by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

With just a few days till Saturday's Preakness, our voters have predictably picked Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver as the favorite to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Lookin at Lucky picked up a few first place votes and strengthened his footing as second choice once trainer Bob Baffert all but assured his entry. The other first place votes went to California-bred Caracortado and Tampa Bay Derby runner up (Super Saver was third) Schoolyard Dreams.

The only new entry was First Dude who tied for 13th along with A Little Warm who has since been pulled from the Preakness field.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ballots are due Monday evening so several late decisions like pulling Mission Impazible were not accounted for by all voters.

By Ray Paulick

Sometimes you just have to draw a line through a race, and that's what I'm doing with the Kentucky Derby as we look ahead to Saturday's Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Why? Several reasons. First, track conditions at Churchill Downs on Derby day were miserable, and as Todd Pletcher pointed out prior to the Derby he had a horse in Super Saver who seemed to relish a sloppy racetrack.

(Sidenote: I know the Daily Racing Form past performances of 2010 are far superior to the good old days when I learned to handicap, and the statistical records for wet tracks is nice. But am I the only one who misses the old “mud marks” in DRF? I wonder if Super Saver would get an X or a circled X as a superior mudder?)

Those sloppy track conditions may have hurt some of the other horses as much as they may have helped Super Saver, so as I scan the past performances of Preakness candidates that ran in the Derby I'll virtually disregarded their running lines from that day.

Second, the Derby favorite, Lookin At Lucky, got off to such a bad start—getting stopped in his tracks twice and shuffled back to 18th from the rail post–his race was over before the field reached the finish line the first time.

Third, Super Saver got the absolute dream trip in the Derby, not only relaxing off the hot pace, but finding the strip right next to the rail that Borel himself said had better traction than the rest of the track. So Super Saver had an advantage over his rivals—he's a mudder who loved sloppy going and had a jockey who could teach some Hall of Famers a thing or two about race-riding, especially at Churchill Downs. The vanguished, especially Lookin At Lucky, had some excuses.

Thus, here is my fearless prediction for the Preakness:

1-Lookin At Lucky. I like the jockey switch from Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez to rising star Martin Garcia. There's nothing Gomez could have done to avoid the “sig alert” in the Derby, but that was the third race in a row where things went wrong. Much like a baseball manager has to shake up the lineup now and then to break his team out of a slump, Baffert's decision to go with Garcia might be what the Smart Strike colt needs to finally have some good racing luck. And it's not as if the 2-year-old champ's new rider doesn't know him; he's been on many times in the morning. Look for clear sailing in the Preakness and a clear victory for Lookin At Lucky.

2-Super Saver. It takes a very good horse to win the Kentucky Derby, and Super Saver is a good horse. But if I draw a line through that race, I see a colt who couldn't win the Arkansas Derby or Tampa Bay Derby. The Maria's Mon colt can't possibly get a better trip than he received from Borel in the Kentucky Derby, and with a speedster like Hurricane Ike in the race, it's doubtful he'll be on the lead. Can Borel get Super Saver to relax as easily as he did on Derby day?

3-Paddy O'Prado. Every year there seems to be a talking horse Derby week, and this El Prado colt was it in 2010. Observers liked his morning gallops and the five-furlong drill e turned in the week before the Derby, and he came through with a big run to get third under Kent Desormeaux. Paddy O'Prado showed good tactical speed to accelerate through some tight spots along the way and is a definite threat at Pimlico.

4-Schoolyard Dreams. I still can't figure out how he lost the Tampa Bay Derby to Odysseus (Super Saver was third), where the son of Stephen Got Even ran well enough to win. His fourth in the Wood Memorial to Eskendereya suggests he may be a Tampa Bay phenom who has to carry his track around with him.

5-Aikenite. Obviously, with a 1-for-8 record this son of Yes It's True is not big on winning. He is a relatively consistent horse, however, whose best race is good enough to put him on the board, though a victory at this distance seems out of range.

6-Dublin. Has been right there with Lookin At Lucky the two times they met (Rebel Stakes and Kentucky Derby). Gets Garrett Gomez, who will be riding with no pressure on him, and you can never discount trainer Wayne Lukas in a classic race.

Cat Dreams gelding comes into the Preakness a pretty fresh horse and has been working up a storm in California. Loves to win races, but may have reached his best level when he took the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.

8-Jackson Bend. Drawing a line through his Kentucky Derby effort puts him in the hunt for a piece of the Preakness purse though the Hear No Evil colt looks much better at a mile. Figures to be much closer to the pace than on Derby day.

9-Hurricane Ike. Graeme Hall colt is a classic stretch-out play, having done all his racing around one turn with the exception of last year's Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland when he was wide throughout. Would expect him to be on the lead until the stretch run.

10-Yawanna Twist. Could push Hurricane Ike for the early advantage but hasn't won outside of the New York-bred ranks. Hard to see Yonaguska colt as a serious factor.


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