Four Questions for the Preakness

This is the easiest rooting race all year.  We’d all like to see the Derby winner, California Chrome (#3, 3-5), heading off to Belmont with a chance at the Triple Crown.  You should root for him.  But whether you should bet him or not — especially at the dangerously low price of 3/5 — is another story all together. At times like these, I’m a huge proponent of rooting with your heart, but backing horses with your head. This doesn’t imply that California Chrome isn’t the best on paper — just like in Louisville two weeks ago, he is.  No one has run faster than him.  He ran a slow Derby, but it was still faster than anybody else. That is a huge point, and speed is never to be ignored. The key to analyzing this race is to figure out what the important data is and to ignore all the noise — like the feelings in your heart — that get in the way.

The race boils down to four key questions:

Will California Chrome continue to run at a high level or will the constant exertion tarnish his form?  

If he runs his best race, he is likely very hard to beat.  But it’s hard to know whether that will happen.  All the time, horses don’t run well who were supposed to be contenders. They are not machines.  If he falters, it opens up the race.

Will there be greater pace in this race than the Derby? 

The general thought is that there will be, but this is always a dangerous question. Jockeys can see the presence of pace on paper before the race, and this young horse may be able to adopt a new style.  So, it’s an imperfect and risky base for your handicapping.

How much will Kid Cruz (#7, 20-1) be able to close at Pimlico?

The Preakness has a reputation as a front-running race, but horses can close at route consistently in Baltimore.  If Kid Cruz is good enough, and he’d have to improve to do so, then he could.  Certainly have to like him to hit the board.

Is Social Inclusion (#8, 5-1) better than California Chrome?

He ran with a blistering pace in the Wood Memorial after a sensational effort at Gulfstream where we soundly beat the highly-regarded Honor Code. He missed the Derby by finishing third in that race — otherwise, he would likely would have been a factor there.  He’s plenty fast, and if the pace is lighter, he very well may have more in the tank than California Chrome.

How you answer these questions should help you find your horse for Saturday’s Preakness!