Preakness Day stakes picks

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Rain, rain go away. That will undoubtedly be the sentiment overnight Friday into Saturday as a significant amount of the wet stuff is expected in the Baltimore area for the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes and its supporting stakes program.

Four of the eight Preakness Day stakes are carded for the grass and in serious jeopardy – of either being moved to the main track or run on soft or yielding ground – so keep a close eye on the forecast if you’re playing from home. If you’re in Maryland, pack a rain coat, put on the galoshes and skip the fancy hat and go with something more useful.

Our handicappers went back to work and scoped out the eight stakes for Preakness Day. Joe carried the torch for the team Friday, picking three winners – Ben’s Cat in the Jim McKay, Go Maggie Go in the Black-Eyed Susan and Lost Raven in the Adena Springs Miss Preakness. Tom picked two winners, Ben’s Cat and Ahh Chocolate in the Allaire du Pont Distaff, while Sean, despite an email to the team that he’d been “studying all day,” was blanked.

Best of luck to everyone, stay dry and warm, and be safe.

Maryland Sprint (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs. 12:51 p.m. ET.

Ultra-consistent Salutos Amigos runs back off two weeks rest after fourth in Churchill Downs on Derby Day undercard. He’s won seven of 19 at the distance and should benefit from outside draw in small field. Always Sunshine chased the favorite in Grade 3 Tom Fool two starts back then romped in Parx allowance-optional. He should be solid second choice with Cinco Charlie.

Tom: Cinco Charlie, Salutos Amigos, Always Sunshine.
Joe: Always Sunshine, Salutos Amigos, Cinco Charlie.
Sean: Always Sunshine, Salutos Amigos, Sonny Inspired. 

James W. Murphy. $100,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile, turf. 1:28 p.m.

He’ll Pay sports consistent record and comes in off back-to-back wins on the grass in Fair Grounds maiden and on Polytrack in Turfway Park’s Rushaway Stakes. Florent Geroux takes the mount for Larry Jones and He’ll Pay should give favorite Ousby and Conquest Windycity all they can handle. Aquaphobia exits key race at Keeneland, a 1 1/16-mile heat that produced eventual American Turf winner Camelot Kitten.

Tom: He’ll Pay, Aquaphobia, Conquest Windycity.
Joe: He’ll Pay, Ousby, Aquaphobia.
Sean: He’ll Pay, Marengo Road, Ousby. 

The Very One. $100,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 5 furlongs, turf. 2:40 p.m.

Lady Shipman showed no ill effects from trek to the Middle East for the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai with victory in License Fee May 1 at Belmont Park. Daughter of Midshipman launched strong run last spring, summer and fall with victory in turf sprint stakes at track and trip last April and should be extremely tough against this group. Exaggerated carried her form from Tampa Bay Downs to Keeneland winning the Giant’s Causeway last time out and will be right there if the favorite fails to fire.

Tom: Lady Shipman, Exaggerated, Miss Matzoball.
Joe: Lady Shipman, Exaggerated, Miss Matzoball.
Sean: Lady Shipman, Exaggerated, Hope Cross. 

Chick Lang. $100,000, 3-year-olds, 6 furlongs. 3:21 p.m.

Justin Squared takes his show to the East Coast off two easy wins in Southern California for Zayat Stables and Bob Baffert. Son of Zensational should use his speed early to overcome inside draw, but should have company in the form of Quijote, Discreet Angle, Big Louie D and Formal Summation. All that speed might set it up for Never Gone South, who should get a stalking trip.

Tom: Justin Squared, Never Gone South, Counterforce.
Joe: Counterforce, Justin Squared, Quijote.
Sean: Justin Squared, Big Louie D, Counterforce. 

Gallorette Handicap (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 4:02 p.m.

One of the best betting races on the card features field of 12 and plenty of value. Heath returned from winter freshening with victory in Keeneland allowance on soft turf for Bill Mott. Florent Geroux takes the mount on daughter of Pulpit for the first time. Mizz Money is 9/2 morning-line favorite off narrow victory in New Orleans Ladies and three other strong races in similar spots at Fair Grounds for Bernie Flint. Tiger Ride might benefit if the race is moved off the grass – she won the Grade 3 Valley View last fall at Keeneland when it was rained off the grass and she was second to Stonetastic two back in Grade 2 Inside Information going 7 furlongs at Gulfstream.

Tom: Tiger Ride, Heath, Ol’ Fashion Gal.
Joe: Heath, Tiger Ride, Ol’ Fashion Gal.
Sean: Heath, Nisharora, Tiger Ride. 

LARC Sir Barton. $100,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. 4:40 p.m.

Bob Baffert sends American Freedom back to work after he disappointed as favorite in Pat Day Mile two weeks ago on Derby Day undercard. He bobbled at bit at the start in that race en route to sixth-place finish and takes on seasoned stakes competitors Donegal Moon, Dazzling Gem, Gettysburg.

Tom: Dazzling Gem, Gettysburg, Moon King.
Joe: Gettysburg, Dazzling Gem, American Freedom.
Sean: Dazzling Gem, Gettysburg, Kingslayer. 

Dixie (G2). $250,000, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 5:39.

Big question is how many of the field of 13 will run if course is super saturated as expected. A few have run well on soft or yielding turf, including Grade 1 winners Grand Arch and Ring Weekend, Cage Fighter, Prince Gagarin, Takeover Target and Long On Value.

Tom: Long On Value, Prince Gagarin, Take The Stand.
Joe: Grand Arch, Ring Weekend, Force The Pass.
Sean: Grand Arch, Take The Stand, Prince Gagarin. 

Preakness (G1). $1.5 million, 3-year-olds, 1 3/16 miles. 6:45 p.m.

The naysayers who took a stand against Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby tore up their tickets when unbeaten champion stormed off the far turn and held Exaggerator at bay to become the fourth straight post-time favorite to wear the roses. Now he looks to be the third consecutive odds-on favorite to win the Preakness. The off going figures to be a question for the champ, but he handled it winning the Florida Derby at Gulfstream and doesn’t seem to need any type of racetrack. Exaggerator clearly moves up a bit on a sloppy track, but he too is top class on any surface. A bad race by the second choice could equate to a monstrous victory by the favorite and a third straight Triple Crown bid in three weeks at Belmont Park. Looking for a longshot? How about Fellowship, who impressed during training Derby Week, or the maiden Laoban, who figures to be on or near the pace.

Tom: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Laoban.
Joe: Exaggerator, Nyquist, Stradivari (because everybody else picked Nyquist).
Sean: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Stradivari.