The 2016 Kentucky Derby is over and it is now on to the second leg of the Triple Crown—the Preakness Stakes. Nyquist was the easy winner of the Derby. The two-year-old champion of 2015 tracked a fast pace, gradually moved closer throughout, took over in upper stretch, and had plenty left to hold off the late close of Exaggerator. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace for the Preakness just as it did for the Derby. It is a great starting point for pace analysis of any race, though handicappers should adjust as they see fit.
Here is a horse-by-horse breakdown of the field and how each fits in the Pace Projector:
- Cherry Wine — He has never been closer than 6th after the opening quarter mile through eight career races. He is shown near the back of the field (note the 6 is shown as a Deep Closer) as he should be.
- Uncle Lino — It should be noted that both of his career wins have come in wire-to-wire fashion. With Cherry Wine the lone horse drawn inside of him, it is very likely Uncle Lino will move to the rail soon after the start. This horse is likely to try for the lead and may very well be closer than shown or even up front.
- Nyquist — The Derby winner has proven versatile in his undefeated, eight-race career. He has won races wire to wire and from just off the pace, and he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile from the back half of the field after a poor break. The Pace Projector shows him in second position early, but sitting in fourth behind the 2, 3, and 8 is a distinct possibility. If the pace gets too hot, he’ll drop back and let the others go.
- Awesome Speed — Listed as a Tracker by TimeformUS, he likes to be up near the front in his best races. He is shown in sixth in the Pace Projector, largely because he doesn’t have the ability of several others in the field. This horse is totally overmatched, but in a route race, most horses can be a factor for at least a short time if pushed hard enough.
- Exaggerator — He is shown near the back of the field and that is no surprise. He has come from well behind to win the G1 Santa Anita Derby and used the same tactics when finishing second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. He was actually in front of Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for over six furlongs and has lost to him on four occasions. It is a near certainty he won’t be in front of him early in the race on Saturday, and the expected fast pace gives him a chance to turn the tables.
- Lani — The Japanese shipper is not a good gate horse and doesn’t have much early speed. He is projected to be too far back in the Pace Projector to “fit in the picture” and is shown as a Deep Closer. Anything different would be a surprise.
- Collected — Shown 5th early, he is another, like Awesome Speed, who likes to be up close in his races. Jockey strategy will play a big role with this horse and a more forward position would not be a stretch.
- Laoban — Probably the best three-year-old maiden in the United States, he is shown as the early leader in the Pace Projector. He has led from the start into the stretch of three of his last four races. All three show the fractions in red, meaning the pace was hot. He is likely to lead the Preakness. The one caution is that he is removing blinkers for the first time since his career debut and may not be as keen early, though it should be noted that the TimeformUS Pace Projector makes algorithmic adjustments for blinkers off.
- Abiding Star — Has led early in his last eight races, including a few sprints. He is shown in a battle for second early but will almost assuredly be trying for the lead. He’ll be a big part of the early pace.
- Fellowship — Closer is shown in front of only Lani and Cherry Wine early. It would be quite a stretch to picture him anywhere but well back in the early running.
- Stradivari — This is probably the toughest horse to gauge from a pace perspective. He is lightly raced and comes in off two wins by a combined 25+ lengths. In both he was right near the front early and took over after a half mile. He is shown in the middle of the pack in the Pace Projector. With his outside post draw, that seems a reasonable placement. There is a lot of speed inside and letting those go and tucking behind them would seem like the best move for a horse that is still learning the game.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates the Preakness will have a fast pace. A thorough, more traditional type of pace analysis leads to the same conclusion and even suggests “fast pace” could be an understatement. The Kentucky Derby winner and race favorite Nyquist is a versatile sort that has adapted to this scenario a few times before. ML second-choice Exaggerator is a closer that should be aided by the pace. If looking for horses to fill out vertical exotic wagers (trifectas, superfectas, super high 5s), it is probably best to focus on horses that won’t be up front early.