Despite being trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez, there was no target on the back of Medina Spirt entering the Kentucky Derby when he snuck away on the lead at odds of 12-1.
That certainly will change when the heavily scrutinized colt enters the starting gate at Pimlico on Saturday.
Despite a less-than-stellar field, the odds are stacked against the Derby winner repeating in the Preakness Stakes, and those who believe a repeat effort is in store will have to settle on far lower odds this time around.
After a big effort in the Derby, the son of Protonico will have to turn around two weeks later while encountering a much different pace scenario. Midnight Bourbon will be much closer to the pace than he was in the Derby, and Japanese invader France Go de Ina has proven to be at his best near the front. The biggest pace pressure, however, will come from Medina Spirit's own stablemate.
Do not forget that it was Concert Tour, not Medina Spirt, who was Baffert's leading Kentucky Derby contender prior to the Arkansas Derby (G1). Baffert likely believes Medina Spirit does not need the lead to win, but Concert Tour looks like he definitely does.
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Baffert certainly wants Medina Spirit to win the Preakness to keep the Triple Crown dream alive and to try to prove a point, but Gary and Mary West and Mike Smith want to give themselves the best chance to win with Concert Tour. The instructions will be given for the Street Sense colt to make the lead from an outside draw no matter how fast he has to go to do so.
Concert Tour brings back memories of Baffert's multiple Grade 1 winner Game on Dude. Game on Dude could travel as far as the rider asked as fast as he had to go at a very effective rate as long as he made the lead. If he had to pass horses, he simply was not the same horse.
Concert Tour will make the lead in the Preakness, and he will forget to stop no matter who is chasing him.
Below we rank this year's Preakness field in the predicted order of finish, led by Concert Tour.
1. Concert Tour (#10, 5-2): He is the only horse in this field who has shown the raw talent to compete with his stablemate. His Rebel (G2) victory was visually impressive, and his connections learned how he needs to be ridden after his Arkansas Derby disappointment. This fresh colt will wing it on the front and will take running down.
2. Keepmeinmind (#2, 15-1): This colt ran an underrated race in the Derby after breaking slowly and going very wide turning for home. Not many horses were closing well as many of the Derby front-runners were in the thick of it throughout. He was among the best in the division as a 2-year-old and after going off form prior to the Derby, he looks to have snapped back to his best after removing the blinkers. He will get plenty of pace to run into in the Preakness.
3. Medina Spirit (#3, 9-5): There is no doubting the strong credentials and consistency of the Derby winner, but he will concede the lead to Concert Tour and will be forced to chase his hot early pace in this spot. He will likely show his usual grit but could come up a bit short as the center of attention on Saturday.
4. Midnight Bourbon (#5, 5-1): This consistent colt ran admirably in the Derby after finding himself farther off the pace than usual. The race flow will work against him in here, but he always shows up with a commendable effort.
5. Crowded Trade (#4, 10-1): Speed Figure players will gravitate toward this runner as his 104 career high Brisnet Ranking is the best in the field. He will receive a good pace setup, but it is hard to trust a runner coming out of the woefully slow New York 3-year-old circuit.
6. Rombauer (#6, 12-1): Michael McCarthy's colt has been keeping good company, but he has yet to be truly competitive while facing the elite from his crop. He is likely to give an honest performance but does not appear fast enough to gain a slice.
7. Ram (#1, 30-1): D. Wayne Lukas knows how to get a colt ready for the Preakness, and this improving son of American Pharoah looked good defeating older last time out. He still would have to take a giant step forward to compete at this class level, however.
8. Risk Taking (#9, 15-1): Chad Brown's colt looked like he was figuring things out with blinkers prior to an awful showing in the weak Wood Memorial. He is hard to endorse off such a poor effort and is yet to crack the 90 range on the Beyer Speed Figure scale.
9. France Go de Ina (#7, 20-1): He may be a useful colt, but this is a big step up in class and he has proven to be at his best near the lead. He will face plenty of pace pressure and will be hard pressed to hang around late.
10. Unbridled Honor (#8, 15-1): He was helped by a perfect race flow in the Lexington (G3) but still could not win when earning a high figure in the slop. Prior to that effort he was a distant 4th in a weak edition of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).