Wednesday

5-13-09: Preakness 134

Hello again everybody...

It's a weird Wednesday here in Minneapolis. It's overcast and humid and feels for all the world like it's going to rain. Yet when I got up this morning, the National Weather Service had removed any chance of rain from the forecast. They've since put a 20% chance back in, but if you walk around outside, it feels like a whole hell of a lot more than 20%.

This is amongst the many reasons I wasn't able to complete my meteorology major in college. Sure, not being able to handle the physics involved was a bigger part of it. But what really derailed me was the knowledge that for all the math and physics, meteorology still has a significant amount of coin-flipping involved. Granted, people have made a whole mess of money via said coin-flipping (I'm looking at you, Paul Douglas). But in the end it was more than I could handle.

So I ended up working in radio whilst writing a sports column for free. Who's the smart one now?! Wait... don't answer that.

Today's column takes us back to the Sport of Kings. The 134th running of the Preakness Stakes takes place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on Saturday. Sure, the post draw isn't til later this afternoon, but I already know who I'm picking. And Friesan Fire, you're not it! Who is the lucky pick? Read on and find out!

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
- Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931), American inventor and businessman


Fans of the "National Treasure" movies will remember this quote as "I've just found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb". I'm not sure which version is correct, but I've always liked the point of the quote which is: perspective is everything.

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And it's with that in mind that I begin to preview Preakness 134. Sure I could focus on the breaking of my 3-year Kentucky Derby winner streak. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to start a new streak with Preakness Stakes winners!

Last year, for the first time, I correctly picked the winner of the Preakness. Now, that's not necessarily something to brag about, since picking Big Brown in that race wasn't difficult to do. But a winner's a winner, and I think the winner of Preakness 134 is equally obvious. So let the new streak begin!

First of all, let's look at who's coming back from the Kentucky Derby:

Flying Private: Finished dead last in the Derby. Why is he running in the Preakness? I have no idea. But D. Wayne Lukas is his trainer, and he knows infinitely more than I do.

Friesan Fire: Finished second to last in the Derby. In defense of my pick, he got stepped on early in the race and was bleeding by the time he made it back to the paddock. Apparently the injury has healed enough to run him in the Preakness. There are even some handicappers that are getting sucked back into picking him. I'm not one of them. Once you dog me like that, I'm not trusting you again any time soon!

General Quarters: Finished 10th in the Derby. I didn't like him going into the Derby because he didn't have a triple-digit speed figure and he'd already bounced once.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! "Bounce" - when a horse runs great in one race, but puts forth a sub-par effort in their next race, they're said to have "bounced".)

He's just not a horse I have any faith in.

Mine That Bird: Won the Derby. If you missed my "Derby Thoughts" column, I'll summarize: the stars aligned for this horse on Derby Saturday, and he has no shot in the Preakness. The Triple Crown sentimentalists will pick him. But I won't.

Musket Man: Finished 3rd in the Derby. I liked him as a long-shot to hit the board and he did. I don't like him to win in the Preakness any more than in the Derby, but he's got to be a contender in any exacta or trifecta picks.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! "Exacta": picking the first and second place finishers in order. "Trifecta": picking the first, second and third place finishers in order.)

Papa Clem: Finished 4th in the Derby. I didn't like this horse much headed into the Derby because I thought he was a candidate to bounce. Well, he didn't. And for anybody lucky enough to hit the Super, he was a savvy pick.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! "Super/Superfecta": picking the first, second, third and fourth place finisher in order.)

Pioneer of the Nile: Finished 2nd in the Derby. This is Dark Star's horse. He hit the exacta in the Derby by betting ALL over PoN and PoN over ALL. It cost him about $72 to make the two bets, but it won him about $3100. Not bad. PoN has a shot in the Preakness, but I can't pick him here either. You're foolish not to include him in exactas/trifectas/superfectas, but he's not my pick to win it.

So if I'm not picking any of the Derby horses to win the Preakness, is there some mysterious bomber headed for the Preakness that nobody's heard of?

Nope. Big Drama, Luv Gov, Take the Points, Terrain, and Tone it Down are all decent enough horses, but they don't excite me enough to pick them.

