Happy Preakness Day! 

This is a nice Preakness field headlined by Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan.  The scratch of Muth clarifies the race flow and sets up Imagination as the likely early pace. The question is whether he will get an easy uncontested lead.  The other impact of the Muth scratch is to ensure that Mystik Dan will be a heavy favorite, and therefore an underlay in my view. 

Trivia Question: The Dinner Party Stakes was first run in 1870 during Pimlico’s first meet. Who won that first rendition of The Dinner Party? 

Race 12 The Dinner Party – Grade III 

One Mile and One Furlong on the Turf for Three Year Olds and Upward 

This is a wide open affair and unless you have something clever it’s definitely a spread race in horizontal plays.  There are some old warriors in here you have to trust a Highland Chief, Atone, or Adhamo to regain their former glory. Emmanuel is the logical favorite, but there is rain forecast for Saturday and his best efforts have been on firm turf courses.  

  1. Highland Chief: Faded in the Elkhorn in his first start in a eighteen months (89 Beyer).  Turns back to nine furlongs after running in longer races for most of his career. Motion is 16% from a small sample in second race off year plus layoff (3/19), but two of those wins were in maiden races. Has done his best running when he is up on the pace – but there is speed in here and that probably will result a race flow that works against. Passing.
  2. English Bee: Eight year old English Channel gelding has been a consistent performer but has not won in fifteen months.  His best days are likely behind him, but he can still hit the board with the right race dynamics.  Probably needs a softer pace than he will get. Passing.
  3. Balnikhov: Deep closer ran three weeks ago at Golden Gate where he finished strongly but was just a touch short. Last win was over a year ago and he has been generally gone shorter than today’s nine furlongs. Dettori in the irons is always dangerous. Underneath in exotics.
  4. Atone: Seven year old hasn’t won a race since the 2023 Pegasus Turf.  Last out on the synthetic at Turfway he was a good second (96 Beyer). Two back in the Canadian Turf he sat off the pace and made some progress in the lane finishing fifth (91 Beyer). Best performances have been on the front end but recently he’s been more off the pace. Set the pace in this race in 2023 before getting caught and finishing a close up fifth. Possible piece.
  5. Running Bee: Chad Brown trainee enters here off a win in N4X company in a race that has already yielded two next out winners (96 Beyer). Has done his best running when he is close to the pace, but is likely to be further back today. Mixed signals.
  6. Crabs N Beer: Keri Brion enters this Maryland bred gelding off a win in an state bred allowance race (81 Beyer).  Tries graded stakes company. Blinkers come OFF. Tall order.
  7. Adhamo: Hasn’t been the same since coming back last August from a ten month break. He was OK first back in the Arlington Million but not much to report since in four additional starts.  If he can run back to his Summer 2022 form then he is dangerous. But that was a long time ago now. Six weeks ago in the Muniz Memorial he had no excuse as he was in perfect position but didn’t fire. Looking elsewhere.
  8. Helms Deep: Winner of a low level claiming race on the dirt two weeks ago takes on graded stakes company on the turf. He did win a turf race two years at Penn National with a 78 Beyer. Overmatched.
  9. Beatbox: Won the Fairground Stakes two back with a good stalking trip (96 Beyer). Last out he was wide in the Muniz Memorial and briefly loomed boldly on the outside but lacked a turn of foot to track down the leaders (96 Beyer). Rosario stays here and he should be able to sit in behind the leaders and move at the quarter pole. The Pick.
  10. Emmanuel: Set the pace last out in the Makers Mark Mile but couldn’t handle that tough field (94 Beyer) which included Master of the Seas and Naval Power. Soft going may have had an impact.  Two back he won the Canadian Turf where he stalked the pace setters (97 Beyer).  Finished third in this race in 2023. Doesn’t face the monsters he saw last time at Keeneland but his best outings have been over firm going which he is not likely to get today. Hits the board.
  11. Eons: Eight year old enters here off a flat performance in the Henry Clark last month (76 Beyer). That was his first race in seven months – so he may have needed one. But at eight, does he still have what is needed? Passing.
  12. Funtastic Again: Has primarily competed on synthetic surfaces for Wesley Ward and makes his third career turf start today and his first since the James Murphy Stakes over this course last May (84 Beyer).  His best performances have come on the front end so look for him to be sent from this outside post. If he can reproduce his synthetic form on the turf – he is right there. Johnny V gets back aboard – he road this one twice before including his maiden win. Possible.

Picks 9-4-10-12 

Race 13 – The Preakness – Grade I 

One Mile and Three Sixteenths on the Dirt for Three Year Olds 

  1. Mugatu: Came from off the pace in the Blue Grass to get fifth in his first dirt stakes race (87 Beyer) at 181-1.  Not fast enough. Toss.
  2. Uncle Heavy: In the Wood Memorial he drew a tough outside post and that put him up against it (74 Beyer), Won the Withers two back with a wide trip from the eight hole (84 Beyer). Needs to improve. Picks up Irad. Could get a piece. 
  3. Catching Freedom: In the Derby he followed the rail move of Mystik Dan to get up for fourth (97 Beyer) after sitting off the early pace. Went last to first to win the Louisiana Derby (97 Beyer) two back. Should sit off the pace again and come rolling in the stretch. Hits the board.
  4. Muth: SCRATCHED after spiking a temperature on Wednesday.
  5. Mystik Dan: Won the Kentucky Derby with a nice rail skimming ride (100 Beyer) were he stayed inside the whole way and it paid off. Two back he didn’t get the best trip in the Arkansas Derby but picked up the pieces to hit the board. In my view he was third best in the Kentucky Derby and he now comes back in two weeks. When he tried this quick turnaround last Fall he was flat. With Muth scratching he will be an underlay. If he wins, he’ll beat me. Use underneath.
  6. Seize The Grey: Won the Pat Day Mile for Lukas on Derby Day following a nothing performance in the Blue Grass. In the Pat Day he was strong in the lane even after being bothered at the top of the stretch (88 Beyer). Goes back to two turns today. Hard to see.
  7. Just Steel: Second Lukas runner was up on the pace in the Derby but faded after six furlongs. In the Arkansas Derby Just Steel couldn’t chase down Muth who got the jump on him (95 Beyer). Can Lukas do it again? Yes, he can. I think he’ll be aggressive again with this one and he might cause some mayhem. Possible at a price.
  8. Tuscan Gold: He tracked the pace in the Louisiana Derby but couldn’t hold off the closers finishing third (95 Beyer) as he was wide on both turns. Lightly raced Chad Brown trainee is eligible for improvement and has shown the talent needed to win here. Should be able to sit a trip behind the pacesetters. The Pick.
  9. Imagination: Came up just short in the Santa Anita Derby where Stronghold got the better of him late (89 Beyer). Two back in the San Felipe he bested three runners by battling all the way to the wire (96 Beyer).  Dangerous if he gets loose, but I think he’ll have company. Lean against.

Picks 8-3-5-2 

Trivia Answer: The first rendition of the Dinner Party was won by Preakness for which the Preakness Stakes is named.