Even though the smoke has yet to clear from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the 3-year-old crop moves on to Pimlico and Baltimore where some answers about what happened two weeks ago at Churchill Downs may be delivered.
In the aftermath of the failed drug test by Derby winner Medina Spirit, all sorts of questions have been raised about the medication’s possible impact on the outcome of the race. Whether or not an answer to that question will be delivered in the Preakness Stakes probably depends on the viewer’s perspective, but when Medina Spirit faces nine 3-year-olds in the Preakness we should indeed find out more about just how good he is.
1. Ram (30-1): Admittedly, seeing the 85-year-old “Coach,” D. Wayne Lukas, win the Preakness at long odds would be a neat way to put the Kentucky Derby in the rearview mirror. But that would be asking a lot – a whole lot - from a colt who has never started in a stakes and broke his maiden in a claiming race two starts ago.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas
2. Keepmeinmind (15-1): He broke slowly in the Kentucky Derby and then rallied wide to finish seventh. He could improve a bit here and if he finally gets back to his 2-year-old form after a series of setbacks, he could sneak into one of the exotics. He’s worth a very long look here with the prospect of a fast pace to close into.
JOCKEY: David Cohen; TRAINER: Robertino Diodoro
3. Medina Spirit (9-5): Off the Derby, he’s the one to beat here. You can draw your own conclusions about the impact medications may have had on him, but the big difference promises to be a rival from his own barn who has more speed than him. His winning races have been on the front end and what happens in the early stages here promises to play a huge role in the outcome, be it good or bad for him.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
4. Crowded Trade (10-1): He’s only raced three times but has yet to turn in a poor effort. Though he only owns a maiden win, he was highly competitive in two tries against stakes company in the Gotham Stakes (where he was second) and Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (third) and his stalking style might work out well for him if the two Baffert horses butt heads in the early stages. His race in the Gotham was good enough to put him in the winner’s circle here and his trainer, Chad Brown, has already won the Preakness with a horse who was third in the Wood Memorial (Cloud Computing in 2017). There’s a lot to like here.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Chad Brown
5. Midnight Bourbon (5-1): He’s been quite competitive against the top 3-year-olds and definitely deserves consideration for the exotics. A poor start wrecked his chances in the Kentucky Derby when he was sixth. But if he breaks well here, does he have enough stamina to battle with Baffert’s horses early and still hang around to the finish? At odds of just 5-1, that seems a risky proposition.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
6. Rombauer (12-1): He’s an interesting longshot. He was a troubled third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes behind Essential Quality and was second in a Grade 1 stakes at two, giving him the credentials to be a factor here. He’ll need to improve to reach the wire first, but a brutal speed duel would definitely aid his cause.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Michael McCarthy
7. France Go de Ina (20-1): The Japanese shipper broke slowly in the UAE Derby Sponsored by Emirates NBD and finished sixth, which does not bode well for his chances here. The best guess is that the wide turns at Belmont Park will suit him better than the conditions and distance here at speed-favoring Pimlico.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Hideyuki Mori
8. Unbridled Honor (15-1): Maybe this is trainer Todd Pletcher’s year. He gets into the Hall of Fame at first asking – no surprise there – and perhaps Unbridled Honor can provide him with his first Preakness win. He rallied from last to finish second in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes, which adds him to the list of those praying for a hot pace. Yet he’s taking a big step up in company and did lose by 12 1/4 lengths to Risk Taking at 2.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
9. Risk Taking (15-1): He looked like a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate off a win in the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes in February, but then never fired on a deep, heavy track in the Wood. If you cross a line through the Wood, he deserves some attention here as one of the closers who can make their presence felt in the final furlong.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Chad Brown
10. Concert Tour (5-2): The “other” Baffert starter has more natural speed than Medina Spirit and will be rushed from the gate by “Big Money” Mike Smith from post-position 10. Much like Medina Spirit in the Derby, he may go to the front and not look back. The lone concern is how he tired in the final furlong of the Arkansas Derby and how fast he will need to run in the early stages.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
THE PICK: Crowded Trade
LIVE LONGSHOT: Keepmeinmind