2021 Preakness Stakes one-liners
Analysis of the Preakness S. (G1) historically turns on what you think of the Kentucky Derby (G1), but Saturday’s renewal ups the ante.
For just the second time in history, the Derby winner returned a positive postrace test at Churchill Downs. Medina Spirit now is bracketed with the controversial Derby of 1968, when the first-past-the-post Dancer’s Image was found to have phenylbutazone in his system on raceday. Dancer’s Image was disqualified, and runner-up Forward Pass awarded the victory.
The same fate could await Medina Spirit, if his split-sample also tests positive for betamethasone. But official rulings won’t come for a while, and as with Dancer’s Image, legal wrangling is probably in the works too.
There’s another parallel, however, between Medina Spirit and Dancer’s Image – one with more immediate ramifications in the Preakness. Aside from the medication issue, both prospered with favorable trips at Churchill Downs, albeit with diametrically opposed running styles.
Dancer’s Image received a ferocious pace set-up for his late kick, and accordingly rallied from last to defeat 2.20-1 favorite Forward Pass, who chased that unsustainable tempo. At Pimlico, a more typical pace played into the hands of Forward Pass, and he capitalized by drawing off to a six-length romp. Dancer’s Image arguably could have been closer than third with a clean trip. In any event, he’d been a tad aggressive trying to make room, and got disqualified again, this time for interference.
Fast forward to Medina Spirit, who benefited from his own ideal Derby scenario of controlling the pace. Chances are that he’ll be subject to stiffer pressure as the Preakness pacesetter. It’s ironic that his own stablemate from the Bob Baffert barn, “new shooter” Concert Tour, poses a tactical threat on paper.
The race shape arguably points to an overturning of the Derby form, so it’s unfortunate that the rest of the Derby superfecta is not here to relitigate the result. Runner-up Mandaloun, who would be the official Derby winner if Medina Spirit has to be disqualified; third-placer Hot Rod Charlie; and fourth Essential Quality, a hitherto unbeaten champion, all had cause to turn the tables. Skipping the middle jewel is likely to end up as a what-might-have-been, especially if the two Derby also-rans who are on the premises – Midnight Bourbon and Keepmeinmind – do well.
With that background in mind, here’s my one-sentence summary of the Preakness contenders, in post position order:
Sire and trainer are class climber’s only talking points.
Deep closer is showing signs of turning the corner.
#3 MEDINA SPIRIT
Bold frontrunner will have to gut it out again, or prove he can win another way.
#4 CROWDED TRADE
Similarity with Cloud Computing, the 2017 Preakness winner, looks more superficial than real.
#5 MIDNIGHT BOURBON
Return to preferred forward tactics would put him in a better light.
Worth wondering how much stronger his resume might look if had made other prep choices.
#7 FRANCE GO DE INA
Japanese shipper appeals to the imagination if not to cold logic.
#8 UNBRIDLED HONOR
Beaten in lesser preps but has an improving profile.
#9 RISK TAKING
Blueblood can redeem himself, especially given change of plans from astute connections.
#10 CONCERT TOUR
Inflated by blowout win two back but better than his disappointing effort last time.