American Pharoah, Firing Line, and Dortmund: The Rematch
By Matt Dinerman
*Note from Kevin: I’ve hired Matt to provide us with a Preakness Stakes preview and his wagering picks after everyone enjoyed his Kentucky Derby preview and winning picks. Enjoy and please share!
Trainer Bob Baffert has won four Kentucky Derby’s in his illustrious training career. All four Derby victors came back to win the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown, The Preakness. This year, #1 American Pharoah looks to keep that trend going. The Pharoah will have to hold off #8 Firing Line, who fires every race, and another Baffert trainee, #2 Dortmund, who stands 17 hands tall. Let’s take a look at the eight runners for the 140th Preakness Stakes and try to determine who will come home victorious:
We all know what #1 American Pharoah can do. Since he has drawn the rail, there is a good chance he will be sent to the lead. Even if he does set the pace, we have seen him rate twice now, which means he can sit right off the leaders and save ground the whole way around. He is the one to beat.
#2 Dortmund suffered his first defeat in the Kentucky Derby after six straight victories. His sire, Big Brown, won the Preakness in 2008. Obviously this colt has talent. The question is whether he can turn the tables on his stablemate, #1 American Pharoah, and the horse that finished second in the Derby, #8 Firing Line.
#3 Mr. Z will be making his first start for Calumet Farm, who privately purchased this Malibu Moon colt just a few days ago. Although he has been competitive in quite a few big Derby prep races, he has lost 12 straight races. A toss for me.
#4 Danzig Moon has improved with age. He was a fast closing second in the Toyota Bluegrass before running fifth in the Kentucky Derby, an effort that was respectable. With that being said, I do not think this horse can beat the “big guns” in this race. If you want to put him on tickets, using in exotics may be your best bet.
#5 Tale Of Verve takes a huge step up in class from maiden special weight company to this Grade 1 level. He broke his maiden going this distance, but that was obviously against much weaker competition. He would be a surprise, although his trainer, Dallas Stewart, has surprised before. In 2012 and 2013, Steward finished second in the Kentucky Derby with two horses that were over 30-1.
#6 Bodhisattva won a minor stakes race over this track, but like #5 Tale Of Verve, the company he faces here is much better than who he has faced in prior starts. Appears outclassed.
#7 Diving Rod won easily and impressively in The Lexington Stakes at Keenland last time out. He freshens for this race and, like a couple horses to his inside, faces much tougher competition now. However, his easy win in the Lexington Stakes proved he should at least be given the opportunity to face the best in his crop. May be a good one to use on tickets if you are looking for a price; he’s getting good at the right time.
#8 Firing Line has never run a bad race in his life. His run in the Derby was a wining effort, but he was just unfortunate to run into a superstar in #1 American Pharoah. Expect him to be around at the wire just like he always is.
Final Preakness Stakes Thoughts:
• #1 American Pharoah draws an undesirable post position, but he may be good enough to overcome it and win anyway. This race will not be a walk in the park for him, but I think he will win again. May be better to play against in The Belmont.
• #2 Dortmund and #8 Firing Line are, just like in The Kentucky Derby, the most likely candidates to spoil ‘Pharoah’s party. I have a feeling #8 Firing Line has gotten better with time and he may even turn out to be better than #8 Dortmund in the long run.
• #7 Diving Rod is a horse that has been improving and should be taken seriously. If you want to put a horse on your tickets at a price, he would be a good choice.
• #4 Danzig Moon is another price horse that you could put on your tickets, but it may be best to use him in exotic bets. I would be extremely surprised if he won this race.
• The other runners are outclassed.
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#1 American Pharoah is my top pick, but his odds will be too low for me to place a straight win bet on. Exotic plays may be the best chance to make any sort of money in this race, but even there, the top 3 choices look clearly better than the rest. Throwing a horse like #7 Diving Rod or #4 Danzig Moon underneath in exotics may be smart, but you would have to hope one of the “Big 3” does not run their race/”bounces” off their big Derby efforts.
Trifecta: #1 American Pharoah over #8 Firing Line over #2 Dortmund, #4 Danzig Moon, and #7 Diving Rod