Horses of interest: 2017 Preakness Day edition

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

May 20th, 2017

If the Preakness (G1) card at Pimlico features some formful-looking races, there are still opportunities to find interesting contenders at a decent price (listed with morning-line odds).

5TH Race, The Very One: Euroboss (12-1) may have a better chance than her odds imply, making her an intriguing type to use in concert with main players Pretty Perfection, Everything Lovely, and Animal Appeal in this turf dash. By Street Boss and descended from Canadian celebrity Fanfreluche, Euroboss has won or placed in eight of 10 lifetime, and she exits a solid third in Woodbine’s Whimsical (G3) in her stakes debut. The cutback from six to five furlongs should suit the Mike Stidham mare, who was third earlier this season at Fair Grounds to Nobody’s Fault, winner of last Saturday’s Unbridled Sidney at Churchill Downs. As a consistent performer with a stalking style, Euroboss figures to put herself into good position to hit the board or possibly even spring the upset.

7TH Race, the Chick Lang: While Recruiting Ready strikes me as the best of the speed who could shake loose, maybe I shouldn’t give up entirely on Theory (10-1). A smashing debut winner at Saratoga last summer for Todd Pletcher, the Gemologist colt would have loomed large in the Hopeful (G1) if he hadn’t been sidelined. Theory made it back in time to outclass them in the Futurity (G2), but his hurried preparation showed when he flopped in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) – and he came out of that debacle sick enough to remain at Santa Anita longer before flying back home. He proved a money-burner at even-money in his Bay Shore (G3) comeback, tiring to fourth. That leaves some questions to answer here. Still, second off the bench, and back at the six-furlong trip he apparently prefers, perhaps we can see the Theory of old. His pedigree pattern is fascinating: both grandsires, Tiznow and Officer, are bred on a similar Relaunch over Seattle Slew cross. Such a thoughtfully constructed pedigree deserves to work, doesn’t it?

8TH Race, the James W. Murphy: Despite the presence of a straightforward favorite in Dover Cliffs, you can make a case for several promising sophomores in this line-up. I’d love to see Yoshida (3-1) (pictured) follow up on his fine Keeneland maiden win, and for a better value option, Undulated (15-1) should be sitting on a bigger effort. As his name implies, Yoshida is a Japanese-bred by Heart’s Cry and out of Grade 1 heroine Hilda’s Passion. Second on debut last fall for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Yoshida broke his maiden when next seen in April. Admittedly, he got away with it on the front end. Still, the way he stretched clear through a final eighth in :11.75 (according to Trakus) marked him as potentially useful. The caveat is shortening up from nine furlongs to a flat mile, but he did just miss over this trip first out (after an eventful stretch run thanks to a wayward foe).

Undulated ($625,000) cost more than stablemate El Areeb ($340,000) at OBS March and made his splash first for trainer Cathal Lynch. As a son of Curlin, Undulated might not have been expected to win first out sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the lawn, miss by a nose to Caribou Club in the Laurel Futurity, and capture the six-furlong Swynford. After giving way to a distant third behind Irish War Cry in the Marylander, Undulated wasn’t seen until a Belmont turf sprint April 30 and returned with a useful third. Even if he’d taken after his speedy dam at two, Undulated might be looking for the step up to a mile now. Caribou Club could benefit from added ground as well, coming off a best-of-the-rest effort at Keeneland to Wesley Ward’s Royal Ascot-bound Bound for Nowhere. Speaking of Royal Ascot, for whatever it’s worth, Berks County is engaged in the Commonwealth Cup (G1).

9TH Race, the Maryland Sprint (G3): The red-hot Whitmore can continue his streak here, with A.P. Indian the obvious danger. If you’re looking for a longshot to use in the lower rungs of the exotics, Rockinn on Bye (15-1) is a pretty reliable character who’s never been worse than third from 10 lifetime starts at this distance on dirt. He’s fired two straight bullets for this second start off the layoff, and that’s good enough for John Velazquez to take the call.

