By John Pricci

HALLANDALE BEACH—Just when I thought I was out of all the Kentucky Derby talk, they pulled me back in: Post 1? Are you kidding me?

War of Will, the vilified seventh place finisher of Derby 145, has come to Crab Town in search of redemption. Will he wow’em today, or won’t he?

Actually, there was a time back in the day you prayed to draw the rail at Pimlico, a time when one of America’s strongest inside-speed bias was in play.

Now, of course, all tracks, their compositions notwithstanding, are the same, meaning: that the rail is usually dead, the 2- 3- and 4 paths are the roads to glory, and with exceptions, of course, if you’re out in the middle of the track, you’re spinning your wheels.

What will happen tomorrow is anyone’s guess, including the weatherman, whose best bet is Fast Track. And that would be a welcome change in Classics-land.


Given the attendant publicity, I will not be surprised if War of Will goes favorite, a roll currently, and probably deservingly, played by Improbable. But like his main rival on paper, he’s also out of excuses, especially if the track is dry.

And BTW? Screw the naysayers. Love the Preakness for what it is, a Classic that gives the Triple Crown one-third of its meaning. No official or unofficial Derby winner this year? So what. It’s an interesting handicapping puzzle in a division rich with talent.

For instance, how good is Warrior’s Charge? Picking up nine pounds is problematical and Munnings doesn’t scream distance but he’s outrun his pedigree so far. Stablemate Owendale? He comes off a huge Keeneland score and is five weeks fresh. But he, too, picks up weight off a monstrous forward move. A Lexington repeat could win this.

Alwaysmining is more than a quaint local story. Since entering restricted stakes he’s done nothing wrong, winning five straight as distances have increased and his numbers, just below top tier, have improved incrementally. A safe and speedy journey, Kelly Rubley. History was made in the Derby, why not in the Preakness?

All Anothertwistoffate does is run well. He’s poised to move forward again with excellent spacing and pedigree, but the draw really hurt his chances. And how good is Laughing Fox? Has anyone had a better winter/spring than Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr.?

On paper, it figures to be a great horse race. And that’s all anyone can ask.

Staff Selections, with Consensus, for the Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness

BLACK-EYED SUSAN

Mark Berner

Always Shopping has won two stakes at the distance
Brill is tractable and should benefit from contested pace
Point of Honor is fresh and suited by pace scenario
Cookie Dough figures in pace but questionable at the distance

Tom Jicha

Brill--Hollendorfer is always dangerous on the road
Always Shopping--The now filly in a lackluster renewal
Point of Honor--Her 4th at GP might be good enough here
Cookie Dough—Top Florida filly working strongly for this

Indulto

Always Shopping – G2 winner still improving for Pletcher
Cookie Dough – FL-bred stakes winner working up a storm after 2 competitive G2s
Brill – Working well after third in Fantasy for Hollendorfer
Las Setas – On a five consecutive win streak

John Pricci

Brill –excellent figures, looms lone F
Point of Honor –flat in last but prior top rate, big upside
Always Shopping –loves the trip, Todd seeks fifth Suzy title
Cookie Dough is a speedy and tough Florida-bred; working bullets

Craig Milkowski, TimeformUS

Brill
Point of Honor
Off Topic
Cookie Dough

BLACK-EYED SUSAN CONSENSUS

BRILL (20)
ALWAYS SHOPPING (16)
POINT OF HONOR (10)
COOKIE DOUGH (4)

PREAKNESS STAKES



Mark Berner

Owendale closed well in good-figure Lexington win at Keeneland.
War of Will didn't show best in past two; will need to work a trip from inside post
Improbable has been competitive with top horses and is the lone Grade 1 winner here.
Bourbon War, compromised by a slow pace in last, will have better position in blinkers.
Alwaysmining is the hot local horse and earns competitive figures.


Tom Jicha


Alwaysmining has win pattern similar to Maximum Security
Improbable hasn't gotten job done as a 3YO
War of Will is now or never for excuse horse
Bourbon War’s late run will get him on board somewhere
Win Win Win’s biggest win still a sprint

Indulto

War of Will – Severely compromised trip in Derby
Improbable – Derby favorite consistent against top competition
Bodexpress – Maiden encountered trouble in Derby
Win Win Win – Disappointed in Derby slop
Alwaysmining – Patiently managed 3YO on six-win streak

John Pricci

War of Will—Like TJ says, it’s now or never, rail or no rail
Bourbon War is fresh for third start at 3, kick suits dynamics, sharper in blinkers
Improbable will never find a better spot, conditions, to live up to his hype
Alwaysmining is best chance for local horse since Cormorant (Slew notwithstanding)
Owendale comes off monstrous effort and he’s had five weeks since; improving, talented, tricky read but a must use.

Craig Milkowski, TimeformUS

Warrior's Charge
Owendale
War of Will
Improbable
Bourbon War

PREAKNESS CONSENSUS

WAR OF WILL (22)
IMPROBABLE (16)
ALWAYSMINING (10)
OWENDALE (10)
BOURBON WAR (9)

©John Pricci, HorseRaceInsider, May 16, 2019