Thursday, May 16, 2013

138th Preakness Stakes In-Depth Horse by Horse Analysis

Preakness Stakes Preview 

The 138th running of the Preakness Stakes, the middle leg of the Triple Crown, always features the Kentucky Derby winner as the hope of the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years. This year the spotlight lands on Orb. Two weeks ago, Orb stormed home in the slop to take the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby. While Orb will be a heavy favorite in this year’s Preakness Stakes (GI) he faces eight other horses looking to end his Triple Crown bid. Out of the nine entered in the Preakness, six come out of the Kentucky Derby, along with three newcomers to the Triple Crown series. Below is an in-depth analysis on each horse running in the 138th Preakness Stakes. I hope to improve your knowledge of each entrant. At the very bottom are my selections. Enjoy the Preakness Stakes and good luck~  

Horse-by-Horse Preakness Stakes Analysis
PP   Horse Name     ML Odds    Corbin’s Odds

1.      Orb            1/1             2/5
Orb comes into the Preakness Stakes off a dominant win in the Kentucky Derby (GI). As the hope to be the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years, Orb will garner the majority of the attention from the public on Preakness day, and deservingly so. Orb has done nothing wrong in 2013. He is four for four this year and has won his last five starts. Orb has improved rapidly evidenced by his impressive performance in the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, Orb handled every obstacle thrown at him, from the sloppy track to being far back early on to rally in the stretch to win. Trainer Shug McGaughey has been extremely high on Orb since his impressive Kentucky Derby triumph. Drawing the rail as the heavy favorite is not a good place to be. Rosario will have to navigate his way through the field. Orb has proved to be tactical though; in the Florida Derby he sat much closer to the pace than he did in the Kentucky Derby. I expect Rosario to be closer than he was in the Kentucky Derby, sitting off of the main speed in the race. If Orb gets a clean trip, he is by far the best horse in the race. While there are obstacles to overcome in the Preakness, bouncing back in two weeks, and drawing the rail, Orb has handled everything so far.  I expect Orb to remain undefeated in 2013, and head to Belmont Park with a chance at the Triple Crown.

2.  Goldencents         8-1       10-1
Goldencents was a non-factor in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 17th out of 19 in the race. Ridden in the Preakness by Kevin Krigger, and trained by Doug O’Neil, Goldencents will look to bounce back from that abysmal effort. Goldencents appeared unable to handle the sloppy track or getting dirt kicked in his face at Churchill Downs.  I expect Krigger to go to the lead on Goldencents. While I believe Goldencents will run much better than he did in Louisville two weeks ago, I still believe the distance of 13/16 miles will be too long. I look for Goldencents to run well but he will not be good enough to win the Preakness Stakes.

3.  Titletown Five   30-1     45-1
Titletown Five is the first of the newcomers in the Preakness. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Titletown Five comes into the Preakness Stakes off a fourth place finish in the Derby Trial (GIII) at Churchill Downs three weeks ago. In the one mile Derby Trial, Titletown Five pressed the pace early and faded late. I look for a similar result in the Preakness. In Titletown Five’s only start around two turns, he finished ninth in the Louisiana Derby (GII). I expect Titletown Five and Goldencents to be battling for the lead early, and this will take a toll on both of them. I believe Titletown Five will be a non-factor on Saturday.

4. Departing    6-1      9/2
Departing, trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr, comes into the Preakness Stakes off a dominating victory in the Illinois Derby (GIII) four weeks ago.  Following the race Stall elected to skip the Kentucky Derby and point to the Preakness. Departing may be the biggest threat to Orb. The gelding is four for five lifetime with his only loss coming in the Louisiana Derby (GII). In that race Departing did not have the best trip, and still was able to beat Golden Soul, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby. Following the Louisiana Derby, Departing dismantled an overmatched field in the Illinois Derby. Departing is coming into the Preakness fresh, and is talented enough to have a say in the outcome of the Preakness. I look for Departing to be close to Orb the entire way around the track, as they have similar running styles. While I do not believe Departing is fast enough to defeat Orb, I fully expect Departing to hit the board on Saturday.

