Given that Epicenter is set to compete in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico next Saturday, the task for the “new shooters” will prove a difficult one. Despite losing to Rich Strike, Epicenter ran an excellent race and brings other credentials as a two-time graded stakes winner into the second Triple Crown leg.
Regardless, here is a list of three newcomers to the Triple Crown series who could win the Preakness if the favorite turns in a clunker. Early Voting headlines the list, with Creative Minister second and Secret Oath third.
Out of the new shooters, Early Voting brings the best credentials against males. He won the Withers Stakes (G3) gate-to-wire by 4 1/2 lengths, then finished runner-up by a neck in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) to Mo Donegal. Mo Donegal went on to finish a good closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby from post No. 1.
Early Voting is one-dimensional and figures to secure the lead again. The concern is that he might face pressure from either Epicenter or Simplification, two versatile runners who can show good speed if asked.
At least Early Voting avoids the closing punches of Mo Donegal and Zandon in this spot. But even if he could endure the pace, Early Voting still needs to worry about his fellow new shooters Creative Minister and Secret Oath, or even Simplification if that one is taken back early on.
Despite the concerns, Early Voting is a threat to wire the field.
Even though Creative Minister is behind on speed figures, the son of Creative Cause does show a nice progression for trainer Ken McPeek.
To start his career, Creative Minister ran second in a Gulfstream maiden special weight back in March with a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure. In his next start in April, Creative Minister then broke his maiden over the slop at Keeneland by 1 1/2 lengths with a 102. On Derby Day, Creative Minister won for the second time in a Churchill Downs optional claimer by 2 3/4 lengths with a career-high 110.
Epicenter and Early Voting are both capable of hitting the 120 mark on TimeformUS, which means Creative Minister does need to step up his game a fourth time. He is improving though and could take that step.
Note the interesting pedigree on Creative Minister too. His dam Tamboz is a full sister to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar.
The filly caught a few important breaks when both the Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and third-place Zandon defected from the Preakness. Yet, Secret Oath still needs to run down the Derby runner-up Epicenter.
To Secret Oath’s credit, she won the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago by two lengths over Nest with a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure. The 116 on TimeformUS is not too far off the 120 by Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby.
When Secret Oath flattened out to third in the Arkansas Derby (G1), she went through a bad trip and possibly deserves the benefit of the doubt.
On the negative side, the gap between Epicenter and Secret Oath is more noticeable on Beyer Speed Figures from Daily Racing Form. Epicenter shows a 100 for his Kentucky Derby Derby runner-up and a 102 from when he won the Louisiana Derby (G2) in April. Secret Oath only shows a 94 Beyer for the Kentucky Oaks.
Even if Secret Oath did endure a bad trip in the Arkansas Derby, it feels disappointing she lost second to the closer Barber Road in the stretch. In addition, the winner Cyberknife ran poorly in the Kentucky Derby by folding to 18th. He puts the quality of the Arkansas Derby into question.
Maybe Secret Oath is stronger by now though. If the Preakness pace collapses, she could find herself in the mix of closers vying for the win.