Watching the Kentucky Derby
The running of the Kentucky Derby annually provides crucial clues about the outcome of the Preakness. Handicappers study the film of the race looking at horses who might have encountered traffic troubles; who lost or saved ground on the turns; who were hurt or helped by the pace of the race.
Two colts in the Preakness had some trouble at Churchill Downs. Mylute (No. 6, in black and gold silks) broke well but was squeezed back after a stride or two and was far behind early. Handicappers have to judge whether this was meaningful; Mylute may be most effective when he comes from far behind.
Will Take Charge (No. 17, in white and black silks) turned into the stretch four-wide with Orb, (No. 16, also in white silks) just outside him. Will Take Charge lost momentum when the tiring Verrazano (No. 14) obstructed his path. However, he didn’t accelerate when he was clear in the latter part of the stretch run.
Mylute, Will Take Charge and Orb all raced wide on the final turn -- more difficult trips than second-place Golden Soul and third-place Revolutionary, who both saved ground on the turn. Both Golden Soul and Revolutionary are skipping the Preakness and aiming for the Belmont Stakes, where they will surely be overbet because of performances earned with easy trips.
The most important factor affecting the Derby was the extraordinarily fast early pace. The horses who made the eye-catching late charge -- Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary and Mylute -- were all aided by the pace that took a toll on the early leaders. Most of the pacesetters, such as Verrazano, collapsed badly.
However, Oxbow (No. 2, in black and gold silks, on the rail all the way) chased the pace, and briefly battled for the lead on the turn before he tired in the stretch. Normandy Invasion (No. 5, in red and white silks) was sitting in good position behind the leaders when his jockey launched a premature move on the turn; he took a brief lead, but faded to finish fourth. Normandy Invasion is bypassing the Preakness, but Oxbow may be a stronger contender than his sixth-place Derby finish would suggest.