5.  Mylute   5-1    8-1
Mylute comes into the Preakness Stakes off a solid fifth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Rosie Napravnik and trained by Tom Amoss, Mylute was taken well off the pace early on in the Derby and made a strong late move. Mylute should benefit from the slight cutback in distance, but I still believe, as I did in the Kentucky Derby that he is not good enough to win.  Mylute had everything his own way, he handled the sloppy track, and had a very fast pace in front of him, but still he was not able to close fast enough to win. He will not be able to pass horses like Orb, Departing or Itsmyluckyday late in the Preakness so I do not expect Mylute to hit the board on Saturday,

6. Oxbow  15-1   15-1
Oxbow comes into the Preakness Stakes off a sixth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Gary Stevens, Oxbow ran a deceptively good race in the Derby. Chasing the fast early pace Oxbow made a minor move at the top of the stretch only to fade late. While he did not make a huge impact, he was the only horse to be part of the early pace to run well. Oxbow should get a good trip sitting right off of Goldencents and Titletown Five. While he should have a chance to win at the top of the stretch, I believe he is not quite talented enough to hit the board, but I expect another solid effort.

7. Will Take Charge 12-1   20-1
Will Take Charge, the third horse trained by D. Wayne Lukas finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Will Take Charge was making a solid move, right alongside Orb when he ran into traffic trouble. Ridden by Jon Court in the Derby, Will Take Charge will now be ridden by Mike Smith. I expect this horse to be over bet on Saturday, because he was stopped badly and many people will expect more.  I liked him in the Derby, but I am not as enthusiastic about him here. He will struggle coming back in two weeks as he ran really hard in the Derby, and he has not yet put two strong races together in a row.  I expect Will Take Charge to finish towards the back of the pack on Saturday.

8. Governor Charlie 12-1    20-1
Governor Charlie, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, comes into the Preakness Stakes off a win in the Sunland Derby (GIII). However, the Sunland Derby was eight weeks ago. Governor Charlie was aimed to the Kentucky Derby, but had foot problems forcing him to miss the race. There are too many issues with Governor Charlie for him to win the Preakness. He has not run in eight weeks and he has missed training because of the foot issues. He has been playing catch-up, which is not the way a horse should be coming into a classic race. Lastly, he has only started three times, and never against horses of this quality. Governor Charlie, will be over bet because Bob Baffert trains him. I strongly dislike Governor Charlie in the Preakness Stakes.

9. Itsmyluckyday 10-1   8-1
Itsmyluckyday comes into the Preakness off of a 15th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. and ridden in the Preakness by John Velasquez, Itsmyluckyday appeared to not handle the track well at Churchill Downs. Since his impressive win in the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, Itsmyluckyday has been relatively disappointing. I expected a huge performance in the Kentucky Derby, but he did not fire. Itsmyluckyday had a strong workout on Sunday at Monmouth Park, evidence he has rebounded from his disappointing performance at Churchill Downs. I like the jockey change from Elvis Trujillo to hall of famer John Velasquez. Velasquez should navigate a good trip from right off the pace, and I expect a big effort from Itsmyluckyday on a fast track on Saturday.

1.  Orb 
2. Itsmyluckyday 
3. Departing

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

139th Kentucky Derby In-Depth Horse by Horse Analysis

Kentucky Derby Preview

The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is headlined by the undefeated Todd Pletcher trained Verrazano, the budding star and morning line favorite Orb, the Rick Pitino owned Goldencents, and the Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary.  The Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles is the longest distance any of these horses will have traveled. This years Derby, like every other year, is a handicapping challenge because of the depth and unpredictability of the 20 horse race. Below is an in-depth analysis of each horse in the race, and I hope to improve your knowledge on each entrant in this year’s Kentucky Derby. At the bottom will be my selections, enjoy the race and good luck!

Horse-by-Horse Kentucky Derby 139 Analysis
PP      Horse Name   ML Odds   Corbin’s Odds
1.        Black Onyx         50-1        50-1
Black Onyx comes into the Kentucky Derby off a victory in the Spiral Stakes (G3) on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. The win, six weeks ago, gave Black Onyx his first graded stakes win and all 50 of his Kentucky Derby points. Trained by Kelly Breen and ridden by Joe Bravo, Black Onyx broke his maiden on a sloppy dirt track at Aqueduct as a 2 year old. Although Black Onyx has won on dirt, it was over a sloppy track, and his worst race to date came over a fast dirt track. He has done his best running so far on turf and polytrack and is a major question mark on dirt and in terms of his quality. The Spiral Stakes has turned out to be fairly weak, highlighted by the poor performance of Uncaptured in the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (G1). Black Onyx drew a horrible post position, and he is a turf/synthetic horse running on dirt and on top of that he is not good enough. The morning line of 50-1 suits Black Onyx.

