Black-Eyed Preakness

Before getting into handicapping and analysis let’s first look at the cheery side of this year’s Preakness. You have a chance to win some terrific prizes by entering the “Steve Cannon” Preakness Contest that is now UP AND READY. And it’s free of charge. So make sure you check it out and put in your entry. Even if you don’t hit the Grand Prize, which I have to say is pretty awesome, there are three additional prizes that would be Grand Prizes themselves in most contests, especially if you are a Secretariat fan. I am particularly drawn to the third prize, which I am sure Secretariat fans would fight to the death to obtain. Thirty lashes for all those who don’t enter and miss all the fun. ~ Steve Haskin

Black-Eyed Preakness

By Steve Haskin


Before we get into the trivial part of this column, which is handicapping the Preakness, or what is left of it from a quality and public relations standpoint, I have to begin by sadly saying that his year’s second leg of the Triple Crown is a microcosm of what Thoroughbred racing has become – a total mess. You can also call it a PR nightmare, but the truth is it is a residue of racing’s grand scheme to clean up the sport without having a clear vision of what it is doing. One can only hope that the decisions made by racing’s so-called “leaders” result from carefully thought out plans rather than simply appeasing the mistrusting public led by some of the more radical animal activist groups that want to see racing abolished.

I feel this goes deeper in the long run than what anyone chooses to believe about Bob Baffert or whether or not one feels that Medina Spirit was an undeserving winner of the Kentucky Derby. To believe that you would have to be convinced that the miniscule amount of the anti-inflammatory drug involved helped propel him to victory, which I doubt any reasonable thinking person would believe. The bottom line is that the horse will be allowed to run, which he most certainly deserves to do.

It would take an entire column to discuss racing’s woes and the morass of ongoing questions regarding this case, and this is meant to be a handicapping and analysis column. Because of that we have to first address Medina Spirit and the distinct possibility of him being stripped of his Derby victory, a move that no doubt will be forthcoming with a split sample positive and then the appeals that likely will follow. This would be another mess and unfair to the horse and the small-time breeder and pinhooker who wrote the Cinderella story that warmed the hearts of so many people following the Derby.

“The whole thing is just awful,” said Christy Whitman, who purchased the colt for a meager $1,000 and who was featured in my post-Derby column. “People don’t realize that this affects more than just Baffert. It takes away from the horse, who won because he’s simply a good horse and not for any other reason. It has been established that this is not a performance enhancing drug. Human athletes take the same types of medications all the time to stay healthy, not to cheat. I hate it when people say that the horses are being drugged and abused. This is insanity pointing fingers and calling names when we don’t even understand the terminology or have the facts. Just like everything in America, keep us divided, don’t let people unite in something positive. No, let’s crash it all down and bury racing with it.”

Just a point of interest, Medina Spirit tested positive with a level of 21 picograms per milliliter of blood or plasma (a picogram is one-trillionth of a gram). The U.S. Trotting Association and the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative have done extensive studies on the threshold level of betamethasone. When their panel of eminent veterinarians recommended to the ACRI, as well as 16 state Thoroughbred racing commissions, including Kentucky, that the appropriate threshold should be set at 100 picograms and recommended a withdrawal guideline of 6 ½ days instead if 14 days no action was taken. Curiously, Kentucky last August lowered the betamethasone threshold level from 10 picograms to zero. Their study also found that among the biggest environmental substance offenders are dexamethasone and betamethasone. Dr. Andy Roberts, a director of the USTA and member of the HRMC and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s Equine Drug Research Council, said, “Betamethasone does not mask pain and does not improve performance when administered by a veterinarian at HRMC recommended levels. It acts to prevent cellular destruction.”

In other words, Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby on his own with no help at all from betamethasone. But to show the thinking of some members of the media, Medina Spirit in the weekly NTRA poll was ranked fourth behind the three horses he defeated in the Derby. And what is even more glaring is that he received 18 first-place votes compared to six for No. 1-ranked Mandaloun and eight for No. 2-ranked Essential Quality. That means that a good number of voters likely eliminated Medina Spirit from their Top 10 altogether, as if the horse not only didn’t deserve the victory, but is now a nonentity in the 3-year-old division.

Let’s just look at what we are dealing with regarding this year’s Preakness. You had the delay of the post position draw a full day to determine whether Medina Spirit would be allowed to run in the race. You had the (for now) Derby-winning trainer not showing up for the race, and wisely so, to avoid the media frenzy, which no doubt would detract from the actual race. You had the possible new Derby winner Mandaloun not running back in the Preakness despite having only one race in the past eight weeks and running basically half a race in his start before that. If a horse who had a six-week vacation prior to the Derby is not running back because it is too quick, it would be a sad state of affairs. You also had the Derby third-place finisher Hot Rod Charlie high-tailing back to California immediately after the race and the fourth-place finisher Essential Quality, who had a wide trip and likely would have been favored in the Preakness, joining stablemate Mandaloun in the barn.

