Final Preakness thoughts…

When you’re a die-hard racing fan you often need a fix of discussing the nuances of the game and in doing so can easily run into strange opinions at every turn.  With Rachel Alexandra running such a spectacular race in the Preakness, the most common reaction has been awe.  However, the detractors (amazing that there are any) have maintained that Mine That Bird had a tough trip and that cost him the race, or that the pace was not actually that fast, and that Rachel will certainly be beaten in the Belmont because of the added ground.  The following are three items that seem quite clear to me:

1. The pace of the Preakness was fast– Granted, the route taken in the Preakness often lends itself to quick 1/4 and 1/2 mile times, but Rachel Alexandra absolutely drilled the opening four furlongs.  There is no greater piece of evidence than where the other participants in the pace finished.  They were all beaten quite handily, from Big Drama (5th) to Take the Points (13th).  Rachel Alexandra’s versatility was put on full display as her wire-to-wire Preakness tour de force came only fifteen days after her calculated pace-stalking trip in the Kentucky Oaks.  Her speed is sensational yet she’s so tractable.

2. Mine That Bird did not have a tough trip– From a race flow perspective he had an outstanding trip.  The pace was fast once again and now in two consecutive races the race flow has favored a one-run closer.  Unfortunately in the Preakness there was a horse that just couldn’t be caught.  The slight steady at the top of the stretch neither stopped Mine That Bird’s momentum nor did it keep him from getting a clear path in the lane.  Don’t get me wrong, he ran a terrific race, but the bad trip discussion is a bunch of phooey.

3. Rachel Alexandra is a sitting duck going the 12fs of the Belmont– Unless she is absolutely tearing the barn down I would not run Rachel in the Belmont.  Luckily it’s not my decision and I’m extremely confident that the right decision will be made by her connections.  If she does go, everyone needs to remember that simply because the Belmont is 12 furlongs it does not favor closers.  The Belmont ends up being a rider’s race more often than not as the pace is generally deliberate and well-timed moves are a must.  If Rachel is able to get clear and somehow slow the pace down, she will be extremely tough to beat.  Hopefully we will get to see her potential in NY in two and a half weeks.

The fourth week at Belmont starts on Wednesday with a particularly strong card.  It will be a six-day racing week with a special holiday program scheduled for Memorial Day.  The traditional feature, the Metropolitan Handicap, will be run and a solid field is expected.  We’ll be back later in the week to preview the weekend action.  Here’s another look at the 2008 Metropolitan Handicap:

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One Response to “Final Preakness thoughts…”

  1. Pat Cummings Says:

    Why remind us of the subpar field from 2008 when we are expecting a much more interesting 2009 version? I know, I know…it’s what you do. But last year’s race will make me appreciate this one’s all the more.

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