Friday, May 18, 2012

Preakness and Undercard Thoughts

--Brian DiDonato

GI Preakness S. - I'll be honest, I have nothing particularly insightful to say about the Preakness other than that I think those who are taking an extremely negative view on Bodemeister (Empire Maker) are trying too hard. I doubt anyone could seriously argue against the notion that he was much the best in the Derby, so I guess it comes down to an expected regression. Personally, I'm not one who subscribes to the bounce theory for the most part, and I doubt Bodemeister's a candidate for such a thing. His connections have been around the block enough times to know whether or not a very valuable horse like this with immense potential can handle short rest following a tough effort, and I just can't see them running Bodemeister back without every indication that he's doing very well. After all, they certainly didn't have to run here. They could've waited for the Belmont (a race which I think Bode might be even tougher in) or regrouped for a summer campaign. The presence of Trinniberg was the only thing that got Bodemeister beat in the Derby, so without him or another comparable speed present, I have a hard time envisioning anything but an easy lead for the Derby runner-up.
Bodemeister Galloping at Pimlico
   If, somehow, the fractions do get too hot, it'll probably be I'll Have Another (Flower Alley) playing the antagonist out of a legitimate fear of letting Bodemeister get away. For that potential outcome, I'll use Creative Cause (Giant's Causeway) as my lone off-the-pace back-up in the pick four. He was just hopelessly wide in the Derby, and had every right to stop a bit late after making that eye-catching move. His prior form fits, and while I'm not crazy about the fact that he shipped back to California before coming to Maryland, I'm going to trust veteran Mike Harrington, who seems to be getting fed up with the media's second-guessing. All those rumors about Creative Cause's pre-Derby condition seem to have been pretty inaccurate, after all. For a trifecta or superfecta spicer-upper, I'll toss in Zetterholm (Silver Train), who overcame slow splits to win going away against New York-breds last time. He should be running late and is bred to get the distance on his dam's side.
Air Support   Coady Photography

GII Dixie S. - This is definitely a spread race, but I'll look to zone in mostly on a pair of runners in the 6-1 to 8-1 range. While Casino Host (Dynaformer) will take plenty of play for good reason, it's worth noting that Air Support (Smart Strike) bested him in last year's GII Virginia Derby and should be the better price of the two. He returned from a long break Apr. 7 in a Keeneland allowance that easily could have been a Grade II or III, and endured a wide, no-cover trip before fading to fifth. According to Trakus, he covered 24 feet more than winner Al Khali, which cuts the five-length gap between them at the wire more than in half. According to DRF Formulator, trainer Shug McGaughey boasts absolutely gaudy numbers second off the lay-off in graded turf routes--he's hitting at a 32% clip with a $3.60 ROI over the past five years.
   Trend (Sligo Bay {Ire}) took 10 starts to break his maiden, but he seemed to blossom down at Gulfstream this winter. He bested subsequent GIII Appleton S. winner Corporate Jungle in a Jan. 19 allowance before running second in a salty renewal of the GIII Canadian Turf S. Mar. 3. Showing more speed than usual in the Canadian, Trend dueled the very quick Little Mike into submission--that runner came back to upset the GI Turf Classic S. on Derby day. Third-place finisher Data Link returned to annex the GI Maker's 46 Mile S., benefitting from a troubled trip for Canadian winner Doubles Partner. Trend was second again in the Appleton, but from back off the pace--a jockey switch from the always-patient Julien Leparoux to Alex Solis for this could mean a more aggressive ride, which would prove key.

J W Murphy S. - I don't know what to make of Done Talking (Broken Vow) running in this spot. He never struck me as having a turf action, and it seems like a flat mile is probably a bit too sharp for him. I'm certainly not going to let him knock me out of anything but, believe it or not, I'm not picking him to win. I'd love to lock in 8-1 on Hammers Terror (Artie Schiller) right now. He pressed a very hot early pace last time (13 points above par on the Moss Pace Figure scale for the opening quarter) in the GIII Coolmore Lexington S. while three-wide in no-man's land, but still dug in to be third. Longshot winner All Squared Away and runner-up Summer Front both disappointed in subsequent efforts, but the also-rans, including fellow Murphy entrants Gold Megillah (Purim) and Skyring (English Channel) returned to run well. So did pacesetter Johannesbourbon, who was an unlucky runner-up on the turnback in Tuesday's Tom Ridge S. at Presque Isle. A better trip puts Hammers Terror right there on the wire in this very wide-open affair.

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