Between a Rock and a Hard Place

2014Preakness

by Angela Hermann

I’ll be watching the Preakness this Saturday from a few different vantage points.  First, there’s live racing going on.  It’s a different beast than when the race is only being shown via simulcast, and admittedly my attention this week has been shared between all of these events.  Second, there’s the racing fan in me.  California Chrome follows in the footsteps of many a Derby winner as the morning line favorite in the Preakness.  None in recent memory, however, have garnered quite the support right from the start (that morning line – WOAH) in their quest for the second jewel in the Triple Crown.  Big Brown came close, but even just advances in social media have made this attractive colt a popular pick not only in this race, but in three weeks at Belmont Park.

Indeed, due to the stock left in the hopper in the three year old colt division many are ready to hand over the TC to CC…..but is it that easy?  He definitely scared off the majority of the Derby field, but they were perceived as rather mediocre before that time too weren’t they?  Even if he breezes through Baltimore, ‘Chrome will have faces waiting for him in New York that he’s seen before.  A few will be faces that weren’t that far behind his back hooves at a mile and a quarter.  I’m not saying it’s not a major possibility this year, but is my memory the only one that recalls how many other Iron-Looking Horses emerged from the Derby only to be humbled by the difficult trail that is winning all three races in a matter of five weeks?  Much is being made of some throat blister, but in any other stall but the Derby winner’s there most likely wouldn’t even be a second thought put to it.  We may hear about it afterwards if he runs anything but first…..but don’t let something like that deter you if he’s your horse.  The point is valid that runs among trainers who’ve won the Derby: The bottom put in by a race like that is usually good enough to have a horse ready to roll a half furlong shorter at Pimlico.  Heck, the chips are stacked in his corner and the price again will be unsavory.  Derby winners have switched off between winning & placing in the Preakness in the past decade or so though, and the defeats haven’t always come to superhorses.  The other view will come from that of a gambler….and betting CC really isn’t worth it outside of exotics.

The gambler in me has a little too much pride when it comes to the Preakness.  I’ll admit it, I stand by my horse that I’ve been after all spring because of his price.  Bayern may not go off at 10-1, but he may never be close to his eventual price in his life again.  Of course this all depends on his performance Saturday, but he hasn’t thrown in a clunker yet.  I was not in the camp that expected him to waltz away with the Derby Trial.  Yes, probably thought he’d win by more than he did but it was still only his fourth career start.  He at least answered the question of what he’d do when looked in the eye by a horse – And one has to respect the fact that he would NOT let Embellishing Bob pass, even if it meant punishment from the stewards.  I’ve never been a huge Offlee Wild fan, but that bottom line is something to be coveted.  He’s out of an unraced Thunder Gulch mare who can count Althea among her aunts.  The whole bunch could run far and against nice horses…doesn’t he get another chance at this kind of distance?  I’d be tempted to say that most horses who’ve won their first couple of races as fast as he did and the way that he did are written off as “Middle distance” animals before the prove or disprove their merits down the road.  I won’t be unloading any massive amounts of money on him but he will be on my tickets.  One more chance for Bobby & Bayern, then I’m off the wagon too.  If he wins, the sting is alleviated.  If CC pulls through again, I’ll never be happier to be wrong.

Whether you play Canterbury, the Preakness or both (I strongly encourage option C), wager wisely and enjoy the festivities of opening weekend!

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