2.      Oxbow        30-1             25-1
Oxbow has the right connections to win a Kentucky Derby. He is trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lucas and ridden by three-time Derby winning jockey Gary Stevens. The team paired up to win the 1988 Kentucky Derby with winning colors. Oxbow comes into the Derby off a disappointing 5th place finish in the Arkansas Derby. He was taken out of his element in the race and taken to the back of the pack. The draw hurts Oxbow, as now Gary Stevens will likely have to push him early to gain good position. Oxbow could be near the lead at the top of the stretch, but possibly being the pacesetter will take its toll on the Lukas trainee. I look for Oxbow to miss the top five here.

3. Revolutionary 10-1      8-1
Revolutionary is the first of five horses in the race trained by Todd Pletcher. Ridden by Hall of Famer and three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel. Revolutionary broke his maiden in his fourth start, and has not lost since. After winning his first race in December in impressive fashion, Revolutionary scored in the Withers Stakes (G3) despite having an awful trip.  Following the Withers, Revolutionary scored an impressive victory in the Louisiana Derby, where he rallied wide and passed Mylute in the stretch to score by a neck. I look for Borel to drop Revolutionary down to the rail early in the race and let the speed develop in front of him. Revolutionary will certainly be running late, but because he is traffic prone, and I question the level of competition he has faced, he will not hit the board on Saturday.

4. Golden Soul 50-1      75-1
Golden Soul, trained by Dallas Stewart and ridden by Robby Alvarado was a late entrant into the Derby field. Coming off a late running fourth in the Louisiana Derby, Golden Soul is a huge long shot here.  Although he has never run a bad race, he has never been good enough to make a significant impact on a graded stakes race, and that will not change in the Kentucky Derby. While he may pass some tired horses late, he will not be a major factor.

5.  Normandy Invasion 12-1    10-1
Normandy Invasion, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano comes into the Kentucky Derby off a second place effort in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) to undefeated Verrazano. Normandy Invasion made a strong run late to pass Vyjack and get up for second. Distance should not be a problem for this son of Tapit, and he has been training incredibly sharp since his arrival to Churchill Downs.  Prior to the Wood Memorial, Normandy Invasion made his seasonal debut in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds and had an awful trip finishing 5th. Normandy Invasion has a tendency to break slow, and the break will be key for him. It is notable that his jockey Javier Castellano chose Normandy Invasion over Revolutionary.  If Castellano gets Normandy Invasion out of the gate and into a good spot, he is extremely dangerous. I look for Normandy Invasion to be in the top three.

6. Mylute  15-1    25-1
Mylute, trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by the nation’s leading jockey Rosie Napravnik, comes into the Derby off a good second in the Louisiana Derby (G2). While he ran really well, passing Revolutionary in the stretch, he eventually gave way and finished second. Due to the fervent popularity of his jockey, he is likely to be bet on more than he should. I do not see Mylute as a legitimate contender on Saturday.

7. Giant Finish 50-1  100-1
Giant Finish was the latest entry to the Kentucky Derby field. After defections from the Derby field, the owners of the Tony Dutrow trained colt made a last minute decision to enter. Ridden by Jose Espinoza, the colt comes off a third in the Spiral Stakes(G3) behind Black Onyx. That performance by Giant Finish was ok, but he has a very slim chance of making an impact on Saturday, as the other horses are just much better than he is.

8. Goldencents 5-1   10-1
Goldencents has the celebrity connections. He is trained by last year’s Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’ Neil, owned by a group that includes National Championship winning basketball coach Rick Pitino, and ridden by the relatively inexperienced but popular jockey Kevin Krigger.  Goldencents comes into the Derby off an impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby (GI). Goldencents rated nicely and held off a challenge to win the 1 1/8 miles test.  Distance and ratability are the major questions with this horse. Although he has never run a bad race, prior to the Santa Anita Derby he was very headstrong in his races. I look for Goldencents to be close or on the lead, and while his jockey and trainer say distance will not be an issue, I disagree. I think distance will be an issue and he will be a part of a hot pace. I expect Goldencents to be bet heavily because of his connections. Goldencents fights hard in all of his races, but in this spot, I foresee him fading in the final furlong.

