Our top picks for the 2015 Preakness

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TwinSpires Staff

May 14th, 2015

Who does our team like best in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1)? Depends on who’s answering the question…

James Scully: Dortmund didn’t run poorly finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, but I doubt we saw his best at Churchill Downs and believe he can extract a measure of revenge in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. There are generally two schools of thought regarding the trips of American Pharoah and Dortmund in the Kentucky Derby: one camp thinks Dortmund had the advantage up front, without a straw in his path along the rail as American Pharoah overcame a wide journey to outfinish his stablemate, while the other camp is convinced American Pharoah enjoyed a much better set-up, lying in wait in a perfect spot on the outside as Dortmund was hounded by the other speed, Firing Line, from the start. Put me in the latter group and I’m glad Dortmund won’t have to serve as a chess piece (pacesetter) again for American Pharoah. Dortmund settled just off the speed earlier in his career, closing strongly each time, and the rail post is a potential liability for American Pharoah if he doesn’t show speed from the break. I think little separates the two, especially at distances longer than 1 1/8 miles, and the tactical advantage can swing Dortmund’s way since he’s outside his stablemate in the starting gate. He rates a slight edge, at a much better price, in what promises to be an exciting race.

Ed DeRosa: This was the most formful Kentucky Derby prep season in my 13 years of covering the Triple Crown trail, and the Derby itself followed through with the favorite winning and logical horses in every spot of the exotics. The public had this year’s Derby so figured out that after four years and only two winning tickets ever, the Super High 5 paid $6,658.30, which is less than the superfecta pays most years. There’s no reason to think that anything has changed in the past two weeks, and so I’ll stick with my Kentucky Derby pick American Pharoah to win the Preakness, albeit at a short price. The top three from the Derby look formidable, but it’s worth trying to sneak Danzig Moon into the number off a good Derby in which he was closer than many expected and stayed on four fifth. My wagering strategy is to key Danzig Moon underneath American Pharoah, Firing Line, and Dortmund and press on American Pharoah. I’ll also play  Danzig Moon across the board if he’s 10-to-1 or better.

Kellie Reilly: The only reason I couldn't put American Pharoah on top in the Kentucky Derby was my concern about his effectiveness over 1 1/4 miles, so now that he's passed that test, and shortens up slightly to 1 3/16 miles, I should logically support him, right? Never underestimate my capacity for overthinking. While American Pharoah dug deep to prevail like the champion he is, and the admirable Firing Line ran right up to his best, it's highly doubtful that Dortmund performed up to his level of ability. Not only did the son of 2008 Derby and Preakness champion Big Brown suffer his first career defeat when third, but he also failed to pick up as strongly as he usually does. Both the form book and the BRIS Speed ratings bear this out. Dortmund had outdueled Firing Line by a head in their prior meetings, but tired to finish two lengths behind his old foe in the Derby. Furthermore, Dortmund's 96 BRIS Speed rating in the Derby was his lowest since his career debut, and a full 10 points off his career-best 106 in the Santa Anita Derby. I don't think that's a function of the Derby distance, since he wasn't kicking on with his usual gusto long before any stamina issue could come into play. Only later did we learn of his bout of colic following his smashing workout at Santa Anita April 25, just one day before he had to ship to Churchill Downs. Although a minor a blip on the radar, any extra stress on one's system on Derby week is a negative. And Dortmund tried to do it the hard way at Churchill, attempting to go wire to wire. Drawn just to the outside of stablemate American Pharoah this time, Dortmund might receive a more beneficial stalking trip at Pimlico. Is he good enough to beat Pharoah in any event? I don't know, but he probably didn't get to fire his best shot last time, and that makes him a more attractive play at the price.

Jennifer Caldwell: Just like coming into the Kentucky Derby, everyone is focused on American Pharoah and Dortmund as the top prospects for the Preakness. And just like the Derby, I have to take a stand against, even if I end up being wrong. With Carpe Diem out of the picture, I’m turning my sites to Divining Rod to triumph in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The dark bay colt has steadily improved this season, and enters the Preakness off a nice three-length victory in the Lexington S. at Keeneland on April 11. Unlike his main opposition, the Arnaud Delacour trainee enters the Preakness fresh. Divining Rod boasts a nice 96 BRIS Speed rating, and even better a 103 BRIS Late Pace figure, from the Lexington. His 12-1 odds are very attractive and I’m willing to take a shot.

Vance Hanson: One of history’s great curiosities was that from 1840-1960 every man elected President of the United States in a year ending in zero wound up dying in office. A less morbid curiosity surrounds the modern history of the Preakness: in every year ending in five since 1955, the race has been won by a horse that lost the Kentucky Derby. There are stronger reasons to back who I’m backing, but I thought I’d throw that factoid out there. No disrespect intended to Firing Line and others, but I really think this Preakness is a battle between the two Bob Baffert trainees – American Pharoah and Dortmund -- and I’m picking the latter to halt the Triple Crown bid of the former. Despite having to overcome a wide journey, I really think we witnessed close to the very best American Pharoah had to offer in the Kentucky Derby, and it looked like a hard race for him. Despite having things his own way for a mile, I don’t think we saw the very best Dortmund had to offer at Churchill Downs. Setting a moderate pace and hugging the rail, well to the inside of Firing Line or American Pharoah, just didn’t seem like the ideal strategy for the then-undefeated colt, who can handle setting stiffer fractions and has proven he can gamely dig in when he has the opportunity to look his competition in the eye. Dortmund might again prove inferior to his stablemate, but at odds of 3-1 or 7-2 I’ll take the chance that he isn’t.