Brad Cox, trainer of Mandaloun and Essential Quality, no doubt is doing what he feels is best for his two horses, but it is still sad that neither horse will be participating when history has shown that the Derby is far and away the most successful prep for the Preakness.

In any event we only have three horses from the 19 who started in the Kentucky Derby. I had been hoping to land a nice price on the Derby sixth-place finisher Midnight Bourbon, who I thought would be fifth choice behind Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, Essential quality, and Concert Tour. But he now looks to be a bet-down third choice, maybe even second choice. But even as third choice, Betonline has him at 6-1, which I will take. His morning line odds are 5-1.

Here are the boxes that MIDNIGHT BOURBON checks off:

Bad start (check) – His hind end slipped coming out of the gate causing him to break slowly, and he was bumped pretty hard a few strides later. He wasn’t ridden that aggressively to try to move up into a contending position near the lead. Instead he dropped as far back as 14th, and this is a horse who has never been worse than third at the half or three-quarters in any race, with his only stakes victory being wire-to-wire.

Ground loss (check) – He ran 56 feet farther than Medina Spirit, which pretty much makes up the eight lengths he was beaten.

Jockey (check) – Certainly nothing wrong with Mike Smith, but as mentioned he wasn’t very aggressive with him and he now gets the red-hot Irad Ortiz.

Thoro-Graph pattern (check) – After pairing up “8s” he moved forward and then paired up “5s.” Once again he moved forward pairing up “3s.” With three straight pair-ups he should follow the same pattern and move forward several points once again. That should put him right up there with anyone, including Medina Spirit, who ran a “1 ½” in the Derby following four straight “3s.”

Gameness (check) – We saw what he could do when in front in the LeComte Stakes, turning back the challenges of Mandaloun and Proxy. Even in the Derby he dug in and wouldn’t let Keepmeinmind get by him, and Keepmeinmind was rallying strongly from 19th.

History (check) – If you’re leery about betting horses in the Preakness who finished out of the money in the Derby, just remember these names – Little Current, Snow Chief, Hansel, Point Given, Louis Quatorze, Pine Bluff, Tank’s Prospect, Tabasco Cat, Personality, Shackleford, Oxbow, and War of Will. All won the Preakness after finishing out of the money in the Derby. In fact, Tank’s Prospect, who finished seventh, beaten 11 lengths, and Louis Quatorze, who finished 16th, beaten 24 lengths, both came back to set Preakness records before Secretariat’s time was revised years later.

Because this is such a mixed bag of horses I am going to rely again on the old Derby Rankings and bet a $1 trifecta box with the five horses in the field who have been ranked in the Top 12 – MEDINA SPIRIT, MIDNIGHT BOURBON, RISK TAKING, KEEPMEINMIND, and CONCERT TOUR. If Risk Taking and/or Keepmeinmind can sneak in there we’re looking at a good score, and both should be closing late.

I have always been a fan of RISK TAKING because he reminds me of the horses they used to refer to as hickory – tough, sound, hard-knocking horses. You just have to throw out his Wood Memorial, which I am doing, blaming it on the extremely slow and heavy surface with a nasty kickback. Pimlico should be a welcome change, especially breaking from post 9 where he shouldn’t get any kickback. He looks like an interesting mid-pack threat with Jose Ortiz replacing Irad. And if the Wood Memorial was an anomaly and he returns to his Withers Stakes form then he could wind up as a big overlay with morning line odds of 15-1.

As I did in the Derby I am looking for KEEPMEINMIND to be closing late and hopefully pick up a piece of it. He also is 15-1 on the morning line, but could be higher than that.

As for the Baffert pair, Medina Spirit again will be the inside speed breaking from post 3. Concert Tour will have to bust out of there from the 10 post, so we could have those two vying for the early lead, which is not what you want to see from entrymates. Midnight Bourbon will be ridden more aggressively by Ortiz and he will be in the fray as well. I don’t know if he can outrun the two Baffert colts, but he will pressing them throughout. The unknown factor will be the Japanese invader France Go d Ina. I have no clue where he will be. The Chad Brown pair of Risk Taking and Crowded Trade and the Wayne Lukas-trained Ram should be in mid-pack with Keepmeinmind, Rombauer, and Unbridled Honor launching their runs from the back of the pack.