9. Overanalyze 15-1   15-1
Overanalyze, the second of the Todd Pletcher trainees comes into the race off a dominant performance in the Arkansas Derby (G1). In his second start off the layoff, Overanalyze under Rafael Bejarano, who will also be aboard in the Kentucky Derby, stalked the pace and pounced on his way to a 4 ½ length victory. Prior to that Overanalyze was a disappointing 5th in the Gotham Stakes (G3) off the layoff.  Overanalyze’s worst race came at Churchill Downs as a two -year old and that concerns me. He has also shown the tendency to regress off a big effort or a win. I expect a big effort from Overanalyze on Saturday but there are too many question marks to put him in my top three.

10. Palace Malice 20-1   15-1
Palace Malice, also trained by Todd Pletcher comes into the Kentucky Derby off a strong second place effort in the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (GI ). Palace Malice, who will be ridden by Derby winning jockey Mike Smith, was pushed hard to get into the Kentucky Derby. After two good efforts to begin his year, Palace Malice had a disastrous trip in the Louisiana Derby (G2), eliminating him from the Kentucky Derby field. The connections decided to wheel him back to run in the Bluegrass two weeks later. In his first start on synthetic, Palace Malice ran a really impressive race but got run down at the wire.  The major concern with Palace Malice is that he is running his third race in five weeks. Palace Malice is a solid horse with a very bright future but because of the extensive running he has done this year, I will pass on Palace Malice.

11. Lines of Battle 30-1   40-1
Lines of Battle, trained by the Irish conditioner Aidan O’ Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, comes to the Kentucky Derby off of a win in the UAE Derby (G2) over the Tapeta surface at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Lines of Battle has never run on a conventional dirt surface, and while he has some dirt pedigree, I believe he is up against it here. Lines of Battle has endured a heavy dose of travel over the last five weeks and that will surely knock him out a little. Lines of Battle’s tactical speed will also be mitigated because the American speed horses are faster. I look for Lines of Battle to outperform O’Brien’s 2012 Kentucky Derby starter Daddy Long Legs, but then again Daddy Long Legs finished last.

12. Itsmyluckyday 15-1  15-1
Itsmyluckyday, trained by Eddie Plesa and ridden by Elvis Trujillo comes into the Kentucky Derby off a decent second place effort in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (GI).  In the Florida Derby, Itsmyluckyday was coming off a two month layoff and appeared to show the effects, tiring down the lane. Prior to the Florida Derby Itsmyluckyday was very impressive when defeating champion Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and prior to that he was impressive in winning the Gulfstream Park Derby. The two main questions regarding Itsmyluckyday are the distance and whether or not he can carry his form from Gulfstream to Churchill Downs. He has run well at every track he has been to with the exception of the bullring at Delta Downs, so I do not expect the track to be an issue. I believe Itsmyluckyday will improve off the layoff and he should also get a very good trip sitting behind the main pace in the race. I love Itsmyluckday here, and fully expect him to hit the board.

13. Falling Sky 50-1    75-1
The Falling Sky team is throwing up a Hail Mary by running him in the Kentucky Derby. Falling Sky, trained by John Terranova and ridden by Luis Saez, has speed and will be part of the early pace but that’s about it. While he had a win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, that race turned out to be weak in quality. Following the win in the Davis, Falling Sky was part of the pace in both the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) and while he tried hard, he  faded in both to be third and fourth respectively.  I expect Falling Sky to be near the lead or on it and fade as they turn for home.

14. Verrazano 4-1      5-2
Verrazano is the fourth horse in the Kentucky Derby trained by Todd Pletcher.  Verrazano, who will ridden by John Velasquez for the fifth consecutive time, comes into the Kentucky Derby a perfect 4 for 4.  Verrazano made his debut in January and immediately burst onto the Derby trail with an impressive victory. After winning his second race by a scintillating 16 ¼ lengths in a Gulfstream Park allowance race, Verrazano impressively took the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) defeating Java’s War and Falling Sky. In his final prep for the Derby, Verrazano took care of business as the heavy favorite defeating Normandy Invasion and Vyjack. While it was not a blowout win, Verrazano was relatively questioned and answered each question turning back Vyjack and holding off Normandy Invasion. I believe Verrazano is the only horse in the Kentucky Derby with absolute superstar potential and I am willing to forgive his lack of experience because of his talent.  Picking the second choice in the Kentucky Derby is usually not a smart move, but I love this horse and I think he is poised to get a comfortable trip right behind the pacesetters. Verrazano is certainly in my top three.

