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    Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah goes after the second jewel in the Triple Crown on Saturday when he faces a short field of eight in the $1,500,000 Preakness (G1) going 1 3/16 mile on the main track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. Should the Bob Baffert trainee prove victorious, he would be the 14th horse to attempt the elusive Triple Crown since the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, was crowned in 1978. Even with a short field, American Pharoah will not have an easy task.

    Installed as the 4-5 favorite, Ahmed Zayat’s Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah will break from post one. The Pimlico rail has not produced a Preakness winner since Tabasco Cat in 1994. Typically, when a horse breaks from the rail, he has to either break clean and go to the lead or get quickly forced back in the field. With American Pharoah’s early running style, the rail may not be a major obstacle. Jockey Victor Espinoza will need to make a clean break and guide American Pharoah to the lead, where he should be happy to set the pace and take the field wire-to-wire. However, with stablemate Dortmund to his outside in post position two, American Pharoah may not get an unchallenged lead.

    Although both Baffert runners have shown they can win on or off the lead, American Pharoah’s and Dortmund’s usual modes of running tend to be get to the lead sooner rather than later. In the Kentucky Derby, Dortmund broke for the lead early under jockey Martin Garcia and set a moderate pace with American Pharoah and Espinoza sitting off them in third, as soon as he made it across the track from the far outside post 18. With Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line in-between the pair, they completed a merry-go-round around the track until American Pharoah challenged the leaders into the stretch, taking down Firing Line, who had already put away a tiring Dortmund.

    With American Pharoah and Dortmund breaking from the gates next to one another in the Preakness and American Pharoah needing to get out of hole one quickly, it’s possible they go head-to-head in a battle for the lead. Both colts have shown a strong determination and hold hearts of a champion, so if they get caught in a speed dual, they’ll wind up either staggering across the finish line together, or make an easy target for a closer.

    Firing Line, on the other hand, will break from the far outside post eight and should be able to plot his own course without getting thrown into the Baffert boys’ brawl. The Simon Callaghan runner has shown he can hold his own with the best of them and, with 2013 Preakness winning rider Gary Stevens in the irons, he’ll know when to make an advantageous move.

    Other Kentucky Derby runners returning for round two in the Triple Crown include Mark Casse’s Danzig Moon and D. Wayne Lukas’s Mr. Z.

    Danzig Moon found himself stuck in the Kentucky Derby pack, never able to get through the traffic of an 18-horse field. If he can duplicate the closing quick he showed when finishing second in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes (G1), he’ll be a contender. He’s landed himself in the middle again and will break from post four on Saturday under jockey Julien Leparoux.

    Mr. Z’s entry into the Preakness is an interesting one. Aside from the fact that the once well-regarded son of Malibu Moon hasn’t won a race since breaking his maiden and has already made 13 starts in his young career, he’s recently changed ownership. Ahmed Zayat owned Mr. Z when he finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip in which he was forced to tap the breaks multiple times. Today, the historic Calumet Farm owns Mr. Z. The sale was announced hours before the Preakness post-position draw and sparked social media frenzy. The frenzy likely ensuing because Zayat had affirmatively tweeted that Mr. Z would not be running in the Preakness, despite Lukas’s comments to media that Mr. Z is coming into the race beautifully, similar to his 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow. Mr. Z will break from post three under jockey Corey Nakatani.

    Two new shooters worthy of mention are Dallas Stewart’s Tale of Verve and Arnaud Delacour’s Diving Rod. Tale of Verve was a late-entry into the Kentucky Derby, but didn’t draw in off the also-eligible list. Stewart has been high on this horse from the get-go, but was unable to get him to the winner’s circle until Apr. 23 when he broke his maiden going 1 3/16 miles at Keeneland. That’s the same distance of the Preakness. Tale of Verve will break from post five under jockey Joel Rosario. Diving Rod, the Lexington Stakes (G3) winner, will mark the first Preakness Stakes entry for Lael Stables since their Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro’s fateful injury in the race in 2006.

    The field for the Preakness, with odds, from the rail out is: American Pharoah 4-5, Dortmund 7-2, Mr. Z 20-1, Danzig Moon 15-1, Tale of Verve 30-1, Bodhisattva 20-1, Diving Rod 12-1 and Firing Line 4-1. The race is the 13th on Pimlico’s stakes-filled Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 6:18 p.m. Eastern Time. The race can be seen as part of NBC’s two-hour broadcast from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here for free PPs courtesy of Brisnet.  

    Photo: Adam Creech

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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