Effortless win in Oaks makes filly obvious pick

When Rachel Alexandra drew into today’s Preakness Stakes, there was no agonizing over our Preakness

When Rachel Alexandra drew into today’s Preakness Stakes, there was no agonizing over our Preakness pick. Her breathtaking 20-length romp in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby was the most dominant performance by a filly in at least the last 30 years.

Top fillies can and do occasionally beat top colts in major stakes. If Rags to Riches could take down two-time Horse of the Year Curlin to win the Belmont Stakes in 2007, there’s no reason Rachel Alex­andria can’t take the Preakness over a depleted 3-year-old colt div­ision that already has lost I Want Revenge and Quality Road. They likely would have been the two betting choices in the Kentucky Derby, had they not been injured.

Realistically, any of our top five choices here can win the Preakness, but “realistically” got tossed out the window in the Derby. So keep an open mind.

In order of preference: The Top Five

Rachel Alexandra

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Rachel Alexandra’s tour de force in the Kentucky Oaks was the way Calvin Borel rode her through the stretch. His hands never moved; his arms were never extended into a full riding motion. Yet, she drew away dramatically. It didn’t take Borel long to choose the filly over his Kentucky Derby winner, which is quite an endorsement. By drawing the outside post in the field of 13, Borel can use Rachel Alexandra’s natural, tactical speed to place her anywhere he wants heading into the first turn to avoid an extremely wide trip. With a reasonable trip, she will become the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years.

Mine That Bird

He was an underlay in the Derby at 50-1, yet he posted the second-largest winning margin ever, as Borel let him settle far back instead of laying close to the pace as he had in most of his races. Whether or not it was the sloppy track, he didn’t simply beat the 18 horses in front of him, he annihilated them. Whether or not he can repeat that performance is open to debate, but it’s hard to expect any of the Derby starters who finished behind him to beat him today.

Friesan Fire

When I Want Revenge scratched the morning of the Derby, Friesan Fire became our top pick and went off as the favorite. After getting bounced around severely early, he had nothing left and was not ridden hard, finishing 18th in the field of 19. Now, he may have regressed, but in his prior start, he beat Papa Clem by 71⁄4 lengths while winning the Louisiana Derby on a sloppy track. In the Derby, Papa Clem beat him by 35 lengths. Toss the race out and hope that Friesan Fire’s sharp work at Pimlico means he’ll bounce back today with a much better performance.

Musket Man

You have to love how this horse always gives his best. He rallied wide in the Derby and got bumped late by Pioneerof the Nile, finishing just a nose behind him in third. That makes his career record five wins and two thirds in seven starts. The shorter distance of the Preakness works in his favor, and he has a legitimate chance of running big today.

Pioneerof the Nile

He looked like the Derby winner coming out of the final turn, but weakened and drifted late. That was his first dirt start following four consecutive graded-stakes victories on synthetic. He’s had a sharp work since, and would not be a surprise if he wins today.

Other Contenders

Papa Clem

He finished just a head behind Musket Man when fourth in the Derby, and he could beat both Musket Man and Pioneerof the Nile today. But even so, that might not be enough to win the race, and an extremely slow workout at Pimlico may be a bad sign.

Take the Points

He won two dirt starts before finishing second in the Grade III Sham Stakes and fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on synthetic. Trainer Todd Pletcher adds blinkers today off several sharp works. Edgar Prado replaces Alex Solis on a horse whose best days may be ahead of him.

Big Drama

This speedy colt breaking from the rail has done little wrong in his career. After finishing third in his debut, he finished first in six straight, though he was disqual­ified and placed second in the last one, his last start in the Grade III Swale Stakes. He hasn’t raced farther than a mile and a sixteenth, and he hasn’t faced the top horses he’s meeting today.

The Others

General Quarters

He had a great story line, but never got involved in the Derby, finishing 10th after considerable traffic trouble. He’s 2-for-8 on dirt, and has lost to Musket Man in three of their four meetings.

Flying Private

He was last in the Derby, but maybe the sloppy track was one of the reasons.

His fifth in the Grade II Arkansas Derby the race before suggests he may go better if he gets dry land today.

Tone It Down

He has a race over the track, finishing third in an ungraded stakes at 9-1 in last. That was his first start in a stakes race.


He’s finished behind Big Drama, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem and General Quarters in his last three starts.

Luv Guv

He broke his maiden impressively in his last start on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. That made him 1-for-10 lifetime. Good luck.

Categories: Sports

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