For the love of God Dan, would you just give us the pick already?!

You people have no patience. Seriously, chill.

The winner of Preakness 134 is going to be the same horse that won Kentucky Oaks 135: Rachel Alexandra.

So if this horse is so good, why wasn't she in the Derby? There's a process by which horses are "nominated" for the Triple Crown races. I have no clue how it works, and I really should've researched it for this column. But I'm at work people. There's only so much time I have to write this sucker! The point is, Rachel Alexandra wasn't nominated for the Triple Crown, so it would've cost her owners $200k to enter the Derby. They saw no need to do that when they had a lock on the Oaks. But about a week ago, she was sold to a new owner who thinks that the $100k posting fee for the Preakness is a worthwhile investment, so now we get to see how she performs against the boys.

We almost didn't though. Preakness rules state that the field is limited to 14 horses (as opposed to the Derby's 20). And strict preference is given to horses who've been nominated over those who haven't. What that meant is that if 14 nominated horses entered the Preakness, Rachel Alexandra wouldn't be allowed in the field no matter how willing her new owner was to pay the fee.

That brings us to the owner of Mine That Bird, Mark Allen. Allen is a part owner of another horse, Indy Express, who was nominated for the Triple Crown but didn't have enough Graded Stakes earnings to make his way into the Derby.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! Graded Stakes: the highest level of horse races are referred to as "Graded Stakes". There are 3 levels of GS races: G1, G2, and G3. G1 being the highest rated of the 3. All three Triple Crown races are considered G1 races.)

But due to the number of drop-outs from the Derby to the Preakness, Indy Express had a chance to enter. His entry would've capped the field at 14, forcing Rachel Alexandra out of the race. It's hard to blame Allen for considering the move. It's going to be tough enough for his colt to win the race anyway, bringing in a potential super horse nearly eliminates Mine That Bird's chances. There's also the jockey issue. Calvin Borel rode both Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird over Derby weekend, but since he can't ride both in the same race, he's announced he'll be on RA in the Preakness. Unless Allen had forced RA out of the race, then he'd have been available to ride MTB again.

Ultimately, what was in the best interest of the sport won out. A couple of days ago, Allen announced that he wouldn't be entering IE in the Preakness, opening the door for RA to get in.

As great as a Triple Crown winner would be, the likelihood of MTB being that horse is minuscule at best. What horse racing fans really want to see is the best horses competing against each other. And after her Oaks dominance, there's no question that RA is amongst the best 3 year olds in the country.

The Post Draw for the Preakness comes up this afternoon, after which they'll announce the Morning Line odds.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! Morning Line Odds: the initial odds on field of horses for a given race. Those odds change between the time they're issued and post time based on the amount of money bet on each horse. Ultimately, a winning bettor receives a payoff based on what the odds on their horse were at post time, instead of the Morning Line. But the Morning Line still gives you a fairly good idea who's likely to win the race.)

My guess is that RA will be a clear favorite at the morning line at somewhere around 3-1. And she'll only get bet down from there. As for MTB? If you liked him in the Derby (and if you did, please check your medication), you'll get another good price on him in the Preakness. My guess is he opens somewhere between 15-1 and 20-1.

(Ed.'s Note: It's worse than I thought. RA was made the favorite at only 8-5. To put it in perspective, my guess of 3-1 translates to 15-5, so the odds are only slightly more than half as good as I predicted. And somehow they've made MTB second-favorite at 6-1. That's a horrible overlay (odds being lower than they ought to be).)

I'm not sure they're be any value in betting RA to win, but I might try to put together an exacta ticket with her over some combination of Musket Man and another bomber or two and see if I can't get lucky.

If you're in Minneapolis on Saturday and find yourself with nothing to do, WCCO Radio will be broadcasting live from Canterbury Park from 4-6pm on Saturday covering the Preakness. Live racing starts at 1:30pm, so come out early and enjoy a day at the Park!

That's all for today. I'll be back on Friday with another heaping helping of DFTU for you to digest on the way to your weekend!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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