Normally, it’s not a big deal. There’s plenty of ground left in the 13/16-mile race to overcome a length or two out of the gate. But Dortmund will be coming from the No. 2 post, and the Derby’s third-place finisher can dictate American Pharoah’s early pace over the first quarter mile by pinning the latter along the rail.
And that’s how Dortmund will beat American Pharoah in the Preakness.
Bob Baffert trains both horses and will talk strategy with each jockey. While Derby runner-up Firing Line is also entered Saturday, this is a two-horse race. Baffert won’t need a long chalk talk with American Pharoah rider Victor Espinoza and Dortmund’s Martin Garcia. Both jockeys know what they’re doing, so Baffert will just tell them to ride their horses as usual.
Espinoza won the Derby and Preakness last year aboard California Chrome. Now he’s aboard the 4-5 Preakness favorite that won the Derby from the No. 18 post.
Most likely, American Pharoah will concede the early lead to Dortmund and try to rally past him just like he did in the Derby. But this time, Dortmund will get his preferred early pace. With the race one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby, American Pharoah’s rally will be compromised.
Dortmund and American Pharoah will be in the second group entering the first turn. The Preakness drew some real speed — although most runners will tire by the end. Long shots Mr. Z, Divining Rod and Bodhisattva, plus Firing Line, will try to steal the race early.
Essentially, everyone but American Pharoah and Dortmund will try to go out fast. But among early front-runners, only Firing Line is capable of leading every step of the way — and even he’ll find a way to lose. In six races, Firing Line has just two victories and four second-place finishes.
Instead, Dortmund will lead entering the stretch just like in the Derby. American Pharoah will come on the outside. A lot like the Derby, Firing Line will be around the lead, too.
This time, Dortmund’s early edge over American Pharoah will hold up to win the Preakness. American Pharoah will finish second, with Danzig Moon third.
Danzig Moon, fifth in the Derby, is worth a few dollars as a 15-1 long shot. He’s the only one that won’t fight for the early lead, so maybe Danzig Moon will have fresh legs at the wire.
After all, it’s all about the race’s end, not the beginning.
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