2011 Preakness Card Replays
By The Editors

Happy Preakness Day! We’ve asked our contributors to share their thoughts on the graded races on the Preakness card. We’ll add replays as they become available (Dixie and Preakness replays are available below).

G3 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (8.5F)
Race 4 | 12:16 PM ET
By Dana Byerly

As is the case with several other graded races on the card, there is an overwhelming favorite that towers over the competition. Life At Ten plays that role here. She came off the bench last month in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup fiasco in which she should have been scratched. In her return, she was up on a decent pace but tired halfway through. The good news was that she continued to fight instead of fading, so it’s fair to give her another shot (remember how well Unrivaled Belle ran in her second start of the season?). Her works look solid, but what’s working against her is that all but one of the six other entrants could potentially be involved in the pace scenario.

Lily Quatorze, sired by 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, seems likely to want to be up and on the lead. She’s been out of the money only twice in six starts at the distance, but she has been running in the local allowance ranks and finished fifth as the favorite last out in the state-bred Shine Again Stakes. Decelerator could also be up on the lead, as that’s where she’s done of all of her best running. Her last win was a wire job in a 50k optional claimer at Oaklawn in March that also included Payton d’Oro. Her last attempt was in the 7-furlong G1 Madison at Keeneland, but she was a non-factor.

Payton d’Oro won the 2009 Black-Eyed Susan and has been out of the money only once in five tries at the distance. Like Life At Ten, she was making her seasonal debut last out and was closing a bit too late to do better than third. Her works have been consistently strong, and trainer Larry Jones is a whopping 50% coming off a two-month layoff.

Super Espresso’s last start was in a 12-furlong turf race at Keeneland where she was eased. Prior to that, she was running well in non-graded stakes races at Aqueduct over the winter and racked up three wins. Baltimore Belle is cross-entered in the Dixie Stakes on turf a little later on the card. Her last race was an off-the-turf win at the distance over the track, but this isn’t a group of turfers running on the main track. I suspect she might go in the Dixie, as she’s two for two over the turf at the distance of that race (she was scratched here).

Check Point is the only confirmed closer, and she ran an impressive second last out in an allowance at Penn National, for a notably high Beyer. She also gets a big jock upgrade in Garrett Gomez. With Life At Ten, Decelerator and Lily Quatorze likely to ensure a lively pace, Check Point becomes interesting, particularly at her morning line of 8-1, but if Payton d’Oro can sit a little closer this time out, the scenario also could work well for her. Super Espresso has done her best work under a slower pace scenario, but she could certainly step up, particularly as the “other” Pletcher horse. If Life At Ten is rounding back to form, she could easily put this field to shame, but it’s not entirely clear if she’s there yet.

Picks: Payton d’Oro, Life At Ten, Check Point

 

G3 Maryland Spring Handicap (6F)
Race 8 | 2:55 PM ET
By Adam Wiener

Class, speed, works. These factors alone put Ventana (8-5) in a strong position to dominate the 6-furlong G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap. In his most recent races (all G2), he has hung tough but been beaten by some of the best horses in this division (Euroears, Smiling Tiger, Captain Cherokee, Mythic Power). I expect Martin Garcia to hold him back early on and wait for the pace battle to break down, which may not take long.

Nathan’s H Q (4-1), Delong Road (2-1), Immortal Eyes (5-1) and Safety Check (9-2) are the horses to provide that early pace war. While Safety Check’s works lead many to think he’s a key up and comer for this distance, class is not yet proven, and the late charge from Ventana may prove to be too much to handle. Immortal Eyes may be the surprise here, and could return significant value at the price for exotics. He’s had two dominating victories after switching trainers. Nathan’s H Q also has the speed to hang around in the deep stretch.

The other threat is China (6-1). Trainer John Good has the combo of a switch to John Velazquez and an impressive bullet work on his side.

My Cuz C J (20-1), Heritage Hall (15-1) and Gattopardo (5-1) round out the field.

Picks: Ventana, Immortal Eyes, Nathan’s HQ

 

G3 Gallorette Handicap (8.5F)
Race 9 | 3:35 PM ET
By Valerie Grash

It’s hard not to back Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf victress Shared Account, the sole graded stakes winner in the Gallorette, making her 2011 debut for trainer Graham Motion. In this race last year, she was a game fourth, just three-quarters of a length back of winner Rainbow View. After this week’s rain, Pimlico’s turf will likely be soft, and she’s run very well in the past over such surfaces. However, the 125 pounds she’ll tote against these is mildly concerning, giving away between 10 and 13 pounds to all seven competitors.

