Creative Secret

There is no Triple Crown on the line in this year’s $1.65 million Preakness Stakes.

But Kentucky Oaks Winner SECRET OATH will face the 2nd- and 4th-place finishers from the Derby.

The Preakness is scheduled as race 13 on a card of 14, with a scheduled Post Time of 7:05. Here then is a look at the field.

1. SIMPLIFICATION [ML 6-1] Trainer: Antonio Sano. Jockey: John Velazquez. Although the Kentucky Derby was the first time SIMPLIFICATION finished off the board in a dirt race, his 4th-place finish was another excellent effort. The post-position draw here is a minor concern: From the rail he might be forced to use his speed to get position or risk being shuffled too far back. There is legitimate early speed in this field. Yet, he should not be completely ignored as another finish in the exotics is possible.

2. CREATIVE MINISTER [ML 10-1] Trainer: Ken McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr. He began his career only two months ago and in three starts has two Wins and a loss by a neck in his debut. At Keeneland, he broke his Maiden on a sloppy track and then impressed in an Allowance on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He had to be a $150,000 supplemental Triple Crown nomination to become eligible for the Preakness. His trainer Won the Preakness two years ago with the filly SWISS SKYDIVER. His speed figures have made significant improvement with each race.  

3. FENWICK [ML 50-1] Trainer: Kevin McKathan. Jockey: Florent Geroux. Broke his Maiden in his fifth race in March at Tampa Bay Downs with a front-running effort. He moved onto the Kentucky Derby trail in the Blue Grass (G1) and was a distant last-place finisher. The Preakness will be the sixth different track he has raced at, working for his third trainer. His 50-1 morning line odds seem about right. 

4. SECRET OATH [ML 9-2] Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Saez. Was an impressive Winner of the Kentucky Oaks against a strong field of 14 while once again displaying a turn of foot that allowed her to take control of that race and draw away. She will attempt to become the seventh filly to Win the Preakness, joining the two most recent – SWISS SKYDIVER in 2020 and RACHEL ALEXANDRA in 2009. Lukas has six Wins in the Preakness, including OXBOW in 2013. With plenty of speed in the Preakness field, she should get an ideal setup that will allow her to make the final – and possibly Winning move. 

5. EARLY VOTING [ML 7-2] Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. He is a neck away from being unbeaten in three starts. That narrow loss came in the Wood Memorial (G2) when he was caught by MO DONEGAL in the nine-furlong Derby prep race. He has honest early speed and is expected to go to the front right out of the gate, but a couple of other horses can pressure him for the lead. Has Brown made the right decision to skip the Derby to run at Pimlico as he did when he Won the Preakness in 2017 with CLOUD COMPUTING ?  

6. HAPPY JACK [ML 30-1] Trainer: Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione.  The blinkers go back on HAPPY JACK, who ran 14th in the Derby after being last in the early going. Since he broke his Maiden at first asking in a sprint at Santa Anita, he was beaten by double-digit margins in all four starts. He did finish 3rd twice on the Derby trail in California, but he was far behind throughout those races.  

7. ARMAGNAC [ML 12-1] Trainer: Tim Yakteen. Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr. Was a late addition to the Preakness as his trainer thought that his front-end Victory in a Santa Anita Allowance was enough to earn a chance in Baltimore. That Win came against a field of six. His speed could place him among the early leaders on Saturday. ARMAGNAC shows up here with Morning-Line odds of 12-1 even though twice he was beaten by (30-1) HAPPY JACK on the Derby trail in California. 

8. EPICENTER [ML 6-5] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Aside from his debut race, he was 1st or 2nd in his next six races since November. That, of course, includes his 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, where he battled to beat all of his expected challengers only to get defeated by the long shot RICH STRIKE. It’s been a long campaign for EPICENTER, and he certainly deserves to be the favorite. Handicappers making a stand against him, wonder if he will be able to come up with another big effort after the ten-furlong battle in the Derby.  

9. SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING [ML 20-1] Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. He was 3rd in the Wood Memorial last month, but he was not a threat to Win or even finish 2nd. It was a positive to see him run well away from the Gulfstream Park base of his trainer. His sire EXAGGERATOR Won the Preakness in 2016. He will have to make a HUGE step forward to be a contender. 

SUMMARY: Horses coming from the Kentucky Derby or other races that weekend have the advantage in the Preakness. This year’s field of nine has five of them – #1 SIMPLIFICATION, #2 CREATIVE MINISTER, #4 SECRET OATH, #6 HAPPY JACK and #8 EPICENTER.

From that group CREATIVE MINISTER, SECRET OATH and EPICENTER must be considered.

EPICENTER looked like a Winner in the Derby as he fought hard to defeat the expected challengers only to get upset by RICH STRIKE. Did that effort will take something out of EPICENTER ? And if you believe it did, his 6-5 Morning Line odds are even more discouraging.

CREATIVE MINISTER is all fire and brimstone right now and should run well on the heels of an easy Victory on the Derby day undercard. He will have to take another step forward, but he is a threat if he does so and will off Value.

But…SECRET OATH had a far less strenuous race in her Oaks Victory, is going to get an ideal pace scenario and as the morning line third choice, she is preferred.

If you’re looking for a new shooter to wager on, look no further than #5 EARLY VOTING. He looks very much like 2017 Preakness Winner CLOUD COMPUTING. He is the only major contender not returning in two weeks, and Chad Brown’s fresh colt might not look back.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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