Two big “ifs” are Crowded Trade, with only three career starts, and Unbridled Honor, who is improving with every race. Both are certainly capable of running big races, but the jury is still out how good they are. I do like the jockey changes, with Javier Castellano replacing Eric Cancel on Crowded Trade and Luis Saez replacing Julien Leparoux on Unbridled Honor. And remember, Mike Smith will replace Joel Rosario on Concert Tour.

So, we’re keeping it simple this time by going with the aforementioned trifecta box of 2,3,5,9,10. A win bet on Risk Taking (9) for an overlay. And exactas of 3,4,5, 6, 8, 9, 10 with the 2 (Keepmeinmind) hoping we don’t need a telescope to find him early this time.

So as Aldonza said to Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, “Remove the clouds from your eyes and see me as I really am.” For a little while at least let’s remove the black clouds from our eyes and see what is still a classic race that we hope will be an entertaining and competitive event.


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425 Responses to “Black-Eyed Preakness”

  1. Helena says:

    Congratulations to all the prize winners. I’m a newby at amateur handicapping and am in awe of the talented people who won the grand prizes. I can see I’ve got lots to learn.

  2. Matthew W says:

    Rombauer first horse to win the Preakness having never won a dirt race since 1888….
    Rombauer FIFTH El Camino Real Stakes to win Preakness since yhe 1980’s….Gate Dancer, Tanks Prospect, Tabasco Cat, Snow Chief, Rombauer….

    • El Kabong says:

      Hey, congrats on Rombauer. Keepmeinmind didn’t do to bad either, he was making up ground but not like Rombauer. Freight train move should get him some attention at Belmont.

    • DES says:

      Looking for Get Her Number to run back. He and Rombauer ran one-two in the Norfolk.

    • Jeff says:

      Great info; I believe all became Champions…didn’t know that race was significant though changing from Dirt to Synthetic has changed it’s status.

      • Matthew K W says:

        i don’t think Tabasco Cat became a champion, he won the Preakness, Belmont…and was beaten a nose in the Breeders Cup Classic—and only was able to finish 3rd in the 3yo Eclipse balloting—behind Holy Bull and Concern, tough year!

    • Mike Relva says:

      Very good weekend for me Matthew, to tune of 6k.

  3. sceptre says:

    Davids—SMB did you proud. Congrats!

    • Davids says:

      Yes sceptre, St Mark’s Basilica showed the progression you hope for with that brilliant turn of foot to put them away. The Prix du Jockey Club is probably the extent he wants to go, at three anyway but you never know. The ground was obviously is an advantage.

      Philomene was disappointing but you felt Fabre was a little ambitious cutting back in distance and expecting same. You would expect Philomene to bounce back in the Prix de Diane she is too good.

  4. EddieF says:

    Rombauer will be going to the Belmont, and I’m glad to hear it. Turf can wait. Not only did Rombauer win going away, he did it in one of the fastest final times ever in the Preakness. He certainly gave the impression that 12 furlongs isn’t out of his reach.

  5. Nick V says:

    I thought I would put this out there: See what happens when Medina is Off the Juice!!!!!

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      Seriously? Nothing was wrong in the Derby or here. The winner today was a fresh horse coming off a layoff.

  6. arlingtonfan says:

    I am just thrilled for Rombauer since he won this year’s El Camino Real Derby at my “local” track, Golden Gate Fields!

  7. Paula N Higgins says:

    Congratulations to all who had Rombauer as the winner. I was very happy to see Mike McCarthy, a smaller trainer, win the Preakness. His comments after the race were very moving. You could see how much this meant to him. Both Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon ran really good races. No shame at all in their races. They just tired each other out and couldn’t hang on at the end. It was a fast Preakness. Flavien Pratt, one of the best jockeys out there, played it perfectly. Rombauer won convincingly. Looking forward to the Belmont. I would be surprised to see any of these horses there except Rombauer. The Belmont will be important in the male, 3 yr. old HOTY race. It could be we have different winners for all three TC races and the BCC.

    • Ms Black Type says:

      I agree about McCarthy. Obviously this was his biggest win ever. So deserved, and Rombauer not only peaked at the right time, he was managed to peak in the Preakness.

      The Belmont should be a humdinger. I think Medina Spirit was just too tired after his Derby effort.

      • Laura L Lanham says:

        Yes tired but horses are very intuitive creatures. They pick up quickly on the moods of the people around them. There was no way they could have kept that away from him. That being said those horses that didn’t win still have a lot of racing left in them. Some of them need a break others on to the next leg. This might also be another upset year as the winner of the Belmont might not win HOTY. See how the summer stakes play out and the BC.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Had the exacta a few times based on that workout I told everyone to watch

  8. EddieF says:

    The Belmont will be VERY interesting. Mandaloun, Rombauer, Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Midnight Bourbon, Hot Rod Charlie, Known Agenda, Promise Keeper….

