2--TRES BORRACHOS 30-1: Form has improved since getting off the synthetic surfaces, a common occurrence among horses with early speed. With not a lot of speed signed on here, he might get away in relatively soft fractions. He set a lively pressured pace in the Arkansas Derby--shadowed by Gayego throughout--and held very well for third, re-breaking after being passed by a would-be show finisher. Has been trained aggressively since then and appears to be responding. In-the-money finish not impossible here, especially given inside draw.
3--ICABAD CRANE 30-1: Unlike many of this year’s sophomores, he might be the only one to have won three starts on dirt while losing his lone synthetic try at Turfway Park. Significantly, one of those three victories came at Pimlico, the only Preakness starter with experience at “Old Hilltop.” Ridden by Jeremy Rose, who won this race with Afleet Alex in 2005, he is trained by another local hero, Graham Motion, who has Hall of Fame talent but has lacked a high profile runner. This isn’t that horse.
5--BEHINDATTHEBAR 10-1: Was withdrawn with a leg filling by trainer Todd Pletcher. See him at the Belmont.
6--RACECAR RHAPSODY 30-1: Trainer Ken McPeek has been pushing all the right buttons, winning at a 23 percent rate this year and better than that early at the current Churchill Downs meet. He said he’s running because his colt is training in great form. Despite difficult trips, he’s made up ground late in four consecutive graded stakes. Developing beautifully and making his third start this year with his regular rider, 2007 Preakness hero Robby Albarado, he must step up his performance figures to seriously contend.
7--BIG BROWN 1-2: Remarkable colt moved forward in the Kentucky Derby for the third time in as many dirt starts. Empirical evidence dictates that he must regress, given his level of high performance and short recovery time. That’s logical. But he showed in the Derby that he’s learning how to distribute his energy more efficiently. Regarding horses with superior performance figures, we loathe the “he could bounce and still win” theory, because the amount of regression is a lot more difficult to measure than improvement. Barring the extremely unusual, remains undefeated.
8--KENTUCKY BEAR 15-1: Given the defections of Harlem Rocker and Recapturetheglory, he has earned much of the pre-race buzz as the most likely potential upsetter. After drawing off dramatically to win his debut going a mile at Gulfstream Park in January, he suffered through a rough trip and bled in the G2 Fountain of Youth before rebounding with a very good third at Keeneland. Working bullets since the Blue Grass, athletic colt appears fresh, fit and dangerous, indeed.
9--STEVIL 30-1: Hard to know where his Blue Grass race came from, given his prior form. Following an even try in the G2 Louisiana Derby, he finished ahead of eight rivals in the Blue Grass, beaten 2-½ lengths, after getting bumped soundly at the break and fanned a dozen wide into the Keeneland stretch. While the sample is small, trainer Nick Zito has done well with horses switching from synthetic tracks back to dirt. Will need an extremely fast pace to make a late impression, but that seems highly unlikely.
10--RILEY TUCKER 30-1: Placed in four graded stakes in a seven race career, he’s still eligible for preliminary allowances. Yet another three-year-old from the deep Ahmed Zayat Stables and trained by Bill Mott, colt has tactical speed and former Maryland kingpin Edgar Prado, an advantage on the sometimes quirky Pimlico oval. Performance figures jumped up big time in the Lexington. Hard to envision another forward move here, and that’s what it would take to be competitive.
11--GIANT MOON 30-1: Talented New York-bred had undefeated four-race career interrupted by hideously sloppy conditions in the Grade 3 Gotham, a surface that was so difficult for him to handle that Ramon Dominguez “took care of him” virtually the whole race. Rebounded nicely in the G1 Wood Memorial, beaten two lengths by Tale Of Ekati, the good Derby fourth. Earning a lifetime best pace figure in that race, and with a fast effort in early January as a foundation, further development is expected. Looms a live Preakness 133 longshot. Fast footing an absolute must.
12--GAYEGO 8-1: The early line second choice had quite a few things go wrong in Louisville. Coming off a career best effort, he figured to regress in the Derby. But that’s hard to tell because for the first three furlongs he suffered through the roughest trip imaginable, caught between rivals, checking severely, and was lucky not to fall. His energy was low following his final Derby workout and he had every right not to run well. So his Derby race proved nothing either way, he deserves another chance vs. Big Brown but certainly could have drawn much better.
13--HEY BYRN 20-1: Came to hand going long this winter at Gulfstream Park. His good mid-race move was lost behind the sensational performance of Big Brown in the Florida Derby. Subsequently, he was driving hard to win the G3 Holy Bull over moderate rivals. He’s been at his best as a mid-pack racer and has the ability to stalk the pace horses. How he will fare from the extreme outside position is anyone’s guess. Seriously up against it from out here; money prospects.
Most Probable Winner: Big Brown
Best Longshot: Giant Moon
Most Likely Money Finisher: Yankee Bravo