Analysis: Alwaysmining fit for a Preakness Stakes upset

May 16, 2019 02:00pm
Analysis: Alwaysmining fit for a Preakness Stakes upset
Photo: Maryland Jockey Club
Not often does a Maryland-bred who competed in five straight ungraded stakes races become a major contender in the Preakness Stakes, but Saturday's renewal is already an odd one as this 3-year-old crop still sorts itself out.

The Kelly Rubley-trained Alwaysmining is a legitimate threat despite his low-profile connections. Too many factors are falling his way to ignore.

For one, Alwaysmining receives a break in the competition he faces because the Preakness is missing the first three Derby finishers along with Maximum Security, first across the wire before his disqualification. Without Country House, Code of Honor and Tacitus as well, the race lost some punch in terms of star power and talent.

Instead, the Preakness gets Derby fourth-place finisher Improbable as a favorite. Since taking a break after winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), the City Zip colt has lost three straight races at low odds. Besides losing the Kentucky Derby at 4-1, those losses include the Rebel Stakes (G2) at 2-5 and Arkansas Derby (G1) at 9-5.

Granted, the Rebel marked his first start back and the Arkansas Derby featured the initial Derby favorite Omaha Beach. Improbable only lost by a neck and a length in those races, and only by three lengths in the Derby.

But Improbable is becoming hard to trust. While he ran OK in the Derby, he never threatened for the lead at any point and kind of spun his wheels in fifth. Yet, Improbable is the Preakness' morning line favorite at 5-2.

Expect an aggressive ride from Mike Smith, who might make try an early move like he did with Omaha Beach at Oaklawn Park.

The Preakness also gets War of Will, the Derby's seventh-place finisher who also wheels back in two weeks. At least this also-ran’s effort appears more interesting, as he waited on the inside and looked ready to go.

When it came time to switch out, Maximum Security stopped his momentum. Of course, the public is split on the incident's cause.

However, taking 4-1 or lower on a horse who faded to eighth in the Derby does not feel like a bargain, either. In most years, a Derby also-ran who faded to mid-pack would offer higher value in the Preakness.

But the price on both Improbable and War of Will are low because of Maximum Security and Country House’s absence, making them underlaid. Both of them enter with small losing streaks, too, giving some pause.

In contrast, Alwaysmining shows a six-race winning streak, and despite the lack of a graded status on all those Laurel Park races, not all of the horses he defeated were weak. Among those he has beaten are stakes regulars Gray Magician, Win Win Win and Our Braintrust.

The connections chose not to take an aggressive route, but it seems clear Alwaysmining is not the typical type horse who lacks graded stakes experience. On speed figures, he is already on the same level as Improbable and War of Will. In fact, those who use Brisnet numbers might argue Alwaysmining is dominant, as he holds a clear last-race figure advantage on that scale.

Alwaysmining and those supporting him get a break in competition and odds, but what about the pace scenario? It is supposed to go at a fast clip with the need-the-lead Warrior’s Charge entered in Post 3 and the speedy Market King in Post 6. War of Will possesses speed too, as does Bodexpress.

Luckily, Alwaysmining showed himself capable of rating in the Federico Tesio Stakes. Look at how he patiently let Trifor Gold cross over him. 

Then on the backside, he settled a bit wide and a few lengths off the leaders.

Alwaysmining prefers the lead, but he handled the new tactics well and the learning experience prepared him for this situation leaving Post 7.

Most of the speed is drawn inside, which is great for his chances. War of Will landed Post 1 again, while Warrior’s Charge is in Post 3 and Market King is in Post 6.

Bodexpress is in Post 9 and Anothertwistafate is in Post 12, but they should not bother Alwaysmining too much. If Bodexpress tries to come in toward Alwaysmining at the break, Signalman may act as an initial buffer in Post 8.

Alwaysmining might let Warrior's Charge and company go early and end up settling in fifth or so early . That is a good spot.

If the pace really collapses, though, and takes out all the speed, then one of the late closers could pick up the pieces and post an upset.

Bourbon War makes his first start back after getting pace compromised in the Florida Derby (G1), and the morning line lists him at 12-1. He is capable of winning with the right setup. Plus, he wears blinkers and may settle closer now.

For those who want a closing bomb who the public is guaranteed to ignore, then Laughing Fox fits the bill. His class is a bit questionable, but he does show a win in the Oaklawn Invitational and fourth in the Arkansas Derby.

Signalman also merits some space in this analysis, as the morning line maker installed him at an incredible 30-1 off his third-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). His closing run has seemed flat, but the Blue Grass placing was a noticeable improvement off the dull Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) effort.

Now, Signalman makes his third start off the bench, which eliminates any fitness excuse. Is he really a 30-1 shot?

Owendale shows high speed figures from the Lexington Stakes (G3) on Beyer, TimeformUS and Brisnet scales, but he needs to prove it one more time.

Out of the Derby also-rans, War of Will is preferred because he deserves another chance after the troubled trip last time. Improbable burns money, although he is usable as an underneath horse. Bodexpress will get used up by the pace scenario, and Win Win Win drew a difficult Post 13.

Alwaysmining gives the Triple Crown series a feel-good story as a local horse with nice ongoing winning streak and relatively unknown trainer. If he wins, it will be great for fans and bettors alike.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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