Ellis Starr’s picks for The Preakness Stakes

Preakness Stakes – Grade 1
Race 13 at Pimlico
Saturday, May 19 – Post Time 6:48 PM E.T.
One Mile and Three-Sixteenths
Three Year Olds
Purse: $1.5 million
TV: NBC 5 PM E.T.

Justify Tries to Stay Unbeaten in Preakness
By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase
The 143rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes drew a field of eight as nearly every horse who finished behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby has moved on to fight another day. Only Derby runner-up Good Magic, sixth place finisher Bravazo and eighth place finisher Lone Sailor will try to reverse their fortunes from two weeks ago. Good Magic won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes prior to his game runner-up finish in Louisville and should be competitive once again. Local runner Diamond King won the Federico Tesio Stakes last month and hopes to have an upset chance. Quip, winner of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and then second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, bypassed the Kentucky Derby in the hopes of being fresh enough to beat the Derby winner. Hall-of-Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas hopes to play spoiler in the Preakness as he did in 2013 when Oxbow upset Derby winner Orb. Lukas saddles both Bravazo and Sporting Chance, the former having won the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in February and the latter having finished third (before being disqualified to fourth) in the Blue Grass. Lone Sailor proved he belonged at the level with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby before his Kentucky Derby effort. Tenfold finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby off two wins to start his career and is another with hopes to outrun high odds.

Bravazo will be my top choice to win the Preakness Stakes, just as he was my top choice to win when the Risen Star was the Weekly Feature Race in February, posting the upset and returning $44 for a $2 win wager. At the time, Bravazo was making his second start as a three year old and second following a layoff, coming off a 104  Equibase Speed Figure effort when winning one month earlier. In the Risen Star, Bravazo won gamely by a neck to earn a career best 110  figure when improving nicely in his second race off the rest. In the Louisiana Derby, I cannot say what went wrong when as the second betting choice (5 to 2) Bravazo faded badly to eighth after being up close in third in the early stages. However, his effort two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby was pretty good as he rallied four to five paths wide while moving up from eleventh to fourth over the course of three furlongs until he flattened out in mid-stretch to end up sixth. In the Preakness Bravazo will have to deal with a lot less traffic and if jockey Luis Saez is able to get him into second or third with about a half-mile to go, as was the case in the Risen Star, this colt can post the upset because the 110 figure earned in that race is as good as the figure Justify earned winning the Kentucky Derby.

Justify is unbeaten in four starts and has improved his  figure in each, going from 106 in his career debut to 110 winning the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, Justify was able to beat 18 other horses out of the gate to secure second position early, avoiding the mud and water flying everywhere over the very sloppy track and that had to have been a significant factor in his success as he held his two and one-half length margin over Good Magic the entire last eighth of a mile. With many less horses to be in front of at the start of the Preakness, Justify is as likely, or even more so, to be in front in the opening strides, but in the event Quip or Diamond King (who are drawn inside of Justify in the gate) get the lead that should not be an issue as he has raced in second or third in the early stages in two of his four victories. As such, it would come as no surprise that the Derby winner takes the Preakness, following in the footsteps of I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015).

Good Magic ran his heart out in the Derby, chasing Justify for the final half-mile but making up no ground. After a poor effort in his 2018 return to the races when third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March, Good  Magic redeemed himself nicely with victory in the Blue Grass Stakes, earning a 104  figure in the process. In spite of being no match for the Derby winner, Good Magic improved to a 106 figure in the race and is set to improve again back to the form shown when winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall with a 109 figure. Considering how close that effort would be to the one Justify put forth two weeks ago and considering Good Magic is making his fourth start of 2018 compared to Justify making his fifth start of the year, it is conceivable Good Magic may have enough improvement forthcoming to turn the tables on his nemesis in the Preakness.

Lone Sailor is not a win contender in my opinion but can certainly be second or third at the end to complete any exacta or trifecta tickets played. Lone Sailor improved markedly in the Louisiana Derby with a career best 106  figure, that being his third start of the year. He then had a trip similar to Bravazo in the Kentucky Derby in which Lone Sailor moved up from 15th to sixth with an eighth of a mile to go before flattening out and ending up eighth. With less traffic in the Preakness, Lone Sailor may be passing many of these late and could earn a big chunk of the purse.

The rest of the Preakness field, with their best  figures is Diamond King (103), Quip (99), Sporting Chance (100) and Tenfold (100).

My Win Contenders:
Bravazo
Justify
Good Magic

You can get Ellis’ detailed selections, analysis and betting recommendations for the entire day of racing
Saturday at Pimlico HERE… http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbProductPage.cfm?pid=50283