The extreme heat that marked the latter part of the week was expected to subside and provide for an optimal springtime day just perfect for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
The Maryland Jockey Club racing office again did a great job putting together a strong stakes card leading up to the Preakness, which features a field of 10 led by Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and last year’s 2-year-old champion Classic Empire. The Preakness goes off at 6:48 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on NBC during a two-hour broadcast that starts at 5 p.m.
Saturday’s stakes card features the usual blend of grass and dirt, sprints and routes. First post is 10:30 a.m. and the lead-off stakes goes a shade more than two hours later at 12:51 p.m.
The handicappers fared better Friday than they did on the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby programs. Tom led the way with four winners - Terra Promessa in the Allaire duPont Distaff, Shaman Ghost in the Pimlico Special, Richard's Boy in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint and Clipthecouponannie in the Skipat. Sean tabbed Shaman Ghost and Clipthecouponannie while Joe got off the duck by correctly tabbing Shaman Ghost. Tom leads the way for the season with six winners, two more than Sean with Joe trailing with one.
The Very One. $100,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 5 furlongs, turf. 12:51 p.m. EDT.
Everything Lovely brings consistent record and comes from nearly five months on the sidelines as she tries to improve on 11th in this race last year. Second to Pretty Perfection in the Ladies Turf Sprint on the Pegasus World Cup undercard, Everything Lovely owns a mark of 1-2-2 in last seven starts, all turf sprints.
Sean: Pretty Perfection, Everything Lovely, J La Tache.
Tom: Everything Lovely, Pretty Perfection, Eila.
Joe: Most Beautiful, Eila, Animal Appeal.
Maker’s Mark Chick Lang. $200,000, 3-year-olds, 6 furlongs. 2:07 p.m.
Sagamore Farm loves to win on the big days in Maryland and might do just that with Recruiting Ready in this spot. Son of Algorithms dominated in Bachelor Stakes last time at Oaklawn Park and broke his maiden locally last spring. He meets good group that includes Theory, who should improve off debut in Grade 3 Bay Shore; the shortening up multiple Florida-bred stakes winner Three Rules and Bay Shore runner-up Even Thunder.
Sean: Proforma, Recruiting Ready, Three Rules.
Tom: Theory, Recruiting Ready, Three Rules.
Joe: Recruiting Ready, Three Rules, Proforma.
James W. Murphy. $100,000, 3-year-olds, 1 mile, turf. 2:47 p.m.
Christophe Clement’s barn is off to a hot start on the year and sends out Dover Cliffs, winner of small stakes in early April at Gulfstream. Big field of 13 also includes impressive maiden winners Yoshida and Berks County and Mo Maverick, a New York-bred who is 3-for-3 on the grass for George Weaver.
Sean: Yoshida, Dover Cliffs, Caribou Club.
Tom: Yoshida, Mo Maverick, Dover Cliffs.
Joe: Dover Cliffs, Yoshida, Caribou Club.
Maryland Sprint (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs. 3:27 p.m.
Whitmore can stake a claim as one of the country’s best sprinters and he meets a very formidable foe in A. P. Indian that could further that opinion. Whitmore brings 5-for-5 record at 6 furlongs and exits two blowout wins this winter and spring at Oaklawn Park. Two-time Grade 1 winner A. P. Indian ran very well to be second in 2017 debut in Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland and shortens up from 7 furlongs. Don’t like the two chalks? Holy Boss likes the track, he won the Chick Lang here two years ago.
Sean: A. P. Indian, Whitmore, Classy Class.
Tom: Whitmore, A. P. Indian, Holy Boss.
Joe: Whitmore, A. P. Indian, Classy Class.
Stella Artois Gallorette (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 4:07 p.m.
Back to the grass and another tough affair that on paper looks like a showdown between On Leave and Elysea’s World, who of the top 3-year-old fillies on the grass last year. On Leave makes her 2017 debut after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. Elysea’s World benefits from two starts this year, both runner-up efforts in graded stakes in Florida. Good group also includes Grade 3 winner Zipessa and stakes winners Danilovna, Gone Away and Queen Caroline.
Sean: Danilovna, On Leave, Elysea's World.
Tom: Cambodia, On Leave, Elysea’s World.
Joe: Danilovna, On Leave, Elysea’s World.
LARC Sir Barton. $100,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. 4:43 p.m.
Possible prime-time players for the second half of the season set for two-turn affair that produced eventual Belmont Stakes winner Sarava way back in 2002. Hedge Fund just missed as the favorite last time in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby. True Timber, Time To Travel and Resiliency all raced in graded stakes last time, with Time To Travel faring the best when fourth in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland. He adds Lasix and picks up John Velazquez.
Sean: Hedge Fund, No Mo Dough, Time To Travel.
Tom: Hedge Fund, Time To Travel, True Timber.
Joe: Hedge Fund, Honor The Fleet, No Mo Dough.
Longines Dixie (G2). $200,000, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 5:39 p.m.
World Approval scratched from Woodford Reserve Turf Classic two weeks ago when it came up soft in Louisville. Grade 1-winning son of Northern Afleet might get big late part of the day rolling for Casse Racing. Projected ran very well in allowance last time out at Keeneland, finishing ahead of eventual Woodford Reserve winner Divisidero while Blacktype looks to get a better trip after finishing fifth in Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland. And don’t county our Ring Weekend, who just missed in this spot last year and comes out of good fourth in Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.
Sean: Projected, World Approval, Catapult.
Tom: Projected, World Approval, Blacktype.
Joe: Blacktype, Projected, World Approval.
Preakness (G1). $1,500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 3/16 miles, 6:48 p.m.
The main event and it’s being billed as a showdown between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and last year’s champion 2-year-old and Derby fourth Classic Empire. There are eight others in the field, including three from the Derby in Lookin At Lee (second), Gunnevera (seventh) and Hence (11th). It’s been a while since a new shooter took it down, going back to 2009 and the filly Rachel Alexandra. But back to the two main players. Always Dreaming got a dream trip in the Derby, stalking the speed and doing it visually impressive. Big question is did it take a lot of fuel from the tank. Classic Empire bobbled and was roughed up a bit at the start, then overcame that to run on to be fourth. Will he move forward from that or regress? The answers to those questions will most likely determine the winner.
Sean: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Lookin At Lee.
Tom: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Multiplier.
Joe: Classic Empire, Always Dreaming, Conquest Mo Money.