PAULICK PREAKNESS INDEX brought to you by Vinery LTD: GOOD TO BE A PIMLICO FAVORITE

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am


After a strong victory in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, it is no surprise that our voters ranked Super Saver a dominating number one, receiving 16 of 22 available first place votes. (Next week, the Paulick Preakness Index brought to you by Vinery LTD will feature a 23rd vote from the fans) Despite another troubled trip, it seems that Lookin At Lucky is still looking good as the second choice if his connections choose to run him in the classic at Pimlico. And it seems Paddy O'Prado is favored to repeat his third place finish, perhaps becoming this year's Musket Man, who finished third in the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2009.


Out of respect for his strong push despite a troubled trip, Ice Box, rumored for the Belmont Stakes, earned the respect of our voters to put him in sixth place (though trainer Nick Zito initially indicated Ice Box would not run in the Preakness). Derby Trial winner Hurricane Ike also cemented a top ten ranking on our chart although he will undoubtedly have to find a new jockey since Calvin Borel will be staying on Super Saver for the duration of this year's Triple Crown run.


See the full chart below. Where did our voters get it right and where did they miss the boat?

By Ray Paulick

Interesting that when trainer Todd Pletcher held a press conference to confirm the injury to pre-Kentucky Derby favorite Eskendereya, he mentioned the son of Giant's Causeway was the one horse in his barn over the last 10 years he felt had what it took to get through the challenging Triple Crown series. Perhaps that's why Pletcher, who had 24 Kentucky Derby starters going into last weekend's race, has only run four horses in the Preakness, and just two of them competed two weeks earlier at Churchill Downs.


Now that Pletcher has his first Derby winner in WinStar Farm's Super Saver, he is virtually obligated to run the horse in the Preakness, where betting favorites have traditionally done very well. Ten of the last 20 favorites won the Preakness, and at this stage of the game it appears that Super Saver would be the favorite. Seven of the 10 favorites who lost finished second in the Triple Crown's middle jewel.


I say “at this stage” it looks as though Super Saver will be favored because Kentucky Derby winners are not always sent postward as the betting choice. During the same 20 years, from 1990-2009, 19 Derby winners competed in the Preakness (Grindstone being the exception in 1996), but only 10 went to the gate as the favorite.


Many of this year's Derby also-rans are on the fence about whether or not to go in the Preakness, including 2-year-old champion and Derby favorite Lookin At Lucky, who finished sixth, beaten seven lengths after suffering horrendous luck at Churchill Downs, starting when he drew the rail post. He was checked hard twice in the opening quarter mile, first when Calvin Borel and Super Saver made a beeline to the fence, forcing Noble's Promise into Lookin At Lucky, and then again when Stately Victor was pushed into his path by Paddy O'Prado.


But no one had a rougher trip than Ice Box, the eventual runner-up who came flying in deep stretch. Here's how the Equibase chart caller saw Ice Box's problems: “Ice Box steadied early in traffic, was outrun for six furlongs, made a bold inside run leaving the three-furlong marker, steadied when blocked nearing the stretch, angled out, steadied for a sixteenth of a mile once in the stretch, swung out near the furlong marker for a clear path, then closed a late gap to be steadily getting to the winner late.”


Steadied for a sixteenth of a mile? I don't know if I've ever seen that on a race chart before.


The acceleration the son of Pulpit demonstrated in the final furlong was extraordinary, coming from 11th position to second. As this is written, though, Ice Box is not in the prospective field for the Preakness, so he is not on my top 10 list for the Preakness Derby Index. If he does not run, it would not surprise me if he wound up the betting favorite, even though the Pimlico oval has the reputation as a speed-favoring course that makes it hard for stretch runners to win.


Looking at the last 20 Preakness winners, 15 had the lead at the eighth pole, and none of them was worse than third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the leader. Horses have won the Preakness from far back, Afleet Alex in 2005 being the most recent example when he was 10th after the opening half-mile, moved up to seventh after six furlongs and had the lead at the furlong pole (despite nearly going down at the top of the stretch) . But the winning move in the Preakness for a closer has to be made on the turn, and not in the stretch.


My top 10, then, is based on who at this stage is most likely to run in the Preakness.


1-Super Saver


2-Lookin At Lucky


3-Noble's Promise


4-Paddy O'Prado


5-A Little Warm


6-Conveyance


7-Schoolyard Dreams


8-Aikenite


9-Caracortado


10-Jackson Bend


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