15. Charming Kitten 20-1   30-1
Charming Kitten is the fifth and final horse trained Todd Pletcher, and is by far the longest shot of his five. Charming Kitten is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who following their record-breaking performance at Keeneland are red hot, and will be ridden by Edgar Prado who is riding really well. Despite his impressive connections, Charming Kitten is a long shot for a reason.  In seven career starts he has never been on conventional dirt. Being by Kitten’s Joy, he is bred for the turf and polytrack and he has excelled on both surfaces, but I do not expect him to handle the dirt well enough to win the Kentucky Derby.  While I expect him not to embarrass his connections even if he handles the dirt or the slop, I do not think he is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby.

16. Orb  7-2  4-1
Orb, trained by legendary Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGauhey and ridden by Joel Rosario is the morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Orb comes into the Derby having won four in a row, including the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (GI) over Itsmyluckyday. Prior to that win Orb defeated the highly regarded colt Violence in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Although Orb is the morning line favorite, and deservingly so, I am not putting Orb in my top three in the Derby for a few reasons. The Florida Derby in which Orb won was two whole seconds slower than the Gulfstream Park Oaks, run at the same distance earlier in the day. While the performance by Dreaming of Julia in that race was sublime, 2 seconds is a significant difference. The second big reason is I question the competition Orb was facing at Gulfstream Park. I believe the Fountain of Youth fell into his lap after a torrid pace, and although his Florida Derby was impressive, he beat Itsmyluckyday off the layoff. While Orb very well may prove me wrong, I am going to take a stand against him on Saturday.

17. Will Take Charge 20-1     20-1
Will Take Charge, trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Jon Court, comes into the Kentucky Derby off a win the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Seven weeks ago, Will Take Charge ran down stable mate Oxbow in the final strides to register the victory.  Will Take Charge has been given time off by Lukas following the Rebel to recover and come into the Kentucky Derby fresh. I like this move a lot. Will Take Charge is a big horse with a big stride and should relish the added distance. While I do not think he is talented enough to win the Kentucky Derby, I think he is a contender at a big price.

18. Frac Daddy    50-1      65-1
Frac Daddy, trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by Victor Lebron comes into the Kentucky Derby off a decent second place effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Frac Daddy’s connections similar to Palace Malice were determined to get him into the Derby, and after two starts that could be described as debacles, McPeek took one last shot with Frac Daddy in the Arkansas Derby. In the Arkansas Derby,Frac Daddy received a better trip under Lebron to record a solid second place finish, although he was beaten handily.  Frac Daddy showed he liked Churchill Downs when running second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) as a two year old, but that race turned out to be rather weak. Although he earned his way into the Kentucky Derby, Frac Daddy will be overmatched Saturday.

19. Java’s War    15-1      20-1
Java’s War, also trained by Ken McPeek, comes into the Kentucky Derby off an impressive late running victory in the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland Racecourse over the synthetic surface. Java’s War, who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, began his career on turf and synthetics surfaces. He is 3-5 on turf and synthetic surfaces only finishing out of the money in his career debut. On dirt, Java’s War is 0-2, but his only in the money performance was a solid second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). Java’s War showed he can handle the dirt in Tampa and showed his talent at Keeneland, but I still believe he is not good enough on dirt to win the Kentucky Derby. In the Tampa Bay Derby he passed a lot of average horses late. His worst race in his career was at Churchill Downs on the dirt.  While he will be running late in some capacity there are too many questions marks regarding Java’s War for me.

20. Vyjack     15-1      12-1
Vyjack, trained by Rudy Rodriguez and ridden by Garret Gomez, was unlucky to draw the 20 post position. Vyjack will have to go very wide in order to win the Kentucky Derby. Vyjack is 4-5 lifetime with his only loss coming to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial. Prior to the loss Vyjack won four in a row including the Jerome Stakes (G2) all at Aqueduct. Vyjack is an interesting horse because he seems very adaptable in terms of running style, and he has also run well every time. Distance is a major question for Vyjack, being out of Into Mischief.  Another concern with Vyjack is talent, as he had every chance to get by Verrazano last time out, and then got run down by Normandy Invasion late. While I believe Vyjack will run his race, and Gomez will suit him well, I don’t think he is good enough to win the Kentucky Derby.

     1.   Verrazano
     2. Itsmyluckyday
     3. Normandy Invasion

Longshot- Will Take Charge.