Kentucky Derby #147 is in the history books and attention shifts to Maryland and the Preakness Stakes. The question on everyone’s lips is, “Does he have what it takes to win the Triple Crown?” I’m talking about the little horse who could, Medina Spirit.
The free-running colt is poised to win the Preakness over a small field of nine other contestants. There’s a good chance he can do it. All except one of Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby heroes scored in the Preakness.
Since 2000, eight Kentucky Derby champs carried their win-streak through the Preakness Stakes, but only two, American Pharoah and Justify kept their winning ways intact in the Belmont Stakes.
Like the previous Kentucky victors, Medina Spirit is the favorite to triumph in the second Triple Crown event.
Since 2000, nine favorites won, and there was a string of five years from 2001 – 2005 when the Kentucky Derby winner wore the Black-Eyed Susans two weeks later.
Twice the Derby winner wasn’t favored. In 2011, I’ll Have Another proved his Derby win wasn’t a fluke when he beat Preakness favorite Bodemeister.
In 2009, super filly Rachel Alexandra was favored over Derby shocker Mine That Bird and she prevailed in an epic battle.
Does Medina Spirit’s running style fit the Preakness?
That brings us to running styles in the Preakness. There’s a wildly held theory that speed rules at Pimlico, but tactical types are most successful.
The Preakness Stakes is not kind to pace setters. Five horses wired the field in the last 20 years; Rachel Alexandra, Oxbow, Cloud Computing, and Triple Crown heroes American Pharoah and Justify.
Even the front running War Emblem and Shackleford switched tactics in the Preakness and rated in second place before grabbing the lead in the stretch and racing on to victory.
The trip carved out by the majority of the Preakness winners is this:
No farther back than sixth or seventh in the initial stages, started their run by the ¾ pole and had the lead in the stretch. Only Afleet Alex and Exaggerator sat farther back than seventh. Afleet Alex was tenth in the early going, but had moved up to seventh by the ¾ pole. Exaggerator was eighth early but moved to sixth by the ¾ pole.
Five Preakness winners pressed an early pace before taking over in the stretch. Four of the five (Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, War Emblem, California Chrome) had won the Derby and were clearly superior in both races.
Medina Spirit’s only victories were earned when he set the pace. He may face pressure on the front end from his stablemate Concert Tour, Midnight Bourbon, and the Japanese horse, France Go de Ina, if he can get out of the gate with the rest of the field.
Pimlico Turning Point
What about the tight turns?
The turns at Pimlico aren’t any tighter than those at Churchill. Both tracks are a mile oval, but Pimlico is 50 feet narrower, and the stretch is 1,152 feet compared to Churchill’s 1,234.
Our Derby champ is extremely athletic and has proven that he can cut corners, and play catch me if you can in the stretch.
What about the Jockey and Trainer?
John Velazquez has ridden three Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness.
He placed second with Authentic (2020) and Animal Kingdom (2011), and eighth with Always Dreaming (2017). The veteran rider is making his tenth appearance in the Preakness and hoping for his first win.
Bob Baffert’s last trip to the Preakness winner’s circle was with Triple Crown hero Justify. He owns six Preakness trophies and has finished second or third four times. The only time he didn’t pull off the Kentucky Derby/Preakness double was last year, when Swiss Skydiver out gamed Authentic.
Kentucky Derby Also Rans = Preakness Winner?
Colts who race in the Kentucky Derby are overwhelmingly successful in the Preakness Stakes. Since 2000, eight colts wore the blanket of Roses in Kentucky and a Black-eyed Susan wreath in Maryland. Only one Kentucky Derby winner, Country House (and the DQ’d winner Maximum Security (2019), didn’t contest the Preakness.
Does it matter how well, or poorly the other Preakness winners fared in the Kentucky Derby? Colts who finished second through sixth are the most likely to win the Preakness Stakes. Since 2000, six colts who ran in the Derby captured the Preakness.
That bodes well for this year’s runners. Midnight Bourbon and Keepmeinmind are the only two Derby runners to return in the Preakness.
Triple Crown Spoilers
Seven newcomers will vie to beat the champ. Good luck with that. Since 2000, only five horses that didn’t compete in the Kentucky Derby won the Preakness – Red Bullet, Bernardini, Rachel Alexandra, Cloud Computing and last year’s Swiss Skydiver.
At this point, Medina Spirit is a lukewarm favorite. We won’t know until the gate opens if the champ will continue his undefeated run or if he has recovered from his efforts in the Kentucky Derby.
Who can hit the board and which longshot might upset the Preakness?
Three of the last four years offered double-digit payouts on the winner, and the IMTBreds Preakness Guide picked them.
War of Will returned $14.20, and last year’s winner Swiss Skydiver rewarded backers with $25.40. In 2017, Cloud Computing returned $28.80.
This year is ripe for another double-digit payout. Learn which long shots to keep and which to toss plus detailed race analysis and selections in the 2021 Preakness Guide.