Preakness Stakes 2021: Odds, picks, PPs, analysis

Preakness Stakes 2021: Odds, picks, PPs, analysis
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

A Kentucky Derby winner is annually the biggest story going into the Preakness Stakes. That is true once again this year, but not in the usual sense.

Gate-to-wire Derby hero Medina Spirit is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the 2021 Preakness, going 1 3/16 miles Saturday at Pimlico. He and nine other 3-year-olds will go to post at 6:47 p.m. EDT, with NBC airing the Grade 1, $1 million event.

Medina Spirit is racing to secure the second jewel of the Triple Crown series. But his victory in the first jewel is in jeopardy after he tested positive for an anti-inflammatory substance that is banned on race days in Kentucky.

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Bob Baffert, who has trained six Preakness winners, has come under scrutiny since announcing Medina Spirit’s positive test result Sunday at Churchill Downs. The Hall of Fame conditioner did not travel to Baltimore to saddle the Derby winner and his other Preakness entrant, Concert Tour.

The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico, and the Maryland Jockey Club required Concert Tour and Medina Spirit to both undergo pre-race drug testing to be eligible to compete Saturday. Those governing bodies announced Friday that both colts passed those tests and were cleared to race.

While Medina Spirit is allowed to compete Saturday, controversy surrounding the colt’s Kentucky Derby win is far from over.

Lawsuits have been filed in both California and Kentucky on behalf of horseplayers seeking damages. Meanwhile an attorney for owner Amr Zedan is refuting claims Medina Spirit will be automatically disqualified should his split sample also return a positive test.

With Baffert staying home in California, Jimmy Barnes is handling day-to-day preparations this week at Pimlico. Medina Spirit represents the Baffert stable’s chance for a third Triple Crown – even if only temporarily – but Barnes said the barn is not playing favorites between the two.

Concert Tour (5-2) sat out the Kentucky Derby after a disappointing third-place effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Jockey Mike Smith will pilot the two-time Grade 2 winner, while jockey John Velazquez stays aboard Medina Spirit.

“Sure, we want a Triple Crown every time,” Barnes said. “But if Concert Tour didn’t get his chance in the Derby, this is his chance to shine.”

In addition to Medina Spirit, the only other Kentucky Derby runners to wheel back for the Preakness are Midnight Bourbon (5-1) and Keepmeinmind (15-1). New shooters include Concert Tour, Crowded Trade (10-1) and Rombauer (12-1).

Keep up with live Preakness odds throughout the day Saturday at this link.

Here is a look at the 2021 Preakness Stakes field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Ram (D. Wayne Lukas, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 30-1

2. Keepmeinmind (Robertino Diodoro, David Cohen), 15-1

3. Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez), 9-5

4. Crowded Trade (Chad Brown, Javier Castellano), 10-1

5. Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 5-1

6. Rombauer (Michael McCarthy, Flavien Prat), 12-1

7. France Go de Ina (Hideyuki Mori, Joel Rosario), 20-1

8. Unbridled Honor (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez), 15-1

9. Risk Taking (Chad Brown, Jose Ortiz), 15-1

10. Concert Tour (Bob Baffert, Mike Smith), 5-2

TimeformUS’ pace projections show the two Baffert horses, Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, setting the early pace in company, with Midnight Bourbon tracking in third. Keepmeinmind projects as the field’s deepest closer.

For more information on each of the Preakness Stakes’ 10 runners, check out HRN’s free past performances page.

Preakness links

See how five experts, including race announcers Larry Collmus and Dave Rodman, handicap the Preakness Stakes.

Padraic Manocchio takes on the task of ranking each Preakness contender from first through last. He likes a new shooter to cross first Saturday ahead of the Kentucky Derby runners.

Reinier Macatangay sizes up three long shots that could hit the board Saturday in the Preakness and analyzes the race’s pace picture. Macatangay also evaluates races throughout the Preakness card, identifying vulnerable favorites in some of the day’s stakes.

How do you hit the Preakness superfecta? Mike Shutty offers tips courtesy of the Preakness Stakes Super Screener.

This week on HorseCenter, hosts Matt Shifman and Brian Zipse discuss the controversy swirling around Medina Spirit while also making their Preakness picks. The Kentucky Winner’s Circle Podcast offers further discussion of the Preakness and embattled trainer Bob Baffert.

Where does blame lie in the Medina Spirit case? Four high-profile trainers, including Hall of Fame member D. Wayne Lukas, shared their thoughts this week with Ron Flatter.

If you are looking for inside information on Bob Baffert’s two Preakness starters, you cannot get much closer than exercise rider Humberto Gomez. He joined HRN and VSiN’s racing podcast to discuss his firsthand impressions of Concert Tour and Medina Spirit.

