Today’s column is not about shortcomings of the 2014 Kentucky Derby point system. Nor is about the exclusion of the Illinois Derby as a points race for the Run for the Roses. Rather it is all about looking forward to the Preakness. Racing’s Middle Jewel could be the direct beneficiary of some high profile sophomores not making it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Could you imagine if the best of the Preakness new shooters looked something like this...
Cairo Prince - The Florida Derby was not quite what most everyone was expecting, but getting shuffled back early on that track was probably the worst thing for the talented colt coming off a sizable layoff. Perhaps he was short, or perhaps it was simply not his day, but one mediocre performance does not cancel out the excellent ones that he laid down in the Nashua, Remsen, and Holy Bull consecutively. Of the horses on this list, he is the only one with a fighting chance to actually qualify for the Derby, but with only 24 points in the bank, I would estimate that his chances are no better than 50-50 at this point. Whichever race he shows up next, the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, I consider him a serious threat.
Social Inclusion - Admittedly, I took a hard stance against him in the Wood Memorial, but his performance in the Wood Memorial was nothing short of excellent. He looked a little nervous before the race, and had to swing in from a wide post before the first turn arrived. Still, he looked rock solid spinning out of the Big A far turn. The separation he created as the field straightened out, after everything he had already been through, was impressive, and certainly the sign of a quality horse. Things caught up with him the final eighth, but still he was only one jump short of holding off the multiple stakes winner Samraat for second. He looks the physical part of the talent he has shown in only three races, and the time between now and the Preakness should only do him good.
Untapable - Paddy O’Prado’s little sister has really come of age at three. After showing solid promise as a juvenile, including a 2-for-2 record at Churchill Downs, Untapable has been a monster this year in New Orleans. Her overpowering victories in the Rachel Alexandra and the Fair Grounds Oaks place her next to California Chrome as the two most impressive three-year-olds so far this year of either gender. A similar type of performance in the Kentucky Oaks would make her one of the most interesting new shooters to enter the Preakness since Rachel Alexandra took down all the crab cakes in 2009.
An impressive winner of the Illinois Derby - I don’t know who this will be yet, but if he is anything like recent winners; War Emblem, Ten Most Wanted, Pollard’s Vision, Sweetnorthernsaint, Cowtown Cat, Musket Man, or Departing, then he would make for a strong participant in the Preakness.
Clearly the Kentucky Derby winner could have his hands full when he arrives to Baltimore. OK … maybe this was just a little bit about the problems with the Kentucky Derby points system, and the severe snubbery shown to Hawthorne’s Illinois Derby.