Rested Rivals Await Their Chance
With the undefeated filly Songbird not likely to run in the Preakness Stakes, Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist's biggest enemy may be rest – or lack thereof. That's the challenge of the Triple Crown; the races are run relatively close together. A horse runs all out to win one and barely has a chance to get a nap before he's in training for the next. Meanwhile, other more-rested horses are waiting in the wings to pick off the Derby winner. And that's why only exceptional horses, such as American Pharoah, survive the test. There are a number of able horses, whom Nyquist didn't face in the Derby, hoping to upset the unbeaten hero in the Preakness. Here are a few who are probables for the May 21 second leg of the Triple Crown:
Nyquist headed off to Pimlico for the next stop on the Road to the Triple Crown!https://t.co/ekU7hZusHx— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 9, 2016
Stradivari is a late bloomer who has not run in a single stakes race but is causing a stir among the experts. That's because of a super-impressive run in his allowance win on April 17 at Keeneland. He stalked, made an early move and went on to run away from the other five horses in the field, winning by multiple lengths. His time in the 1 1/8 mile distance was 1:48 flat, more than a second better than either Nyquist's or Exaggerator's times at the distance. And that was coming off a four-month layoff. How he'll perform in a bigger, tougher field, remains to be seen. But this winner of just two races is trained by Todd Pletcher and may have John Velazquez riding, so he's in the hands of a lot of quality experience.
Collected has shown more class, having won two graded stakes races including the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes last out on April 16. He's also been a winner in the Grade 3 ranks. He seems to like roughly one month between races, so the Preakness should set up well for him in that department. He also likes to run up front, and with more speed expected here than in the Derby, that doesn't bode well for him. Nevertheless, he's a Bob Baffert trainee, and we know that Baffert can win these things. If Javier Castellano is up, that's another plus.
Rested But Rusty
Awesome Speed has won three standard stakes races, and placed fourth to Mohaymen's win in the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes back in February. He came back to triumph in the Frederico Tesio Stakes on April 9. But he was bumped twice in the stretch of that one and won after an inquiry took the winner down. He would be coming off of a two-month layoff, so he may choose to run in this week's Peter Pan Stakes instead. He's also listed as a probable in that Belmont Park race.Cherry Wine was good enough to qualify as an alternate for the Derby, by virtue of his third-place finish in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes last month. He finished behind Brody's Cause and My Man Sam in that one. A son of turf great Paddy O' Prado, Cherry Wine was bred for grass running, but showed up nicely in a dirt race at Gulfstream Park early in the year, and he's been on dirt ever since. But he hasn't won at stakes level, so trainer Dale Romans might put him back on turf if he doesn't do well at Pimlico. He's an honest-to-goodness closer, so that works in his favor.
Just Maybe …
Laoban is another Derby alternate who made the board in two Grade 3 races. He's another who likes to run up front. But he couldn't hold off Shagaf in the G3 Gotham and he couldn't hold up at all in the Blue Grass. This would be the longest layoff of his career. On the plus side, he's a half brother to Nyquist.
Uncle Lino has won a stakes race and has shown up against formidable competition in graded stakes events. He was picked off by Exaggerator's big run in the G1 Santa Anita Derby, and he placed to Mor Spirit in the G3 Robert B. Lewis, going for the lead early in both. He won the California Chrome Stakes in his last outing April 30, so he'll be on an extended layoff.
As I wrote just after the Kentucky Derby, I'll not try to beat Nyquist. And none of the above strike me as brilliant. But if you want to consider putting Collected or Stradivari under Nyquist in an exacta, trifecta or superfecta wheel bet, they'll likely go off at nice prices, and they're the ones who excite me the most of this group.
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