With his talent and connections, most consider the Pharoah the horse to beat. Pros: Trainer Bob Baffert already has five Preakness victories, and AP has experience in the slop – a good sign as it might rain on Saturday. Con: the dreaded rail.
Dortmund draws exactly where he needs to be: to the outside of his main rival. Add the attractive cut back in distance and the fact that he won’t have to run as wide as in the Derby, and Baffert may pick up Preakness #6, one way or another.
Zayat Stables thought so highly of AP that they did not want to race against him, but Mr. Z was sold privately overnight to Calumet Farm, who appears to think otherwise. Calumet and Lukas brought us Oxbow for the upset in the 2013 Preakness.
Has shown the ability to fight through traffic and close well. This distance will be more to his liking and if the front three spark a speed duel he could clean up late in the race.
Tale of Verve
Appeared out of nowhere yet nearly drew into the Derby field. Trainer Dallas Stewart excels at prepping 3yos for one big display in a Triple Crown race (Golden Soul, Commanding Curve), and the horse’s only win was also with Rosario.
Relative unknown, but this local horse is the only one with a start over the Pimlico surface and also has wet track experience. Derby veterans Frosted and Keen Ice dusted him in the Remsen (G2) this spring.
Classy win by daylight in the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland last month, third in Tampa Bay Derby (G2) behind Carpe Diem. Race may set up perfectly for this well-bred colt who likes to sit a little off the pace.
Gary Stevens has ridden stellar horses in his career but can’t seem to hide his enthusiasm about Firing Line. Outside post position will serve him well and this horse has never been worse than second in his six lifetime starts.
For the Kentucky Derby, we managed to find the top five horses…just not in proper order. That’s the problem with the horses on this year’s Triple Crown trail – there is a big gap between the good horses and the better horses, but the better horses are virtually indistinguishable.
I will cheer for American Pharoah. I will be happy if this deserving, talented horse wins the Preakness and I will enjoy watching him attempt the Belmont, and whatever else comes his way. But, in this particular race, he appears to be vulnerable and the top horses are just too good. In this field, you need everything to go your way.
Pharoah draws the rail, and though this is not as serious of a problem as people make it out to be, it does limit his options. Espinoza either has to shoot for the lead or hang back and see how things unfold. Add to that the fact that Espinoza may be under a more critical eye for his whip use, and his victory seems questionable.
Firing Line, however, has everything going for him. In the outside post in this small field, all options are on the table. He is a versatile horse that can win on the lead or from off the pace. He had a six week rest before the Derby, so he may still be better rested that the other Derby horses, despite the two-week turnaround. Gary Stevens came back from retirement to win, and despite all of the outstanding horses he has had the privilege to ride, he can’t hide his enthusiasm about Firing Line.
There is no reason that Dortmund can’t bounce back after his perfectly respectable Derby run, and the slight cut back in distance could make a big difference. Danzig Moon is a sneaky good horse who can close, especially if a speed duel breaks out and the pace melts down at the end of the race.
Bottom line: Pharoah may be the better horse, but these circumstances aren’t ideal. Box him with Firing Line, Dortmund and Danzig Moon, and if you’re playing a deeper exotic, throw in Divining Rod.
If you put a gun to my head and told me to choose, I'd probably put Firing Line on top (see what I did there?), but I'll still have save some money to BetAmerican Pharoah as well.
The Preakness Stakes is race 13 at Pimlico on Saturday, and you can place your bets from Friday morning on BetAmerica.