Her primary challengers appear to be the three European-bred/raced fillies. No Explaining comes in off a yielding turf allowance win at Keeneland; twice last year graded stakes-placed at this distance, she gets the perfect post position and should be closing well under John Velazquez. Last year’s Oaks Trial winner Dyna Waltz drew the far outside post, but she should have no problem getting over before the first turn. In her first start this year, this daughter of Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Valentine Waltz finished second in a Keeneland allowance race taken off the turf, and with Ramon Dominguez up for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her wire this field. The deep closer is Desert Sage, who was no match for Snow Fairy in last year’s Group 1 Irish Oaks. However, she won twice this year over Gulfstream’s turf and, carrying a mere 112 pounds, she’s a major threat with Julien Leparoux aboard.

Lightly raced but speedy, Joharmony won the Hilltop Stakes over this course last year but was no factor in the Grade 3 Regret and didn’t exactly shine in her 2011 debut at Tampa. Maryland-bred Baltimore Belle has won on turf and dirt, but this is her first graded stakes start. She won the off-turf Dahlia Stakes at Pimlico last out and looks to improve returning to the grass (she’s also entered in the Allaire DuPont Distaff). Her half brother Baltimore Bob is Grade 3-placed on turf. The other two Maryland-breds are Theda’s Smile, who has performed well over this turf surface but looks completely outclassed, as does My Sweet Nenana.

Picks: Shared Account, Dyna Waltz, Baltimore Belle

 

G3 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes (8.5F)
Race 10 | 4:16 PM ET
By Jen Jade

This year’s edition features some top older horses from the Eastern region.

Researcher
The Charlestown champ, racing for the first time at Pimlico, is looking to regain his strong form after two lackluster performances this year under new trainer Neil Morris. With competitors in better form, this looks to be a tough spot for the 7-year-old gelding to find that resurgence.

Apart
This 4-year-old son of Flatter has a lot going for him as he hopes to replicate what stablemate Blame did in winning this race last year. He reunites with jockey Garrett Gomez, who guided him to victory in the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs. He’s scaling back in distance after finishing a game second to Mission Impazible in the New Orleans Handicap, and he’s never been out of the money at this distance. He boasts solid works coming into the test. No question of class; only concern will be trying a new track, but he’s conquered that before.

Eighttofasttocatch
The Maryland-bred is cross-entered in the Dixie Stakes, and a withdrawal here could affect pace, as he likes to be close to or on the lead. He boasts super speed, earning a whopping 103 Beyer in his most recent start, a stakes race at Laurel. The son of Not for Love has found his groove of late, but he is jumping up in class against some mighty foes.

No Advantage
This son of Posse lights up the tote board when least expected. His win in the General George Handicap from the far outside post three weeks back was quite impressive. He’s two- for-six at this distance and isn’t a fan of sloppy tracks; inconsistency worrisome, but before you toss him completely off your tickets, remember that he was a game second to Blame in this race last year at 24-1.

Icabad Crane
Trainer Graham Motion brings this New York-based gelding to a spot that suits him quite well; he’s one-for two at Pimlico and has never finished out of the money in nine starts at this distance. He’s been racing with the same crowd lately and is moving up in class, but his consistency makes him a great exotic play.

Our Dark Knight
The Nick Zito trainee looked great in a win coming off the layoff at Gulfstream, but he’s run three disappointing races since. His works don’t inspire and nothing shows that a turnaround is imminent.

Pleasant Prince
Last year’s Oklahoma and Ohio Derby winner is also entered in a race at Churchill today. He’s coming in off a layoff since finishing ninth in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. A switch to a more suitable distance and a new jockey in Cornelio Velasquez make him an interesting outsider.

Colizeo
There’s lots to like about the son of Distorted Humor in this spot. He’s four of eight at this distance, he’s worked well during his time off, and new jockey John Velazquez jumps aboard. The probable pace scenario could work in his favor.

Saratoga Red
The longshot who finished 10th in the Arkansas Derby is taking on older after failing to draw into the Preakness. He appears overmatched but could be a good exotic play if the track comes up sloppy.

