May 23, 2008
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
With a field of 12 going into the starting gate for the 133rd Preakness Stakes BIG BROWN, the Derby hero was sent off as 1-5 favorite and he didn’t disappoint scoring by more than five lengths.
As they broke from the gate, 36-1 longshot RILEY TUCKER showed speed from the outside but couldn’t outrun the second choice in the race and the only other Derby holdover GAYEGO. With Mike Smith aboard, GAYEGO made the lead into the first turn and held that advantage down the backstretch through solid fractions of 23:2, 46:4, 1:10:2, and for a second, just a split second we thought we may have been seeing a replay of the 1986 Preakness when SNOW CHIEF was able to rebound from a poor Derby effort and wire the Preakness field but it wasn’t to be as they hit the second turn and Smith was all over GAYEGO with RILEY TUCKER pressing from between horses while BIG BROWN loomed three wide in third.
As they entered the stretch, Kent Desormeaux shook the reins at BIG BROWN and in a split second he drew away to score by a geared down five and one quarter lengths. MACHO AGAIN who was coming off a win in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs closed well to get up for second while New York bred ICABAD CRANE checked in third. RACECAR RHAPSODY, who made a big move to get into contention at the top of the stretch tired late for fourth. GAYEGO, the pacesetter and the only other horse under double digit odds tired to finish 11th, while RILEY TUCKER the other pacesetter tired to finish 12th and last.
KENTUCKY BEAR, who was sent off as the 13-1 third choice and was the “wise guy” horse heading into the Preakness ran for about a 1/16th of a mile before checking in an even sixth.
The final time of the Preakness was 1:54:4 which is a solid final time considering that BIG BROWN was geared down late. However, this might be the weakest crop of three year olds we have seen yet. BIG BROWN is dominant and is a tremendous talent and his quest for the first Triple Crown in 30 years will have many people at Beautiful Belmont Park come June 7th, 2008. He will undoubtedly be a very heavy favorite again with only one horse that anyone will even give a chance to in the race.
CASINO DRIVE, owned by Japanese interests was impressive when winning his second career start in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. He also has a good family tree. His dam, BETTER THAN HONOUR has produced the last two Belmont Stakes winners in JAZIL in 2006 and RAGS TO RICHES in 2007. The fact that she will even have a chance to make it three in a row is mind-boggling. JAZIL is by SEEKING THE GLORY, RAGS TO RICHES is by A. P. INDY while CASINO DRIVE is by Horse of the Year MINESHAFT. As of now the rider of CASINO DRIVE is still up in the air. Kent Desormeaux rode him in the Peter Pan so now there is a search for a rider. Yutaka Take, the great rider from Japan is under consideration but he might be committed to ride in a race over in Japan the day after the Belmont and the connections of CASINO DRIVE said that maybe an American rider that knows the track might be a better fit. Edgar Prado, Garret Gomez and John Velazquez all are great choices and we should know in the coming days who will guide CASINO DRIVE for his own quest for history.
However, with all that being said CASINO DRIVE will have a huge task in front of him trying to deny BIG BROWN the Triple Crown. BIG BROWN’s biggest obstacle is the 1 and ½ miles distance, it got to SMARTY JONES in 2004 and REAL QUIET in 1998 as both had the lead in the stretch only to get run down late and finish second, the latter by just a nose. We are looking forward to the Belmont as anticipation of the Crown awaits and these next few weeks should be exciting with Richard Dutrow Jr, the trainer of BIG BROWN, a very quotable sort. Good luck to BIG BROWN and his connections and to the racing world that could really use a boost in the arm; and more importantly let’s hope every one, horse and rider come back safe and sound.
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