in Baltimore.
Of course, if that prevailing opinion is correct, Bodemeister will have a reasonably soft lead, cut the corner and run right into the winner’s circle.
What do you think?