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The countdown to Preakness 149 is underway

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Louie Rabaut previews Preakness 149 one week out.

Kentucky Derby 150 – the greatest race I’ve ever attended, is in the rear-view mirror.  Mystik Dan won a thriller in a three horse photo finish, and the rest of history.

We’re on to Old Hilltop, the unrenovated Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.  One of the best things about horse racing is its regionality, that every spot on the horse racing circuit is a bit different.  Think of your favorite old baseball stadium: the sight lines, the outfield dimensions; tracks are no different – they have different layouts, different seating accommodations, everything.

Pimlico and Churchill Downs couldn’t be more different, and the state of Maryland has realized just that: the legislature has clearly seen the development at Churchill Downs and at Belmont Park in New York City, and decided to try and play catch up.  To this I say – GREAT.  Preakness weekend is a fantastic experience, dilapidated building or not.  It can only improve with a nicer facility.

On our podcast, The Horse Racing Happy Hour, we do monthly shows highlighting the Maryland prep races for the Preakness.  They’re reasonably popular, and they allow us to showcase the excellent people who cover and follow the circuit.

The only issue with the Preakness preps?  They generally do not involve the very top horses, and for an obvious reason: if you own a top three year-old thoroughbred, you’re almost certainly pointing him to the Kentucky Derby.  The Federico Tesio Stakes is the final stop – and a win-and-you’re-in race – on the road to the Preakness.  The last winner of the Tesio to win the Preakness?  Deputed Testamony in 1983.  I didn’t even need to google that, as I’ve said it so many times.  “The Tesio is a great predictor of who WON’T win the Preakness.”  This year should be no different.

But the Preakness this year and the last two has been different for an alternate reason: supertrainer Bob Baffert hasn’t been able to run in the Derby.  He brings the prohibitive favorite – and Arkansas Derby winner – Muth to Baltimore.  He’s won this race eight times, including last year’s rendition, and I see no reason Muth shouldn’t win here.  It sets up for an interesting trip to Saratoga for this year’s rendition of the Belmont.

Alongside Muth, Baffert will also ship Imagination to Baltimore to run.  Muth is clearly the superior runner, but Baffert rarely likes to ship single horses.  

We’ve yet to receive word from the Mystik Dan camp about his availability for the Preakness, but if I had to guess, I’d guess that old-school horseman and trainer Kenny McPeek will bring his Derby winner to Baltimore.  He’s already made plans for seasoned jockey Robby Albarado to be his workout rider in the mornings at Pimlico.  Albarado is a two-time winner of the Preakness, most famously aboard filly Swiss Skydiver in the October, 2020 rendition of the race.

There are several horses that are listed as probables for the Preakness that just ran last week at Churchill Downs, and not surprisingly, they’re from old school, traditional barns.  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas – another Preakness star with six such wins – is bringing the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile Stakes winner Seize the Grey.  I love this entry, and think the one-turn mile at Churchill was probably a perfect set up for a great run in Baltimore?  Can he win?  Sure.  Will he win?  Couldn’t tell you.  But if he does, it wouldn’t stun anyone who follows the sport.

The other fascinating confirmed runner is Tuscan Gold, out of the Chad Brown barn.  In 2022, Brown won this race with a similar “new shooter” in Early Voting.  His entries are impossible to overlook – he scratched Tuscan Gold out of the Grade 3 $200,000 Peter Pan at Aqueduct this Saturday to run in Baltimore.  Tuscan Gold would’ve certainly been the betting favorite in that one, and a buzz horse in a month in Saratoga for the Belmont.

I’m of the opinion that Brown is showing his cards here: he could run this horse in NYC and pick up a $120,000 check; instead, he’s willing to run against Baffert’s best to try and win a Triple Crown race.  That’s telling.

THIS WEEKEND

I mentioned that G3 Peter Pan on Long Island, so let’s look at a few of the races on that card, and put a pick 3 together.

Race 6 G3 Peter Pan 1 ⅛ miles, dirt. 3YO. $200,000.

This is the final race on the road to the Belmont, with a twist: this is usually run at Belmont Park over one turn.  With the ongoing renovations at Belmont, this race will be run at Aqueduct for a few years, and over two turns.

Trainer Mike Maker tried to qualify for the Kentucky Derby with 3 The Wine Steward, whose sire Vino Rosso once won the Wood Memorial on Long Island before a distinguished career all over North America.  This will be his second race this year, and after the defection of Preakness-bound Tuscan Gold, he’ll be a worthy favorite amongst this group.

Resilience – the Wood Memorial winner at this very track – ran a very good sixth in the Derby.  Behind him was third-place finisher 1 Protective, who picks up Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.  At 8/1, the price would be right; but, again, with defections, that number is likely ot be lower.  I would guess he’ll be 9/2 at post time, but that’s still a great price, given the connections.

Another interesting entrant is 6 Antiquarian, last seen in the Louisiana Derby running behind Kentucky Derby qualifiers Catching Freedom and Honor Marie, both top-8 finishers.  The other horse in that field ahead of him?  Tuscan Gold, who’s off to Baltimore.  If he runs even a little better than he did in New Orleans, he can win here.

Top Selections: 3, 1, 6

Pick 3 Play at Aqueduct, starts race 5:

Race 5: 1, 3, 6

Race 6: 1, 3, 6

Race 7: 8, 9 $1 Pick 3: 1,3,6 / 1,3,6 / 8,9

$1 Base Ticket = $18. Good luck!

WHAT’S NEXT

We’ll have tons of Preakness coverage for you here at The Trib.  You can always email me to be part of the column at TSThorseracing@gmail.com.

Talk soon – and Happy Preakness!