Whatever the rights and wrongs of the controversial Kentucky Derby disqualification of Maximum Security, one thing is certain, we won’t see a US Triple Crown winner this year. With the chance to make history no longer on the line, Maximum Security was quickly ruled out of this weekend’s Preakness, while the promoted ‘Run for the Roses’ winner Country House was reported to be sick in the aftermath of the race and was also scratched.
As ever in the Preakness, though, the Kentucky Derby form is still strongly represented, with the first two in the betting having both run solid races at Churchill Downs a fortnight ago. Improbable, who represents the irrepressible partnership of Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, was only beaten just over three lengths, despite not seemingly enjoying the sloppy track. His previous second-place finish behind Omaha Beach in the Arknasas Derby at Oaklawn was also attained in the slop, and though Improbable ran well in both races, he strikes as being a better horse on a drier surface, which he should get this weekend.
War of Will, not too far behind Improbable at Churchill Downs, was one of those who suffered when Maximum Security caused interference on the turn. It probably didn’t affect his finishing positon too much, but certainly wasn’t ideal. Drawn on the inside in the Kentucky Derby, War of Will has again got the rail here, and that may cause him a few traffic issues if he isn’t smartly into stride. Another concern with War of Will is that he’s a keen-going sort who seemed to race quite freely at Churchill Downs despite the strong pace. He strikes as the type who needs plenty to go right and is probably best passed over at a short-enough price.
Bourbon War didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby, but brings interweaving form lines into this race via his fourth-place finish to Maximum Security in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream in March. Prior to the Florida Derby, he’d run well to finish second to Code of Honor in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at the same track, and is still unexposed after just five starts. An off-the-pace runner to date, the blinkers go on Bourbon War in an effort to sharpen him up.
Owendale and Anothertwistafate are quite closely matched on form having finished 1-2 in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April. That was a much-improved effort from Owendale on the day, and the final time backs up the performance, suggesting it was no fluke. Prior to that, Owendale didn’t have the best of trips in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, and he looks a horse on the up. Anothertwistafate was seemingly beaten on merit by Owendale last time, and he’s a consistent perfomer who should run his race, though a wide draw makes things tricky for one who tends to race towards the head of affairs.
The wild card in the race may be the locally-trained Alwaysmining, who has been mopping up minor stakes races at Laurel Park in the last few months. His speed figures suggest he is worth a place in this line up, though he’ll need to find a little improvement to be a genuine contender. However, such has been his upwardly-mobile trajectory at lower levels that further progression can’t be ruled out.
In summary, while not the deepest of races, this year’s Preakness has several layers of intrigue, and while it’s tough to go against the Baffert/Smith combination, Improbable is priced accordingly. Looking at the current odds, the one who seems overpriced is Owendale, a three-year-old on the up who comes into this having not endured the rough and tumble of the Kentucky Derby. Likely to get the race run to suit, and from a stable in red-hot form, Owendale is worth chancing each-way at around 14/1.
Back Owendale each-way in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico