I’m still not ready to drink the Big Brown Kool-aid. Call me obstinate (or say I’m in denial), but I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that this colt—trained by a druggie trainer who admittedly injects all his horses with the steroid Winstrol on the 15th of every month and has demonstrated not one lick of remorse for juicing his horses when caught, and owned by shifty individuals who want to turn race horse investment into a soul-less hedge fund—is worthy of my admiration, regardless of how he performs. Honestly, I’m waiting for the bubble to burst—if not on Preakness day, then definitely in the Belmont Stakes. No stud deal announced this week? I suspect that’s the result of unadulterated greed (IEAH) and serious unease (potential breeder) as to whether this modestly-bred horse is truly worthy of a multi-million dollar investment.
Coming back just two weeks after that impressive Derby effort with no workouts and a full field of fresh runners, Big Brown is vulnerable, IMHO. Who can do it, upset the Big Brown juggernaut? My money’s on Icabad Crane. This Jump Start colt won the Federico Tesio at Pimlico last out thus is the only contender with experience over this track. That race’s form held up well when second-place finisher Mint Lane ran excellent in last weekend’s Peter Pan, finishing second behind the ultra-impressive Belmont Stakes contender Casino Drive. With Jeremy Rose up for Graham Motion, Icabad Crane warrants serious consideration in this, his third start after a layoff. Another thing to like about him: his second dam Adorable Micol (a graded-stakes winner and black-type producer) was a daughter of Riverman, known carrier of the Blue Larkspur LH (Large Heart) X gene. Could his great-grandson possess this physical benefit? (I know, I’m fixated on this right now…bear with me). Speaking of bear…
I’ll also place some money on Kentucky Bear. This lightly-raced Mr. Greenley colt (only 3 lifetime starts) continues to develop physically and there’s a lot of buzz about him. He demolished a solid field (including the speedy Samba Rooster) in his maiden effort at Gulfstream in January, and then (among other problems) bled in a disappointing effort in the Fountain of Youth. After a break he came back for an impressive third place finish in the Blue Grass, and has put in some excellent works leading to this race.
My picks: 3 Icabad Crane, over 8 Kentucky Bear and 7 Big Brown.
In the G2 Dixie, I like Salinja, especially if the turf is soft. The distance is a bit of a concern, though, so if the turf is firmer, Shakis should be on top. For a longshot, Pick Six may step up to graded company and pop a surprise—he’s always close at the end.
The G3 Gallorette will mark Valbenny’s debut with new trainer Michael Matz who unites here with Edgar Prado. She probably needs a race, so Roshani is probably a better bet along with Stormy West. Soft turf might favor Lady Digby; otherwise, there are no other contenders here.
Indy Joe fascinates me in the G3 Hirsch Jacobs, especially getting Garrett Gomez up for trainer Mark Shuman. Force Freeze will set a sizzling early pace with Silver Edition, and Lantana Mob will run at them at the end. However, Indy Joe may be a nice longshot here.
In the G2 DuPont Distaff, I’m rooting hard for Bear Now to regain her spring/summer form of last year. However, Buy the Barrel looks very, very sharp here for Larry Jones, while longshot Lexi Star may hold a home-track advantage (especially if it’s an off-track). Wow Me Free seems like a different horse since Kiaran McLaughlin took over her training last November, but without any early speed on her part, she may be too far back to make a run late at Pimlico. And why the heck is Silver Knockers in here? She’s never won over a mile, and looks very unlikely.
The best of luck to all, and may all the racing this day be safe and incident-free.