    • Paula N Higgins says:

      I agree. If Malathaat shows up, even more interesting.

    • Dewey Hebert says:

      Let’s not forget Rebel Romance (impressive UAE Derby winner) who, as far as I know, is still planning to run in the Belmont. Also, France Go de Ina, who needed his race in the Preakness, is pointed for the Belmont chasing a million dollar bonus if he wins. Based on today’s performance, he doesn’t look to have much of a chance.

    • Matthew W says:

      Owners are talking turf with Rombauer, the New York Turf Triple, horse has turfed well….Owners argued El Camino over Robert Lewis Stakes, Preakness over Derby….won arguments with trainer, refreshing to see knowledgeable owners make decisions that protect their horse—50-50 regarding the Belmont I think they go turfing….

  9. Dewey Hebert says:

    The curse continues……

    Bourbonic, Brooklyn Strong, Dynamic One

    Pat Day:

    Crowded Trade, Risk Taking

    I think that we can close the book on the Wood Memorial. All of the above ran in the Wood and “shit the bed” in their next start.

    If Aqueduct is incapable of converting their winter track for their signature race, then NYRA should move the race to the opening week of Belmont. This year’s running of the Wood over that deep heavy track was an embarrassment. As Steve mentioned the week after, you can potentially ruin a horse by running a race in those conditions.

    Congrats to Rombauer. He was on his toes in the post parade signaling a big effort. Nice price for the win. Good call, Steve.

  10. pro vet says:

    i feel good about my analysis…..really good………i feel a little bad about the 30 minutes looking at Rombauers replays…..almost……….i bet too big to guess………but pretty much right about the race…..very interesting race…

    I’m conservative…..would normally skip belmont. But i probably would go, because the division right now is weak….
    this race is worth millions to this horse if he wins….i think you gotta run…….if you wait, someone might get good….

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Even though you said workouts mean nothing I told everyone to watch Rombauer’s last work and his gallop-out. I bet him strictly off that work. one of the best I’ve seen.

      • Brody says:

        Had a win ticket on Rombauer for the Preakness Steve based on your workout information you gave to us. Thank you again Steve for all your hard work, and sharing the priceless info you give us.
        My wife really loves you as well. haha

      • pro vet says:

        So ….his workout was why he won?…….nice……..

  11. Lynda B King says:

    Congratulations to Rombauer and the connections. Just love when the homebreds and a less well known trainer and a closer wins the big races. No denying the potency of the Storm Cat line that cross with Candy Ride. Only thing I got right was Midnight Bourbon taking 2nd. That’s OK though…clean race, everyone looked OK on the gallop out.

  12. Matthew K says:

    5 horses in the Preakness had never run on lasix—finished one….two….three….four.

  13. Matthew K W says:

    Played two big bets this weekend—Army Wife yesterday and Rombauer today—and they both won for fun! Owners are standing there IN SHOCK!

  14. EddieF says:

    Congrats to all fellow Rombauer backers! I wasnt close with exactas, but at least I finally made a profit.

  15. pro vet says:

    Has anyone thought about what will happen if Medina runs bad?…… long you will hear the hate?…….it will be ugly

  16. pro vet says:

    i FEEL LIKE joshua……..THE only way to win……is to not play the game………..

  17. pro vet says:

    Do you know how shocking these odds are?……medina was 12-1…..midnight was 13-1…….medinda surprises wins……midnight runs bad………now midnight is fav?

    When have you ever seen this EVER?……………

  18. Matthew K W says:

    I played Rombauer across the board…and ex/tri boxed Rombauer, Keepmeinmind, Crowded Trade NEDED PACE HELP!!!!!

  19. Matthew K W says:

    Bob has retained the services of Howard, Howard and Fine, attorneys at law…..spokesperson Curly Q Link released this statement: “Im a victim of soikenstance”!

  20. pro vet says:

    I’m gonna stay out……i literally cannot find a horse i think will run well…..the top 3 stick out…..i have all not peaking…i expect a large winning margin if one of them win…..

  21. Lynda B King says:

    Totally off topic but a California Chrome colt, Charles Chrome” held on for 3rd in race 8 (turf) today at Pamlico. It was his first stakes race and he was coming off a layoff since November. Thought he had the race won after leading from the start. At number of Chrome’s progeny that are racing are doing very good at the smaller tracks on dirt and turf. Yesterday Sunflower Road, Arlington, Race 3, took second in a photo finish.

  22. Lynda B King says:

    My husband who does not follow horse racing told me this morning that the guys where he works all say that Ram is going to win. Maybe I should have waited until this morning I fill the form out, LOL.