I realize it’s nearly sacrilegious to say so, but the Preakness is my least favorite Triple Crown race—I blame Master Derby (that bastard). I also never bet races at Pimlico—small fields and short-prices offer little interest; I much prefer Belmont. Thus, other than the Preakness, I’ll probably pass on the rest of the card, although I do like longshot Yano to get a piece in the G3 Hirsch Jacobs.
Earlier this week, well before post positions were drawn, I selected my Paulick’s Top 10 Preakness contenders (even though, I admit, it was difficult to even bother to come up with those beyond the top five). Here’s how I saw it then:
1. Musket Man
2. Rachel Alexandra
3. Friesan Fire
4. Papa Clem
5. Pioneerof the Nile
6. Take the Points
7. Big Drama
8. Mine That Bird
9. General Quarters
10. Tone It Down
After the post draw, and considering possible wet weather, I don’t think I would change any of them, especially the top five—but I’m still not completely set on exactly what order those five will cross the finish line.
I love what I’ve seen of Rachel Alexandra, and I along with others have ad nauseam argued as to why fillies can and do compete against males—save me the comments that regurgitate the same combative responses already out there. Let’s just agree to disagree and move on. That said, I’m not certain the Preakness is the best race to have placed her in, but I remain hopefully that she will, in fact, be the quality filly we believe she is. Whether you like it or not, the general public—you know, those vast millions who don’t currently have an interest in the sport of horse racing—they like the idea (as retardaire and bourgeois as it may seem) of females physically challenging males. A good showing by Rachel Alexandra would greatly benefit the sport, for even a short-term interest by the broader public would undoubtedly draw in some new fans. And let's not kid ourselves—at this point any fans, even those in passing, are a good thing.
I really like Musket Man, and why not? In seven lifetime races, he’s never finished out of the money. He’s raced in five states—winning in four (NY, PA, FL, IL). He’s outrun his pedigree, and doesn’t look to have yet reached his full potential. If Pioneerof the Nile and Rachel Alexandra hook up for a battle royal, Musket Man could be a Preakness winner.
So too could Papa Clem. I was worried about his pedestrian work earlier this week, but his Friday blowout appeared to set him right—I hope. And then there’s Friesan Fire. What to make of him? Larry Jones won the G2 Black-Eyed Susan with Payton d’Oro, and—call me superstitious—I will pay a great deal of attention to how his day is going on Saturday, starting with Tammy’s Victress in the G2 Allaire DuPont Distaff. He also has Shytoe Lafeet in the G3 Gallorette before Friesan Fire runs. More than other trainers it just appears to me (maybe without merit) that, across various races and on different tracks, his horses run well—or they don’t. I would love to see Friesan Fire redeem himself here.
What about Mine That Bird? On a dry track, another victory by him would be a shocker, but if the track is deep and sloppy, this light-framed gelding could romp again. I just don’t think Mike Smith was the right jockey choice—his better half Chantal Sutherland should have been aboard.
No Triple Crown winner again this year, I fear. Blame bad karma, or the racing gods, or whatever, but does horse racing truly deserve one at this time? Until fundamental and profound reforms are enacted in the sport—or, in vernacular, we get our shit together—the Triple Crown will remain rightly elusive, I think.