Picks: Apart, Colizeo, Icabad Crane

 

G2 Dixie Stakes (9F)
Race 11 | 5:06 PM ET
By Kevin Martin

The Dixie is a Grade 2 turf race that serves as the big race prior to the day’s biggest race on Saturday. Where the big turf race on the Kentucky Derby day undercard was filled with runners with graded stakes experience, the Dixie field finds just a few with stakes experience and only one multiple graded stakes winner. The Dixie drew Paddy O’Prado who, on paper, looks head and shoulders above the rest of the field. He is the lone Grade 1 winner and has proven his class with respectable runs in two of the biggest dirt races in the United States (he finished third in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year). The only concern might be the long layoff, as he hasn’t raced in over six months, but he conceivably could beat the Dixie field without his best performance. Paddy O’Prado will be a heavy favorite and tough to beat.

The only other horse with a graded stakes win is Grand Rapport. With just six career starts, he showed little in his first three starts on dirt but has won the last two of his three races on turf. He won the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park in his last race in September. Prior to the Kent, he finished second in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga. Like Paddy O’Prado, he will be coming into the race off a long layoff. He has been training consistently since April for trainer Gary Contessa, and, if he has improved over the break, he could be a threat to Paddy O’Prado.

Slew’s Answer is the most lightly raced entry with only three career starts. The 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper has two wins on the turf, including a state-bred stakes race at Tampa Bay Downs in his last start. He is the likely third betting choice but is the biggest unknown in the field. He is trained by Kentucky Derby-winning trainer H. Graham Motion.

The remainder of the field is made up of hard-knocking allowance level turf horses. Among those who might prove interesting from a wagering perspective are Baryshnikov and Bim Bam. Both are coming off solid efforts in their last start. Bim Bam is exiting the Grade 1 Makers’ Mark Mile against a high-class field where he finished fifth beaten only four lengths. He has finished in the top three in 14 of his 22 career starts.

Baryshnikov had his highest career Beyer figure in a winning effort over Keeneland’s turf in April. He’s run consistently well (five wins from six starts) since being switched to trainer Mike Maker back in December.

It is really difficult to imagine a scenario where Paddy O’Prado isn’t standing in the winning circle after this year’s Dixie. The only betting value in the race might be in the trifecta and superfecta pools if horses like Bim Bam and Baryshnikov can finish ahead of the likely second and third choices of Grand Rapport and Slew’s Answer.

Picks: Paddy O’Prado, Bim Bam, Baryshnikov

 

G1 Preakness Stakes (1 3/16 m)
Race 12 | 6:16 PM ET
By Chris Rossi

This year’s Preakness is a tremendous betting race. If you happen to think, like I do, that Animal Kingdom’s Derby effort is likely to be duplicated again in the Preakness, then anything at or above his morning line of 2-1 seems a generous price. If you happen think Animal Kingdom’s Derby an illusion, then you have a vulnerable favorite with a small group of appetizing upsetters at generous prices.

As with the Kentucky Derby, I question how hot the pace will actually be. Conventional wisdom has suggested that Dance City and Flashpoint add a large dose of early speed to this field, but neither attained the lead in their last starts at two turns. Shackleford is speedy enough to grab the early lead and slow them down on the front end as he did in the Derby. If that’s the case, we’re looking at a likely replay of the Kentucky Derby, which Animal Kingdom won with ease.

Dialed In appears the main threat to Animal Kingdom if he’s able to be more forwardly placed, and that seems likely here after a nice closing effort from out of the clouds in the Derby. Bottom line for me is that he’s probably a cut above the new shooters in the Preakness, but the Derby exposed him as a pace-dependent horse who needs things exactly his way for the top spot.

Astrology’s past performance lines will not wow, especially when one considers his seconditis to both Twice the Appeal and Adios Charlie this year, but he’s shown slight improvement in both those starts. He appears to hold some pace versatility and is bred up and down for this distance. Natural progression here third off the layoff could put him around at the wire.

Sway Away is worth using at the bottom of exotics strictly on the rider switch and my belief that the Arkansas Derby may turn out to be the key Derby prep that the Florida Derby wasn’t. His middle move in the Arkansas Derby was premature but impressive, and indicative of a horse who deserves a second chance in my wagers.

Picks: Animal Kingdom, Astrology, Dialed In, Sway Away

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