Racing Roundtable: Preakness weekend recap
With Preakness weekend in the rear-view mirror, the Roundtable (James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson) is back to discuss what happened and the implications going forward after the events at Pimlico and elsewhere.
How does the three-year-old championship race look to you after the Preakness?
James Scully: Up for grabs. Rich Strike rates a slight edge via his Kentucky Derby (G1) upset, but let's see how he performs in the Belmont (G1). Also in the mix are Preakness winner Early Voting and multiple Grade 2 scorer Epicenter, but this year's champion three-year-old male could still come from anywhere. Two of the last six champions didn't compete in the Triple Crown (Arrogate and West Coast).
Kellie Reilly: Wide open. If Epicenter had gotten anything close to his typical forward trip in the Preakness, he might well have beaten Early Voting, and staked his claim to pro tem leadership. But the cold, hard fact remains that Epicenter was runner-up as the favorite in the first two jewels, despite running bang-up races in defeat. Note that both winners capitalized on particular race circumstances — Derby shocker Rich Strike got his dream pace meltdown, and Early Voting took advantage of a perfect stalking passage over a track conducive to his running style. Early Voting still has upside, along with a greater likelihood than Rich Strike of working out beneficial trips. Still, he'll face more challenges in the second half of the season. Chances are that the Triple Crown races will yield three different winners, opening the door for an enterprising sophomore to step up later in the summer and fall.
Vance Hanson: It's somewhat difficult to have a firm opinion, given the absences of certain individuals from either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, but Early Voting impressed me enough over the weekend to consider him the nominal division leader at this point. He'll pass on the Belmont, but races like the Haskell (G1) and Travers (G1) certainly appear within the scope of his abilities. Epicenter has had two tough beats in a row and will regroup for a future showdown with Early Voting, and rivals like Zandon, Mo Donegal, and Rich Strike also have to be considered as potential contenders in a wide-open division. Although it's nice when certain champions assert their clear superiority in the classics, it's also fun when division honors remain up for grabs well into the summer and fall.
Will Super Quick be a danger in the older female division following her stunning performance in the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3)?
JS: Super Quick still has something to prove after having everything her own way on the lead, but her whopping 106 Brisnet Speed rating makes one take notice. The duPont was only the four-year-old filly's second stakes start, and while she benefited from the scratch of the other projected frontrunner in the 1 1/8-mile race, she appeared to take a big step forward recording a 14 1/4-length decision. A winner in four of her last six starts, Super Quick will be tested for class in upcoming engagements.
KR: As a breakout performance by an unexposed type, just a few days before her actual fourth birthday, Super Quick's tour de force could be a harbinger. The Marylou Whitney Stables homebred has a pattern of improving with racing, so there's reason to believe that she can back this up. Yet she did have things all her own way on the front end, and the duPont wasn't the deepest race in the division. Super Quick will have to deal with a more formidable test from reigning champion Letruska. Malathaat, who beat Super Quick in the Doubledogdare (G3) last out, would be quite happy to see those two speedy distaffers duke it out and set things up nicely for her.
VH: Super Quick's victory in the Allaire duPont was certainly the most eye-catching performance by any older female on dirt through the first five months of the year, but in cases like this you want to see a horse back it up down the road in spots with greater depth. Despite the big speed rating, there wasn't much substance to the field and she received no early pace pressure. On the plus side, her close third in the Doubledogdare behind Malathaat suggests she is a talented sort who could land multiple wins at higher levels as the season progresses.
What else caught your eye this weekend?
JS: Ethereal Road wasn't much of a factor recording a fourth in the Lexington (G3) and a seventh in the Blue Grass (G1) in his two previous outings, and the confirmed closer appeared up against it behind a glacial pace in Saturday's Sir Barton S., but the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt offered a striking turn of foot to win going away by nearly five lengths. He didn't face quality competition, and his Speed rating (93) came back light, but Ethereal Road is back on track for a four-time Belmont Stakes-winning trainer. And the final leg of the Triple Crown is next for the late runner.
KR: The classic season is in full swing throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and a couple of fillies warrant a mention for significant wins on Sunday. Homeless Songs crushed the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) at the Curragh so ruthlessly that she'll be the one to beat in the June 17 Coronation S. (G1) at Royal Ascot. Moreover, the Frankel filly has the potential to excel beyond her own division for Dermot Weld. If mile kingpin Baaeed ventures up in trip later in the year, Homeless Songs is eligible to fill the void left in his wake. At Tokyo, Stars on Earth rallied to turn a classic double in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1), following up her thrilling score in the April 10 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1). Now the granddaughter of Franco-American champion Stacelita will aim for a sweep of Japan's Triple Crown for fillies in the Oct. 16 Shuka Sho (G1) at Hanshin.
VH: Homeless Songs stamped herself as possibly the best three-year-old filly miler in Europe with an emphatic victory in Sunday's Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh. The daughter of Frankel has improved significantly since last season, when she finished unplaced in both stakes appearances for Moyglare Stud and trainer Dermot Weld. The latter is no stranger at taking aim at and winning big American prizes, and this could be the type we could see at Keeneland this fall in either the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) or Filly and Mare Turf (G1).