Trainer Chad Brown’s lone win in a Triple Crown event came with Cloud Computing in the 2017 Preakness. Brown starts Crowded Trade and Risk Taking in the race’s 2021 edition and hopes for a big bounce back from the latter of the two.

Rombauer clinched his Preakness Stakes berth by winning Golden Gate Fields’ El Camino Real Derby in February. Trainer Michael McCarthy would like a fast pace Saturday to aid his colt’s closing style.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro has climbed from “$3,000 horses running in Canada and at Turf Paradise” to starting Keepmeinmind in a pair of American Classics. Diodoro told Tom Pedulla why he thinks last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) winner is going the right direction ahead of the Preakness.

Todd Pletcher is not known for running many of his top 3-year-olds in the Preakness Stakes. The trainer takes a shot Saturday with Lexington Stakes (G3) runner-up Unbridled Honor, saying, “I think the timing suits him.”

Things have been back to normal for France Go de Ina after losing exercise rider Masaki Takano during a Wednesday workout. “The only casualty from the fall was a pair of Oakley sunglasses,” a field representative for the Japan Racing Association said.

Other Saturday stakes

Courtesy of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, here is a look at other graded stakes races taking place Saturday across the U.S. All times are EDT.

11:44 a.m. – $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes (G3), Pimlico, TVG

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a four-time winner of the Chick Lang Stakes, sends out West Point Thoroughbreds and Melvin Delfiner’s Jaxon Traveler in this year’s 46th running of the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds. Maryland-bred Jaxson Traveler broke his maiden last September debuting at Pimlico. He has won four of five starts, with his most recent victory coming in the listed six-furlong Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 24. Asmussen also has entered Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt’s Mighty Mischief, a 4½-length optional-claiming winner last time out at Oaklawn. Lea Farms’ Florida-bred Willy Boi, trained by Jeff Engler, won the listed Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March. 

1:26 p.m. – $150,000 Gallorette (G3), Pimlico, TVG

Alex G. Campbell Jr.’s 5-year-old mare Mean Mary, 6-5 on the morning line, seeks her fourth graded-stakes win when she makes her 2021 debut in Pimlico’s Gallorette at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares on turf. Trained by Graham Motion, last year Mean Mary won the Orchid (G3) and the La Prevoyante (G3), both at Gulfstream, and the New York (G2) at Belmont, before losing a heartbreaker to Rushing Fall by a neck in Saratoga’s Diana (G1). Mean Mary finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to close out the season. The Christophe Clement-trained Feeling Glorious (GB), a six-time winner, was second in the listed Sand Spring Stakes at Gulfstream on March 27. After six starts in France, Peter Brant’s 4-year-old Fighting Lady won her U.S. debut in an Aqueduct allowance race on April 3 for trainer Chad Brown.

4:30 p.m. – $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3), Santa Anita, TVG

Juddmonte’s Laurel River made a solid impression with a four-length maiden special weight score April 3 at Santa Anita and has been installed as the 4-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s Lazaro Barrera for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. Bob Baffert trains the bay son of Into Mischief, with Abel Cedillo named to ride. The main challenge should come from California-bred The Chosen Vron. Trained by Eric Kruljac, The Chosen Vron was third behind Concert Tour and Freedom Fighter in his second start, the San Vicente Stakes (G2), before winning the listed 6½-furlong Echo Eddie eight races after Laurel River broke his maiden on the same April 3 program at Santa Anita.

4:41 p.m. – $150,000 Maryland Sprint Match Series Stakes (G3), Pimlico, NBCSN

Eleven older runners will tackle the wide-open six-furlong Maryland Sprint Stakes, with Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ local 8-year-old gelding Laki getting the chance to show his stuff at Pimlico. Trained by Damon Dilodovico and ridden from post one by Horacio Karamanos, Maryland-bred Laki won his last two starts at Old Hilltop. On April 24, Laki won the listed six-furlong Frank Y. Whiteley Stakes, and prior to that, took the Frank J. De Francis (G3) last October. Courtland Farm’s Strike Power, trained by Steve Asmussen, was 1-for-3 at Oaklawn this year, taking an optional claimer and then finishing fourth behind C.Z. Rocket and Whitmore in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) on April 10.

5:38 p.m. – $250,000 Dinner Party Stakes (G2), Pimlico, NBCSN

The Chad Brown-trained Sacred Life is the 7-5 morning line favorite in an eight-horse field for the 120th running of Pimlico’s Dinner Party Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Sacred Life, ridden by Javier Castellano from post 5, has won two of six starts in the U.S. since coming over from France in 2019. He finished third in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland in his first start of the year April 9. Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s 5-year-old Somelikeithotbrown, who finished second in last year’s Dinner Party for trainer Mike Maker and won last year’s Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga, will try to improve on his seventh-place finish in the Maker’s Mark Mile.

