Making the Grade, which will run through the 2017 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
Multiplier made a nice impression in his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, edging Hedge Fund late to win by a head for his second-straight victory. This week, he takes aim at a much-bigger prize: the 142ndPreakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday. Let’s take a closer look at his chances in the second jewel of the 2017 Triple Crown.
Ability: Sold at auction for $62,000 as a weanling, Multiplier made his career debut on Jan 21 at Fair Grounds and ran third, beaten by two lengths, in a one-mile and 70-yard maiden special weight race. He returned four weeks later and finished second by a neck to Souper Tapit at the same track and distance. He earned a 98 Equibase Speed Figure for his second race, which served as a reason for optimism. Four weeks later, again at Fair Grounds, Multiplier broke through at the same one-mile and 70-yard distance when he rallied from off the pace to prevail by 1 ¾ lengths. His speed figure jumped nine points to a 107 that indicated he might be a special colt and gave trainer Brendan Walsh the confidence to test him in the Illinois Derby.
Multiplier was reserved in fifth early in the Illinois Derby, moved into striking position from the inside on the final turn and had to overcome some traffic to find clear running room. When he did, Multiplier made up a little ground on leader Hedge Fund, but it wasn’t until he changed leads in deep stretch that he accelerated explosively to reel in the runner-up. In fact, Multiplier looked beaten at the sixteenth pole, but a final eighth of a mile in just a shade over 12 seconds allowed him to make up a ton of ground late. Visually, the late charge was very impressive despite a small step back in terms of his Equibase Speed Figure to a 103.
Hedge Fund was coming off a third-place finish in the Sunland Derby to scheduled Preakness starter Hence, and another Preakness hopeful, Conquest Mo Money, was second in that race. Illinois Derby third-place finisher It’s Your Nickel won the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes in March at Turfway Park and then finished sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Running style: Multiplier is a closer, who prefers to relax well off the pace early and reserve his energy for one sustained late rally. Tactical speed is definitely advantageous for Preakness runners, but the middle jewel of the Triple Crown can be won from far off the pace. Exaggerator closed from eighth to win the 2016 Preakness. Lookin At Lucky and Curlin both were sixth early and rallied to win in 2010 and 2007, respectively, and Afleet Alex rallied from 10th to prevail in 2005. That said, talented runners with tactical speed like 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming are very tough to beat in the Preakness.
Connections: Trainer Brendan Walsh and previous owner Joe Senkovich (American Equistock) plucked Multiplier out of the 2016 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training as a private purchase after he failed to meet his reserve.
Following his victory in the Illinois Derby, Multiplier was purchased privately by Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel and George Kerr.
Walsh is a native of Ireland who served as an assistant in Europe to Mark Wallace and in the United States to Eddie Kenneally. Walsh went out on his own in 2011 and picked up his first graded stakes win in 2014 with Cary Street. In addition to Multiplier, Walsh’s current stable of horses also includes multiple graded stakes winner Honorable Duty and Grade 2 winner Scuba.
Jockey Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb and the 2014 Belmont Stakes on Tonalist, will ride Multiplier for the first time in the Preakness Stakes. Rosario has twice finished second in the Preakness (Tale of Verve, 2015; Ride On Curlin, 2014) and finished third in in 2012 on Creative Cause.
Pedigree: Multiplier is from the first crop of The Factor, who is best known as the winner of the 2011 Rebel Stakes but also won a pair of Grade 1 races sprinting. In fact, four of his five graded stakes wins came in sprints. The Factor, by War Front, was dazzlingly fast as a racehorse but he did have distance limitations.
As a sire, The Factor has five stakes winners from his first crop, which also includes Grade 1 winner Noted and Quoted.
On the bottom half of this pedigree, Multiplier is one of three winners from as many starters out of Grade 3-placed winner Trippi Street, by Trippi. Trippi Street never won a race longer than three-quarters of a mile, but she did finish second in the one-mile Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old.
Multiplier’s grandam (maternal grandmother) is Ten Downing Street, by Alleged, who was winless in 12 career starts, including eight races as a steeplechaser over jumps. Ten Downing Street’s sire, Alleged, a two-time winner of the 1 ½-mile Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, very likely provides a good bit of the stamina that allowed Multiplier to finish so powerfully in stretch of the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby.
Given that the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles in only a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Illinois Derby, I think Multiplier should handle the distance just fine.
For me, the major step up in class is a much bigger concern than distance. Multiplier faced six opponents in the Illinois Derby — and it was a decent group — but he’ll now tackle a selection of the best 3-year-olds on the planet that includes 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and 2016 champion 2-year-old male Classic Empire. I expect those two to battle it out for the win in the Preakness, but it would not surprise me if Multiplier challenges for a spot in the top three.