The opening stages of Saturday’s $1 million Preakness S. (G1) should be interesting.
Both of Bob Baffert’s runners, 9-5 morning line favorite Medina Spirit and 5-2 second choice Concert Tour, have delivered optimal performances when dictating tempo. The likely third choice, wire-to-wire Lecomte S. (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon, should be more prominent after starting slowly in the Kentucky Derby.
Early theatrics appear possible, and I will tab an up-and-coming stalker in Crowded Trade.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Medina Spirit, who led all the way in the Kentucky Derby, will set the pace from post 3, with stablemate Concert Tour tracking in second from post 10, but I’m not buying it.
When Rock Your World blew the start at Churchill Downs, John Velazquez appeared to be the only jockey who wanted the early lead in the Kentucky Derby. He did a masterful job getting Medina Spirit to the fore, but the dark bay colt is far from an early speedball.
Medina Spirit is not quicker than Concert Tour, who clearly runs his best races on the lead. When employing pace-tracking tactics, Concert Tour weakened badly to third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and drifted about in the stretch of the San Vicente S. (G2) like a drunken soldier.
Concert Tour easily beat Caddo River to the lead when recording a visually impressive win in the Rebel S. (G2). In the Arkansas Derby, his previous rider conceded the early advantage to Caddo River, and those tactics failed miserably.
Mike Smith picks up the mount Saturday, and barring a slow start, Concert Tour will outgun Medina Spirit to the lead in my estimation.
This is not a fast group of three-year-olds. Medina Spirit lacked a triple-digit Brisnet Speed rating entering the Kentucky Derby — Animal Kingdom (2011) was the last horse to finish first with that distinction – and his 101 figure came back slow for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Concert Tour and Midnight Bourbon have never reached the triple-digit Speed rating threshold.
I’m not scared by any of them.
Crowded Trade easily possesses the top Speed number, receiving a 104 figure for a nose second in the March 6 Gotham S. (G3). That marked the second start for the Chad Brown-trained colt, who didn’t make his career debut until late January, and Crowded Trade came back to post a close third when trying two turns in the Wood Memorial (G2) most recently.
I expect him to benefit from the initial two-turn experience.
Cloud Computing redux
The similarities between Crowded Trade and 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who was also trained by Brown, are striking. After winning his debut in early February, Cloud Computing recorded a second in the Gotham and a third in the Wood Memorial.
Cloud Computing’s Speed rating pattern (90-100-94) resembles Crowded Trade (92-104-92), and they even employ the same run styles.
The 1 3/16-mile Preakness distance didn’t appear ideal for Cloud Computing, but it didn’t matter for the up-and-coming colt. And I’m looking right past any distances concerns for Crowded Trade, who should be poised to keep advancing in his second two-turn attempt.
Listed at 10-1 on the morning line, Crowded Trade is my top pick.
I will play against the top three on the morning line (Medina Spirit, Concert Tour, and Midnight Bourbon) in multi-race wagers, adding my second choice Rombauer (12-1 morning line) to the mix.
Rombauer displayed improved tactical speed finishing a clear third in the Blue Grass S. (G2), which lacked early pace, and he netted a career-best 96 Speed rating.
Skipping the Kentucky Derby may prove beneficial – the late runner would have faced a difficult task at Churchill – and Rombauer figures to receive a favorable setup in the second leg of the Triple Crown.