The reason not to like In Lingerie is pretty obvious--she could not have possibly gotten an easier lead in the GIII Bourbonette Oaks. The Pletcher trainee got her opening quarter in :25.24, good for a Moss Pace Figure of 44, or 18 points below par. There's no way she'll get that easy a trip this time, and the Bourbonette looks just as weak after the fact as it looked before it happened. Runner-up and stablemate Dancing Solo came back to run third at 3-2 in a Keeneland allowance, while third-place finisher Toxis finished two more slots back in the same heat. The rest of the Bourbonette also-rans didn't fare any better.
Mamma Kimbo is much more dangerous than In Lingerie, but she shouldn't be the even-money or 6-5 shot that the Baffert faithful will make her. Her sprint debut was excellent and hard to argue with (101 Beyer), and while I wouldn't hold a seven-point Beyer regression in the GII Fantasy S. against her, she had everything her own way that day. It seems likely that the Oaklawn track was speed-favoring Apr. 11, as front-runners took half of the day's 10 events, including winners at 12-1 and 19-1. Mamma Kimbo got an uncontested lead through average splits in a merry-go-round type race, and simply found the line first. Runner-up Amie's Dini and third-place finisher Jemima's Pearl didn't do much to flatter the Fantasy in the GI Kentucky Oaks, as they checked in eighth and 10th, respectively. It's hard to take the decision not to run Mamma Kimbo in the Oaks herself as anything but a minor knock (granted, she does have two very fast works in the interim), and she's bred more like an eight-furlong horse than a nine-furlong one. She could very well get loose again and score at a short price, but she'll definitely be an underlay.
Welcome Guest (Unbridled's Song) is the play both by default and on her own merits. The up-and-comer was second in the GIII Comely S. last out behind subsequent Oaks runner-up Broadway's Alibi, and she probably ran a bit better than it looks on paper. She was fourth in a six-horse field early off a pace that was below average and controlled by the even-money eventual winner, and she was forced to cover a lot of extra ground on the turn when making her move. The grey earned an 88 Beyer for her effort--probably not quite good high to win this--but there's reason to believe that that figure could have been higher. Without considering variants, etc., a quick look at the past numbers earned by Comely participants reveals something very telling. The figure that every single runner received represented a regression of three to 12 points from their previous figure. Broadway's Alibi, the only horse to have run back so far since the Comely, earned a 99 Beyer in the Oaks--a four-point improvement over what she got in the Comely under much better circumstances--and one point off the 100 top she earned two starts back. Welcome Guest probably ran more like something in the low 90s in the Comely without considering her somewhat disadvantageous trip. More distance should be another factor that helps put her into the winner's circle. Her second dam is GI Ashland S. winner Glitter Woman, making her dam a half-sister to Political Force, who happens to also be by Unbridled's Song. Political Force's signature win came in the 1 1/4-mile GI Suburban H. in 2007. Since the surrounding races are so wide-open, I'll single Welcome Guest in the pick four and hope to get some separation from those zeroing in on the chalk so that I can spread more in other legs.
GIII Pimlico Special - It's nice to see this race return to the Preakness weekend wagering menu, and while it may need a few years to regain its Grade I status officially, this is close to a Grade I-caliber line-up. Note that the Special, rather than the Black-Eyed Susan, makes up the first half of a daily double with the Preakness. That was definitely a good decision as this is a more competitive heat. Like in the Black-Eyed Susan, I'm against the shorter-priced runners, but in this case I don't see a strong reason to like one of the alternatives over the others.
I've always been a fan of Alternation (Distorted Humor), but he's clearly a play against here. His three-straight wins at Oaklawn came with very advantageous set-ups and, while he took the GII Peter Pan S. last May at Belmont, it remains to be seen just how well and how consistently he will run outside of Hot Springs. Alternation came from off the pace to take the Essex H. Feb. 4 with an extremely hot pace in front of him (14 Moss points above par in the opening quarter), and he enjoyed very easy leads in both his Mar. 10 GIII Razorback H. and Apr. 14 GII Oaklawn H. scores. There's not much chance of an easy lead here, so I'll let Alternation beat me.
I'm also against Mission Impazible (Unbridled's Song), but I might use him in the pick four defensively. His best races obviously make him plenty competitive, but he never wins. His career record is 17-3-7-2--that conjures up the dreaded "H" word a bit, doesn't it? He's also run some clunkers at short prices, and seems like a perpetual money burner. I'm not going to let him beat me in exotics, but I'm certain that his odds will be shorter than they should be.
Now for the horses I'll be looking to beat the favorites with in post position order:
When the entries for this race went up, I was expecting to love Toby's Corner (Bellamy Road). The GII General George H. that he was third in was at a distance shorter than what he prefers and has been flattered by subsequent results. It seemed at the time that Fair Grounds just had to be speed biased when last year's Wood winner was third from off the pace in the GII New Orleans H. Apr. 1, but outside of Nates Mineshaft's romp in that race and the improbable victory of 1000000-1 shot Hero of Order in the Louisiana Derby, the day's results offer little evidence that there was an obvious advantage to being on the lead. Tracks change and I certainly can't rule out the possibility of a bias during that part of the card completely, but I've gone from being very interested in Toby's Corner to simply using him based on some standard fundamentals. I could probably be enticed into a win bet, though, if he were to drift up to 8-1 somehow.
Endorsement (Distorted Humor) seems to be making up for lost time since an injury forced the 2010 GII Sunland Derby to miss the Kentucky Derby and almost all of his 4-year-old season. He keeps getting better with every start since resurfacing in December, and while he enjoyed a nice drafting trip in the GIII Texas Mile last time, there's reason to believe he can keep moving forward--especially with more distance to work with.
Hymn Book (Arch)'s merits are pretty obvious--he ran a very big race to take the GI Donn H. (besting Mission Impazible), and he was compromised by a slow pace in the Oaklawn H.
Cherokee Artist (Cherokee Run) will probably be the longest-priced horse on my tickets, so I hope his connections opt for this spot over the Joseph French Memorial S. at Delaware Saturday. He was a pretty promising dirt horse way back when, but it seemed as though his best days were behind him during a long series of turf and synthetic tries. He's been better in three recent starts on the conventional stuff, and his local optional claiming romp Apr. 27 (103 Beyer) came with a premature move into a break-neck pace. He'll have to handle a giant step up in class, but stranger things have happened.
Nehro (Mineshaft) seems way too slow this year, but he did improve on his first-out figure when hopelessly far back in the Oaklawn H. last time. He was fast enough last year, so I suppose there's no reason he can't cycle back up towards his top. A win would give trainer Steve Asmussen back-to-back Pimlico Specials... four years apart.