Analyzing the running styles of 2021 Preakness contenders

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 12th, 2021

Post positions for the 2021 Preakness (G1) were drawn on Tuesday, allowing handicappers to finalize their pace predictions and project which horses will receive ideal trips.

To aid our understanding of the race, let’s break down the Preakness contenders into four running style quadrants, based on their past performances and post positions.

Quadrant 1: Pacesetters

#3 Medina Spirit: Led from start to finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), which is the same strategy he employed to beat a strong field in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) during the winter. It seems safe to conclude this Bob Baffert trainee is most effective setting the pace, so a change in tactics for the Preakness would be surprising. Besides, drawing post 3 (with all the other speed to his outside) figures to force Medina Spirit’s hand.

Quadrant 2: Presser/stalkers

#10 Concert Tour: Won the Rebel (G2) in gate-to-wire fashion, but also showed the ability to succeed from a tracking position when nabbing the San Vicente (G2). The second Baffert runner has plenty of speed, but seems unlikely to engage Medina Spirit in a destructive pace duel. A stalking trip is more likely from post 10.

#5 Midnight Bourbon: A slow and troubled start left Midnight Bourbon rallying from mid-pack in the Kentucky Derby, but the son of Tiznow had previously won the Lecomte (G3) and placed in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) while setting or pressing the pace. Expect him to return to forwardly placed tactics with a clean break from post 5 at Pimlico.

Quadrant 3: Mid-pack closers

#4 Crowded Trade: It would be easy to call Crowded Trade a deep closer after he rallied from next-to-last place to finish third in the Wood Memorial (G2). But the lightly raced chestnut had previously employed tracking tactics to finish second by a nose in the Gotham (G3), so chances are Crowded Trade will find himself somewhere in the middle of the Preakness pack.

#7 France Go de Ina: Although France Go de Ina employed pacesetting and tracking tactics to win maiden and allowance races in Japan, it’s worth noting both of those events unfolded with slow early fractions. Encountering a quicker pace in the Preakness may leave the UAE Derby (G2) sixth-place finisher charging from farther off the pace than usual.

#1 Ram: Rallied from sixth place in a field of nine to win a fast-paced allowance race at Churchill Downs, but previously showed a bit more tactical speed when stalking a slow pace to break his maiden at Oaklawn Park. Mid-pack is likely where Ram will wind up in the early going.

#6 Rombauer: Although Rombauer has historically been a deep closer, he ran just fine with pace-tracking tactics in the Blue Grass (G2), capitalizing on a slow pace to race in third place from start to finish. Don’t be surprised if this improving Michael McCarthy trainee winds up settling in the middle of the pack at Pimlico, rather than dropping back to the tail of the field.

Quadrant 4: Deep closers

#2 Keepmeinmind: The Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner has rallied from dead last in four of his seven starts, including when seventh in the Kentucky Derby. A change in tactics for the Preakness seems unlikely.

#9 Risk Taking: The Withers (G3) winner secured his signature victory by charging from sixth place in a field of nine. He’s never raced in the top three during the opening half mile of a race and seems destined to close from well back in the Preakness.

#8 Unbridled Honor: Mid-pack is the closest Unbridled Honor has even been positioned during the opening half mile of race, and he actually closed from last place to finish fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and second in the Lexington (G3). Tactical speed isn’t Unbridled Honor’s strong suit—he prefers to rally from far behind.