The 146th running of the Preakness Stakes will place this Saturday, May 15, with post time at 6:50 p.m. ET.
After being postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the second race of the Triple Crown is back to its usual place. Controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit drew the 3-post and is the morning-line favorite at + 180.
Here is my breakdown of the race:
It used to be that you would never go against Bob Baffert in the Preakness, especially since he had never lost with a Kentucky Derby winner. But that was before last year: Baffert was 6-for-6 before Authentic -- and everyone else -- was defeated by the fabulous filly Swiss Skydiver. Because of the COVID scheduling, the 2020 running seemed to be the most abnormal Preakness ever -- until this weekend. Now Baffert has to wait out two drug tests on MEDINA SPIRIT: One on a split sample to learn if he keeps his record seventh Derby victory, and the other to see if there are still any traces of that anti-inflammatory ointment in the colt’s system. If it is anything more than zero, Medina Spirit is out of the Preakness. Even if that latest test comes back clean, the biggest threat to keeping the Triple Crown alive is in Baffert’s own barn.
At the owners’ urging, CONCERT TOUR was held out of the Derby. He was widely considered to be Baffert’s best healthy 3-year-old before he suffered his first career loss in the Arkansas Derby. Hall of Famers John Velázquez and Mike Smith have the rides, and they both figure to send the two horses forward early in the race. It will be a case of come and get ’em for all their rivals.
While MEDINA SPIRIT and CONCERT TOUR provide the early speed, don’t be fooled by MIDNIGHT BOURBON’s Derby. He had a bumpy trip past the wire the first time around Churchill Downs, so he had an alibi for being back in the pack for his sixth-place finish. Maiden winner CROWDED TRADE looks like the best of the two horses for Chad Brown, who added Withers victor RISK TAKING late last week. The key is the break. Johnny V. will try to get Medina Spirit on the lead and take him home the way he did in the Derby. The fact that Medina Spirit has never been passed once he is in first place is telling. A gate-to-wire win is the Baffert way of getting the job done in Baltimore. Just look at American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.
ROMBAUER won the El Camino Real Derby on a synthetic surface to qualify for the Preakness, and his connections decided to take the free pass to Pimlico rather than shell out the bucks to enter the Derby.
As a side note, Rombauer has been my favorite chardonnay for years. I have been to the vineyard in Napa, and their corks actually say “the joy of wine.” The only problem is it got too expensive. It is the priciest chardonnay I have ever seen. Maybe the best way to get a bargain on the wine is to find value on the horse.
Todd Pletcher would complete the career Triple Crown if Lexington Stakes runner-up UNBRIDLED HONOR was to come through for him in a race he rarely enters these days. KEEPMEINMIND finished seventh in the Derby, but like Rombauer and Unbridled Honor, he would appreciate a fast pace up front. If the Baffert boys get too serious about playing catch-me-if-you-can against one another, the long shots might have a chance.
$100 WAGERING STRATEGY:
• $50 Exacta box
MEDINA SPIRIT-CONCERT TOUR
TOP 4 PICKS:
1. MEDINA SPIRIT
2. CONCERT TOUR
3. MIDNIGHT BOURBON