UPDATED after early scratches — Can Nyquist successfully continue his Triple Crown bid with a Preakness Stakes win? If so, he could be one of many favorites to carry the day at Pimlico Race Course.
Race 5 | Maryland Sprint Handicap | 6 furlongs
1. Salutos Amigos
2. Cinco Charlie
3. Always Sunshine
4. All Star Red
Comment: While the result in the Churchill Downs was disappointing, Salutos Amigos still ran a credible race and looms largest here (with rain not a concern after winning in the mud in the Carter Handicap). Cinco Charlie’s best race could result in a mild upset and he has room to improve off his last. Always Sunshine is speedy, but hasn’t faced this level.
Race 6 | James W. Murphy Stakes | 1 mile turf
2. Conquest Windycity
4. He’ll Pay
Comment: Aquaphobia is lightly raced but looks well qualified and offers a little bit of a price. Conquest Windycity can improve in a return to turf. Turf specialist Ousby is graded stakes placed and wouldn’t surprise. He’ll Pay took a long time to break his maiden before doing so and then winning the Rushaway. Playing against because of that. Take note that Copingaway is making his ELEVENTH start of the year and TWENTIETH career start. It’s his seventh start in two months. Not endorsing but the horse’s results show he’s no worse for the wear as a throwback to yesteryear.
Race 8 | The Very One Stakes | 5 furlongs turf
1. Lady Shipman
3. Rumble Doll
4. Disco Barbie
Comment: Lady Shipman has the class edge but will have to overcome the outside post — something she can do with her front-running/close-up style. Exaggerated will be right there with her and can move forward in her second off a layoff. Rumble Doll is intriguing at a price in her second of the year.
Race 9 | Chick Lang Stakes | 6 furlongs
1. Justin Squared
3. Never Gone South
4. Big Louie D
Comment: Justin Squared might be the single-able key for the pick 5 that ends in the Preakness — speedy with room to improve in just his third start. Counterforce comes off a win where the second- and third-place finishers won their next out.
Race 10 | Grade III Gallorette Handicap | 1 1/16 miles turf
1. Tiger Ride
4. Monster Sleeping
Comment: Tiger Ride can improve in her third start of the year and avoiding the equine monster that is Tepin and the very game Stonetastic. Graham Motion picked this race over one Friday. Heath has been running against some heady company, including Lady Eli (notice a fourth in last year’s Lake Placid where the winner and third-place horse won their next and the second-place finisher Miss Temple City won this year’s Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile), and can improve in her second start of the year. Josdesanimaux has been working sharply and would not surprise in a tough race.
Race 11 | Sir Barton Stakes | 1 1/16 miles
1. American Freedom
3. Donegal Moon
4. Discreet Lover
Comment: American Freedom, with a better trip than at Churchill Downs, is the most likely winner. Dazzling Gem shortens in distance and class from fourth-place finish in Arkansas Derby.
Race 12 | Grade II Longines Dixie Stakes | 1 1/8 miles turf
1. Ring Weekend
2. Grand Arch
3. Prince Gagarin
4. Force the Pass
Comment: Possibly the most fun betting race of the day in a wide-open affair where the favorite is probably no shorter than 7/2. Any multi-race “pick” almost has to go at least four deep. Ring Weekend is a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf returning from 14 months away from the races. Taking a shot at a bit of a price with the back-class advantage. Grand Arch also is classy, but playing against in a big ask for a first start of the year (yes, that contradicts what was said about Ring Weekend, but you only can pick one). Prince Gagarin, group-stakes placed in Ireland, has won on a soft turf and can improve in his second start of the year and second U.S. start. Force the Pass and Takeover Target will be used in my pick 4.
Race 13 | Grade I Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes | 1 3/16 miles
3. Awesome Speed
Comment: Many see opportunity for Exaggerator to turn the tables, but the pace in the Kentucky Derby was blistering and Nyquist should have been left in the pace’s wake. He wasn’t. With a sixteenth of a mile less to run at Pimlico, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Nyquist isn’t a more likely winner than he was in the Derby. Exaggerator is the most likely to contend but it’s hard to see how his closing style will have enough room to overtake Nyquist. After that, take a guess and a price. Awesome Speed narrowly missed in the Federico Tesio and “the local horse” sometimes hits the board at a price. Collected is fresh off the Lexington Stakes and is capable of hitting the board. Stradivari’s chances probably aren’t as good as his odds indicate, but he can hit the board.