Powell: Preakness figures to unfold very differently from Derby for Nyquist
by DICK POWELL
The Preakness S. (G1) will be run for the 141st time on Saturday and if the weather forecast is correct, it looks like it might be a wet one.
I know the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness are two different races but these two races could not be any more different. Only three Derby entrants are going on to Baltimore and they are joined by eight new shooters.
Usually, the new shooters might be used in the exotics but are rarely a threat to wear the black eyed susans. But this year, despite the presence of the undefeated NYQUIST (Uncle Mo), they have a decent shot at pulling off the upset.
In this year’s Derby, there was only one real speed horse; DANZING CANDY (Candy Ride). When he broke bad, his rider, Mike Smith, had to push the pedal down and gun to the front before the first turn. He was going so fast that there was no way that he could get him to back off and a fast pace developed.
Mario Gutierrez aboard Nyquist was able to wait for Danzing Candy to clear, then he subtly shifted to his outside for a clear stalking trip. Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey said on the NBC broadcast that they race was pretty much won at that point.
But Gutierrez was able to do that since there was a demonstrable lack of other pace runners in the Derby. Had there been more speed horses in the race, maybe Nyquist gets stuck on the rail behind Danzing Candy and would have to deal with him backing up into him when he got tired.
In the Preakness, there is a ton of speed and Nyquist might be farther behind than normal or he might be involved with a pace scenario in a crowd of horses.
ABIDING STAR (Uncle Mo) is a need-to-lead runner that has won five races in a row going gate to wire. AWESOME SPEED (Awesome Again) won the Federico Tesio S. at Laurel going gate to wire when he lost the bob by a nose but was placed first by the stewards. COLLECTED (City Zip) went gate to wire two starts back in a $415K stakes race at Sunland Park for Bob Baffert who always like to have his horses up on the lead, LAOBAN (Uncle Mo) held on for second in the Gotham S. (G3) after setting the pace then came back in the Blue Grass S. (G1) and was the only front runner to hang around after setting a fast pace, and UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo) went gate to wire to win the California Chrome S. at Los Alamitos and set the track record going 1 1/16 miles.
Uncle Lino will probably have to gun from post 2 and Awesome Speed will also go from post 4 so Nyquist is surrounded by speed horses on both sides. The rest of the speed are on the outside and Gutierrez is going to be tested like never before. In the Derby, he made the right move but it will be interesting to see what strategy he takes going into the first turn.
On the far outside, Johnny Velazquez will have some quick decisions to make aboard STRADIVARI (Medaglia d’Oro). A huge winner of an allowance race at Keeneland by 14 lengths in only his third career start off a four-month layoff, Johnny has to decide whether to leave the gate running, and run the risk of being stuck out wide, or let the speed to his inside clear and try to drop over a bit. He’s not a front runner but has shown he likes to run up near the lead and the question on Saturday will be how close he will be and how much ground he loses.
With four starters in the race sired by UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie), and many others being by top wet-track sires, there doesn’t seem to be much of a pedigree advantage. Unlike other years when very few starters saw a wet track in any of the 3-year-old prep races, this year shows only one horse, Laoban, without a start on a wet track.
What you have to pay attention to in Saturday’s early main track races at Pimlico is the presence of a path bias. The main track at Pimlico has a reputation of favoring inside paths but that hasn’t been true in a number of years. Watch races down the backstretch and see if the riders are avoiding running down on the inside. If that is the case, the better footing will be on the outside and the closers will have a legitimate shot.
Yesterday, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) debuted a new, live TV show called “Belmont Live.” For two hours most racing days during Belmont and Saratoga, it was advertised that “the shows will feature new graphical enhancements and production elements to benefit viewers.”
With months to prepare, this dud didn’t even get off the launchpad. There were immediate audio problems with the sound coming through a telephone line and as bad as it sounded, it was not synchronized with the video. It looked like a bad horror movie that was dubbed incorrectly.
In the first race that was shown, race six, the audio called the winner but the video was still over a hundred yards from the wire. Interviews were just as bad and at one point, you could hear a discussion in the control room on a hot mic. Think Titanic at this point. There were long periods of dead air and the broadcast had to switch to remote cameras on the first turn when live camera shots were unavailable.
The problems had nothing to do with the on air talent but the people running the show. If you were brave enough to stay with it, the audio did get fixed and was synchronized but what a start!