Interesting draw this morning at Pimlico Race Course where positions in the starting gate figure to make this edition very interesting from a tactical perspective.
The field with early odds:
1-EXCESSION Sheldon Russell 30-1
2-MR. BIG NEWS Gabriel Saez 12-1
3-ART COLLECTOR Brian Hernandez Jr. 5/2
4-SWISS SKYDIVER Robby Albarado 6-1
5-THOUSAND WORDS Florent Geroux 6-1
6-JESUS’ TEAM Jevian Toledo 30-1
7-Ny TRAFFIC Horacio Karamanos 15-1
8-MAX PLAYER Paco Lopez 15-1
9-AUTHENTIC John Velazquez 9/5
10-PNEUMATIC Joe Bravo 20-1
11-LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE Trevor McCarthy 30-1
Starting with the speedy Derby winner, Authentic is drawn outside which wound up playing to his strength; natural tactical speed. And in Johnny, a partner with extreme skill and the temperament to ride a speed type quietly.
But Velazquez is likely to feel pressure over his right should from Joe Bravo who most likely will leave for forward position while keeping an an inside to see where Brian Hernandez Jr. is positioning Art Collector, his well drawn main rival.
If Authentic and Pneumatic are forward factors, Paco Lopez will try to keep them in his sights with Max Player. Steve Asmussen said in a Pimlico interview that he sought out Paco to get ‘Max’ in the game, adding he was too far back in the Derby.
But Ny Traffic has gas and might try for the lead from post 7, not necessarily to secure the front but to gain tactical position.
Meanwhile, two slots further inside is Thousand Words, who adds the blinkers he worked well in recently and Florent Geroux is position conscious and smart. He might even be able to secure the pocket, tucking in behind outside leavers.
All this could compel Brian Hernandez and Robby Albarado to use Art Collector and hickory filly Swiss Skydiver to hold their ground aggressively, forcing the outside speed even wider into the first turn. At some point, Preakness winners need to save ground.
This has the makings for great drama and if the most accomplished horses bring their best excellent betting opportunities may present themselves, with one caveat:
Bob Baffert is 5-for-5 in the Preakness when he brings the Derby winner to crab town. And Thousand Words is far from being considered an empty stall–if they can keep him on the ground that is.