10TH Race, the Gallorette (G3): At the risk of being unimaginative, this looks like a tussle among the obvious trio of On Leave (my preference in the TwinSpires Preakness Betting Guide), Elysea’s World, and classy pace factor Zipessa. In keeping with the spirit of this column, though, you can add Queen Caroline (20-1) as an overlay. Two-for-two at Pimlico, both at the Gallorette distance, Queen Caroline turned a stakes hat trick last summer before trailing in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Keeneland. She opened 2017, also at Keeneland, with a wide-trip sixth in an allowance. Sometimes I tie myself in knots trying to unscramble trainer intent, but it could be significant that Michael Matz scratched his other Gallorette entrant, Gone Away, who ran fourth in a Friday allowance instead. Could that decision be read as a negative toward Gone Away, or more of a plus for relying on Queen Caroline to shoulder the barn’s hopes?

11TH Race, the Sir Barton: As with the Murphy on turf, a few of these aspiring sorts can earn a breakthrough here, and I’ve talked myself into the idea of Watch Me Whip (12-1). One of the Albaugh Family Stables’ three top prospects at Barry Berkelhammer’s AbraCadabra Farm in Ocala, he’s taken longer to make it to the races than Not This Time or J Boys Echo. But he might prove to be more than worth the wait, judging by his nifty move on the far turn of his Keeneland debut romp. By Smart Strike and out of a Deputy Minister mare, Watch Me Whip is bred on the same cross as Curlin, and eligible to improve markedly with experience. That is a concern going into a race this competitive off just one start. Another worthy price play is No Mo Dough (12-1), whom Graham Motion regarded as his best juvenile early on year (not Irish War Cry). Unraced at two, the Uncle Mo colt rolled at first asking at Laurel, ran a better than appears fourth at Keeneland (where he rallied out wide into a hot pace), and overcame a rough stretch passage to score from off the pace at Churchill on Derby Day. If he can duplicate that effort wheeling back two weeks later, No Mo Dough is a threat. Morning-line favorite Hedge Fund is the clear form choice thanks to his near-miss in the Illinois Derby (G3) and third in the Sunland Derby (G3), but I’m tempted to wonder if he’s going to keep settling for minors. Time to Travel is an obvious candidate to progress in his second routing attempt, especially with first-time Lasix and Velazquez, but his price may be a bit short in the circumstances.

12TH Race, the Dixie (G2): As with the Gallorette, the established class looks the way to go. I liked World Approval so much going into the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Derby Day that it was a real disappointment for him to scratch. Sticking with him here, despite the slight cutback to 1 1/16 miles, on the combination of Grade 1 class, tactical positioning, and the expectation he’ll be even better at age five. Ring Weekend, the other Grade 1 winner, would prefer the pace to be stiffer than it looks on paper, but this distance is right in his wheelhouse these days. I expect him to do much better here than in his last tries over a flat mile in Southern California. Although Projected could be a slight underlay for beating Divisidero and Pleuven in a Keeneland allowance, he showed a good attitude to muscle his way clear, and the Chad Brown/Juddmonte juggernaut isn’t easily overlooked. As far as a price horse of interest is concerned, Security Risk (12-1) is a son of War Front and champion Smuggler who just wired a third-level Keeneland allowance. If the Phipps homebred is ready for this class hike, he could be the controlling speed who hangs around for the finish.

13TH Race, the Preakness: If Classic Empire (3-1) doesn’t get bludgeoned out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby (G1), his entire race changes. He’s more forwardly placed, possibly not nearly as wide, and he’s on the premises to challenge Always Dreaming. Does that mean Classic Empire would have beaten Always Dreaming? I don’t know because that’s going beyond the evidence, and maybe Always Dreaming was peaking relative to Classic Empire on the day anyway. But given their price differential in the Preakness, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that Classic Empire can do so here. After his stop-and-start spring, this is actually the third start of his form cycle. For my longshot, Hence (20-1) was well below form, reportedly due to the sloppy track, as the Derby “wise guy” horse. The Steve Asmussen trainee might sit a bit closer if the pace is moderate, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he returns to form once overlooked by the wise guys. 

Yoshida photo courtesy Keeneland/Coady Photography