Kentucky Derby winner and morning-line favorite Justify looks nearly unbeatable in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Not only is the Bob Baffert-trained colt unbeaten in four stars with impeccable connections, nine of the last 20 Kentucky Derby winners have gone on to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Plus, Baffert’s four previous Derby winners — Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) War Emblem (2002) and Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah (2015) — also won the Preakness.
If Justify runs like he did on the first Saturday in May, there’s no reason to doubt his chances. But, even 1-2 morning-line favorites can be expected to lose a third of the time, setting up a monster payout if one of the long shots in the race make it to the wire first.
One long shot worth a look is No. 8 Bravazo (20-1). On paper, Bravazo has turned in two dim performances in a row: An eighth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby and a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. However, jockey Gary Stevens spoke of “a steering malfunction” after the performance at Fair Grounds in March and the horse’s trip in the Kentucky Derby under jockey Luis Contreras was not ideal.
The footnotes from the race said Bravazo was “bumped at the start, recovered and raced four to five wide” and, according to analysis by Mark Midland at HorseRacingNation.com, Bravazo was six wide and losing ground at the first turn, and seven-wide entering the stretch at Churchill Downs. As a result, Trakus, a tracking system which determines the exact location of each horse throughout the entire race, estimates Bravazo traveled farther than any other horse except for Magnum Moon, who finished 19th. After adjusting for that extra distance traveled, using one length equaling approximately 8.5 feet, Bravazo was only 2.8 lengths short of Justify, not the eight lengths we saw in the final results. Good Magic’s beaten lengths figure gets an adjustment from 2.5 to 3.1. In other words, after accounting for Bravazo’s bad trip, he was the better horse at the Derby, not Good Magic.
|Finish||Kentucky Derby horseorse||Extra feet traveled||Extra lengths traveled||Actual losing margin (lengths)||Adjusted losing margin (lengths)|
|2nd||Good Magic||-5||-0.6||2 1/2||3.1|
|8th||Lone Sailor||-41||-4.8||9 1/4||14.1|
“I was surprised how good he handled the sloppy track,” jockey Luis Contreras said of Bravazo. “I got a good break and tried to stay as close as I could. I got a bit of a wide trip but it happens in a race like this. He moved very good on the far turn but horses passed me in the end.”
Here are two other long shots worth keeping an eye on.
No. 2 Lone Sailor (15-1)
Eighth in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Tom Amoss saw his horse start slow before getting bottled up on the rail in a field of 20 horses, an excusable trip for an improving 3-year-old.
His triple-digit Brisnet speed figure in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby is the third-highest career mark in the field behind Justify (114 in the Santa Anita Derby) and Good Magic (105 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) and his closing style could help him pick up the pieces if Justify and another horse or two gets into a speed duel early on. Plus, Lone Sailor broke his maiden over a sloppy track at Saratoga in September, winning by 11 lengths at seven furlongs.
No. 4 Diamond King (30-1)
A local darling, Diamond King won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel in April by three-quarters of a length, equaling his career high Brisnet speed figure (95) set in his second start, an allowance race, at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. That in of itself doesn’t make him a contender — since 1981, when the Tesio Stakes was first held at Laurel Park, only one horse, Deputed Testamony (1983), has followed up a win with a victory in the Preakness — but his stalker running style, on the other hand, could set him up for success.
Diamond King posted a solid final Brisnet speed figure in his final prep at Laurel, but equally impressive were his pace figures: 93 at first call, 92 at second call and a 95 down the strength. That pushes his lifetime average pace and final speed figures above 90, joining only Justify and Lone Sailor in this regard among the Preakness field.
In addition, Diamond King has been within striking distance at each call in each of his six lifetime starts, five of those ending in the money.
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