With favorite out, wet weather takes stage at Preakness 149

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Louie Rabaut writes the wet surface for Saturday's Preakness could set up an interesting scenario at Pimlico.

BALTIMORE — Horse racing and college football have something in common: No matter the weather, on the biggest days, the fans show up. Saturday is setting up to be one of those days at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, the site of Preakness Stakes 149.

We’ve packed our ponchos and we’re not wearing nice shoes. Yet it’s the company of the Preakness-goers who make this weekend so awesome every year.

Trainer Bob Baffert — if not the best trainer of young thoroughbreds ever, he’s at least on the shortest of short lists — had favored Muth ready to go in this rendition of the Preakness. After shipping to Baltimore, he spiked a fever, and his chances to run Saturday became zero.

It’s a shame as Baffert is barred from running in the Kentucky Derby after a very public positive drug test with winner Medina Spirit in 2021. He’s now been barred from three consecutive Derby runs and Muth had shown himself to be among the best three year-olds in the country.

It leaves a more balanced field of eight, including one other Baffert runner: the less accomplished Imagination, last seen running a very good second in the Santa Anita Derby in April. Imagination is from the same ownership group that partnered on Justify and Authentic among other young colts.

His breeding makes sense for a win like this and with eight lifetime wins in this race for Baffert, it would be silly to toss him as a contender in this one.

But the wet surface Saturday could set up an interesting scenario: Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan also won in the slop in March at Oaklawn in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. He’ll hope to repeat that form — and his rail-riding masterpiece from the Derby — on Saturday.

Can he win here? The answer is a resounding yes and would create a terrific scenario in three weeks when the Belmont Stakes shifts to Saratoga with Belmont Park undergoing renovation.

There are two other Kentucky Derby entrants from this year and they come in off of very different performances in the Derby. The Brad Cox-trained Catching Freedom finished a game fourth, the next horse behind that incredible three-horse photo finish.

Catching Freedom’s other loss this year was a third in the slop at Fairgrounds in New Orleans behind second-place Derby finisher Sierra Leone. Catching Freedom made the trip; Sierra Leone will wait until at least the Belmont Stakes to run again.

The other Derby vet is Just Steel from the D Wayne Lukas barn. He ran a disappointing 17th in the Derby, finishing ahead of three horses. Lukas has decided to enlist veteran jockey Joel Rosario to pilot Just Steel in the Preakness.

Rosario was aboard Just Steel’s maiden win at Saratoga last summer. He has very little chance here, but he did run second to Mystik Dan in that sloppy Southwest Stakes earlier this year.

A must-watch newcomer is Tuscan Gold from the Chad Brown barn. Brown won this race two years ago with Early Voting.

Brown scratched Tuscan Gold out of a much weaker G3 Peter Pan field last weekend at Aqueduct on Long Island in favor of running at Pimlico.

If you’re looking for a longer shot that’s had great success over off tracks, look at Uncle Heavy. He won the Withers a few months ago at Aqueduct in the mud.

If Uncle Heavy repeats that form, he could land a top three spot Saturday. You’ll likely get better than 20-1 on him.

The most fascinating horse is Seize the Grey. He just missed qualifying for the Derby, so his connections ran him the G2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill, instead.

He won that race easily and broke his maiden in the slop at Saratoga. He ran well in the mud in his next race at Saratoga. Could he show up on Saturday and surprise?

What’s next for Preakness

If you’re in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes, consider joining us at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood. We’ll have a handicapping seminar and walk through Saturday’s major races.

You can wage with us

If you’d like to wager with us, please consider signing up with our partners at AmWager. If you bet a lot of California tracks or enjoy betting the Preakness and Belmont, this is perfect for you.

Use the site here or sign up with our promo code HAPPYHOUR to get up to a $150 deposit match, along with an additional $25 to bet. Plus, they’re running a special where if you pick the winner in the Preakness, they’ll boost your win total by 20% (up to $50).