How important is speed in the Preakness Stakes? I have watched the Preakness from 2015 to 2009 and have seen only two horses really come off the pace — Lookin at Lucky and I’ll Have Another. All other wins were by horses that were on or just off the lead.
The 2016 edition of the Preakness Stakes has no shortage of horses who like to be on just off the lead.
Not including Nyquist, let’s look at who has speed and if it could be genuine, as six out of eight “new shooters” have speed.
Stradivari is going to make his fourth start in the Preakness Stakes and will be the only starter in the race for trainer Todd Pletcher. Neither of the horses that finished second to him in his two wins have come back to win a race. So far, we are not sure how good Stradivari is, as he has yet to take on quality horses. However, he has soundly defeated some lesser quality types and looks to continue improving. He seems like a horse that will really come into his own later in the summer, so a defeat in the Preakness will not be the end of the world for the well-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro.
Moving on, Awesome Speed looks to try tougher competition once again. He is bred very well for the Preakness, as he has a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and a Belmont Stakes winner in the first two generations of his pedigree. However, Awesome Speed has only won at the minor stakes level, faltering in his only graded stakes tries. He was fourth in the Florida Derby behind Nyquist, who he tries to defeat in Baltimore. He did defeat (by disqualification) Governor Malibu, who recently finished second in the Peter Pan, in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel. He also defeated Fellowship in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. He seems to have speed that should carry further than some others in the field.
Uncle Lino, by virtue of winning the California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos, became Preakness contender. The colt is the most accomplished from his dam and is from the first crop of Uncle Mo, which seems to be dominating everywhere. While Uncle Lino is not currently a major stakes winner, he is Grade I placed, as he picked up the pieces in the Santa Anita Derby to finished third. He has been facing stellar competition and picking up only minor prizes.
Laoban is the maiden that did not make the Kentucky Derby field, so here he is, trying to break his maiden in the Preakness Stakes. Laoban is neither bred for the Preakness distance, nor has he shown the ability to win a race of this magnitude. He has been running against the top competition for trainer Eric Guillot, running in three straight stakes races. Laoban is seemingly cheap speed and will likely fold by the top of the stretch.
Dazzling Gem has only won two of his four starts, while not defeating quality competition. He seems to not have enough by the middle of the stretch and gets collared. He was fourth in the Arkansas Derby, which is the furthest he has ever traveled. Dazzling Gem looks like one of the speed horses that could possibly change his running style to sit off some of the horses with more speed and put in a run later in the race. He has a lot of improvement to do before the Pimlico finish line.
Finally, Bob Baffert takes on Nyquist once again, but this time, with a “new shooter” in Collected, winner of the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Collected has a bit more versatility that others. He was able to sit off the pace in the Lexington, but, in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes, he went wire to wire. Collected recently worked seven furlongs in his last two workouts, going 1:25.6 and 1:25.8. He is for sure fit, but is he able to defeat Nyquist?
The Preakness always seems to attract more speed than the Kentucky Derby, especially with the points system in place to regulate the horses able to start in the Kentucky Derby. However, since the points system, the Preakness winner has been on or close to the front of the pack. In 2013, Oxbow upset the 2013 Preakness at odds of 15-1. That is the only upset the Preakness has seen since 2013, however. California Chrome and American Pharoah were favorites for the race and were blanketed in Black Eyed Susans afterward. Speed normally does hold up in the Preakness better than the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, however.
This year, Nyquist tries to put a Triple Crown on the line in the Belmont Stakes after only one year removed from American Pharoah and his rise to immortality. If Nyquist can win the Preakness, which I personally think he will, then he will be putting it all on the line in Elmont, New York, attempting to become a 13th Triple Crown winner. Based on the speed in the race, Nyquist is the quality and class of the field.
Can Nyquist do it again and make is nine straight?