5:52 p.m. – $100,000 Soaring Softly Stakes (G3), Belmont Park, FS2

A wide-open field of 11 3-year-old fillies are set for Belmont’s Soaring Softly at seven furlongs on the turf, led by the 5-2 morning line choice Toby’s Heart. Trained by Brian Lynch and ridden by Manny Franco, Toby’s Heart won the listed 5½-furlong Limestone Stakes at Keeneland on April 9 to improve her record to three wins in four starts. Trainer Christophe Clement will start Bach Stables’ Bye Bye, who broke her maiden by 2¾ lengths at five furlongs at Gulfstream Park on March 21, and Hoolie Racing Stable’s and Madaket Stables’ Hit the Woah, third last time out in the listed Sanibel Island at Gulfstream on March 27.

5:58 p.m. – $150,000 Louisville Stakes (G3), Churchill Downs, FS2 

Two-time Grade 1 winner Arklow makes his 2021 debut against 13 rivals in the Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs going 1½ miles on the turf. A 7-year-old son of Arch, owned by Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger and the Estate of Peter Coneway, Arklow finished second by a head in last year’s Louisville Stakes. He won the Kentucky Cup Turf (G3) at Kentucky Downs in September, and after a sixth-place finish in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, closed out 2020 by winning the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar on Nov. 27. Trained by Brad Cox, Arklow will be ridden by Florent Geroux. NBS Stable’s 6-year-old gelding Spooky Channel has won nine races for trainer Jason Barkley, including the John B. Connally (G3) at Sam Houston in January.

Preakness preview

From the Maryland Jockey Club:

Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit, who upset 18 rivals in the May 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs at 12-1, was installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 146th edition of the Grade 1, $1 million Preakness Stakes following Tuesday’s post-position draw at Pimlico Race Course.

The son of Protonico drew Post No. 3 and is scheduled to face nine other 3-year-olds in the 1 3/16-mile middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard for Medina Spirit’s front-running half-length decision at Churchill Downs, was awarded the return mount Saturday by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Preakness a record seven times, most notably with Triple Crown champions American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour, who incurred his first loss in four starts while finishing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park last time out, will also represent Baffert in the Preakness after skipping the Kentucky Derby. The homebred son of Street Sense, who will be ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, was rated second in the morning line at 5-2 after drawing Post No. 10.

The $1 million Preakness will headline a program with 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses.

Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Midnight Bourbon will remain on the Triple Crown trail Saturday after finishing a troubled sixth in the Kentucky Derby, 8½ lengths behind Medina Spirit. The son of Tiznow is rated third in the morning line at 5-1 and will break from Post No. 5.

Midnight Bourbon finished second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds prior to his Derby run. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has enjoyed success in the Preakness Stakes twice, saddling Curlin and filly Rachel Alexandra for victories in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Irad Ortiz Jr., the defending three-time Eclipse Award winner, is scheduled to ride Midnight Bourbon for the first time.

Trainer Chad Brown, who won the 2017 Preakness with Cloud Computing, will saddle Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Crowded Trade and Risk Taking in search of his second success in the event. Crowded Trade, who finished third in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct last time out, is rated at 10-1 in the morning line, while Risk Taking, who won the Withers (G3) before finishing a disappointing seventh in the Wood Memorial, is rated at 15-1. Crowded Trade drew Post No. 4, while Risk Taking will break from Post No. 9.

John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer, who most recently finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, has shipped from Southern California for the Preakness. The son of Twirling Candy, who is rated at 12-1 in the morning line, earned a fees-paid berth in the Preakness Stakes by capturing the “Win & In” El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 13. Rombauer will break from Post No. 6.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, will seek his first Preakness Stakes victory with Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Unbridled Honor. The son of Honor Code, who finished second in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last time out, was rated at 15-1 in the morning line after drawing Post No. 8.

Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Keepmeinmind will join Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon as the only horses in the Preakness starting gate that ran in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Laoban trailed the Derby field before closing well to finish seventh. The Robertino Diodoro-trained colt, who has been winless in three starts this year after winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill last fall, is rated at 15-1 in the morning line and will break from Post No. 2.

Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina, who raced three times in Japan before finishing sixth in the March 27 UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai, is rated at 20-1 in the Preakness morning line and will break from Post No. 7. The son of Will Take Charge will go to post in the Preakness five years after Japan-based Lani finished fifth in 2016.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has saddled six Preakness winners during his Hall of Fame career, will be represented in Preakness 146 by Ram, who is slated to make his stakes debut following back-to-back victories in a maiden claiming race at Oaklawn Park and an allowance race at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Christina Baker and William Mack’s son of American Pharoah was rated at 30-1 in the morning line after drawing the Post No. 1.

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