Preakness Undercard Race Previews

Pimlico, Race 9, 4:00 pm ET
The G3 Gallorette Handicap, Fillies and Mares, Three and Up, 1 and 1/16 Miles, Turf

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The Gallorette Handicap kicks off the $1,500,000 guaranteed pool Pick Four and it is led by Samitar, the winner of last year’s Irish 1000 Guineas and Garden City Stakes.

preak-betsSamitar enters this race making her third start of the campaign, and that is the identical form cycle that produced her win in the Irish 1000 Guineas last year. Samitar breaks from post position number four and, with several early speed horses in opposition, she should get a strong pace to chase. If, as expected, the pace dynamics and her form cycle work in her favor, look for Samitar to improve on the 110 speed figure that she ran as a three-year-old in last year’s Garden City.

The main danger to Samitar might be stablemate Pianist, whose 108 speed figure in her seasonal debut represents the fastest figure earned by any horse in the field this year. On top of her recent edge in figures, Pianist gets in light at just 115lbs, 7 pounds less than joint high-weights Samitar and Old Tune. However, Pianist isn’t the most tactically versatile of horses, and with several other front-running types in the race, the pace complexion may not play to her strengths.

For exotic bettors with an eye for playing a trifecta or superfecta, Idle Talk has a very good longshot look. She finished fifth in this race last year, beaten less than four lengths by eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Zagora. Idle Talk’s win in her seasonal debut was much better than it looked as there was a slow early pace and she was forced three wide around both turns. Even though this is a gigantic step up in class, the pace scenario for this race should be far more suitable and she gets a 10-pound break in the weights with her 112lbs impost.

Pimlico, Race 10, 4:42 pm ET
The G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap, Three and Up, 6 Furlongs, Dirt

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An evenly matched group of sprinters face off in the Maryland Sprint Handicap, leaving handicappers to try and split hairs in a race that will likely be decided by trip. This is the second leg of the $1,500,000 guaranteed pool Pick Four, and it is recommended that bettors cast a wide net in this race. Perhaps the most appealing runner in the race is Hardened Wildcat. He displayed an excellent kick when winning his four-year-old debut, albeit against weaker competition, and his 115 speed figure puts him right in the mix for the win here. The expected fast pace should suit him, and his light impost of 114lbs should also help.

Candyman E and Sage Valley are two others who must be used. Candyman E had delivered five straight speed figures in the 110 to 115 range before backing up on the polytrack at Keeneland last time out. He returns to his preferred dirt surface for this, and he’s been a force in the Mid-Atlantic region, winning all five career starts at tracks located there.

Sage Valley hasn’t run for 188 days, but his alchemist of a trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, is excellent with sprinters coming back from layoffs. Sage Valley was claimed for just $50,000 early in his career, but, as is so often the case, the base metal transformed into gold under Rudy’s care. Sage Valley ran explosive speed figures of 119 and 123 in his final two starts as a three-year-old, winning the latter under restraint. He looks likely to reproduce that form and could be a sprinter to follow this year.

Pimlico, Race 11, 5:25 pm ET
The G2 Dixie, Three and Up, 1 and 1/8 Miles, Turf

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The three main contenders in the Dixie have all been aided by drawing favorable inside post positions.

Willcox Inn returned to the good form he showed in 2012 when he finished second in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz last time out, running a 119 speed figure and pulling three lengths clear of the third-place finisher. And it is worth noting that he has been training steadily for this race, with five consecutive published workouts since that last start. Some may point to the fact that the five-year-old has come up short on the win end in his last seven tries in stakes company, but he has still produced some excellent efforts in defeat, notably when finishing second to Wise Dan at level weights in the 12-runner Grade 1 Shadwell Mile.

Optimizer finished a very game but non-threatening second to Wise Dan last time, but deserves credit as he was away slowly and raced close to a very hot pace on the yielding ground. The problem with Optimizer is that his best performances have come on that type of ground; he’s never run a speed figure faster than a 112 on firm ground, and that type of performance probably won’t be good enough today. Optimizer is also short on rest after that hard race two weeks ago and conditions won’t be ideal for a peak performance, especially if the weather forecast is correct and the ground is labelled firm.

Perhaps the most intriguing horse in here is Imagining. Trainer Shug McGaughey has been red-hot of late and he brought Imagining back in fine form at Keeneland last April, winning clear with a 111 speed figure. This son of Giant’s Causeway may need to take another step forward as he did in his second start back last season, but that is certainly the expectation. He is a must-use contender both in the Pick Four wager and tied up in exotics with Willcox Inn

Betting Strategy:
* Use Samitar and Pianist in the first leg of the Pick 4
* Use Hardened Wildcat, Candyman E, and Sage Valley in the second leg of the Pick 4
* Use Willcox Inn and Imagining in the third leg of the Pick 4

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