Before we get to the Preakness picks, let's reflect quickly about the Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird defied all handicapping rules by winning in Louisville, except for those who play colors, numbers or names or want to take a $2 flyer on a 50-1 shot. The only logical reason to play the fourth-place finisher from the Sunland Derby was because he had Calvin Borel on his back, but there were jockeys just as good as Borel in the race -- some even better -- who were aboard much more accomplished horses.
So now we're on to the Preakness, which gained intrigue over the last two weeks with the purchase of super filly Rachel Alexandra and the short-lived considerations by some owners to enter no-hopers in an attempt to exclude the dominant Kentucky Oaks winner from the race. But that movement died quickly, so the girl will race the boys -- and will retain Borel as her jockey, no less (Mike Smith will ride Mine That Bird) -- in a Preakness stocked with storylines.
Selections: 13 Rachel Alexandra (8-5) 1 Big Drama (10-1) 5 Friesan Fire (6-1) 2 Mine That Bird (6-1)
13 Rachel AlexandraIn decimating the Kentucky Oaks field by more than 20 lengths, she put on a performance that only great horses do. Despite Borel not even asking her to run, she earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, which was three points better than Mine That Bird's the following day. She has won five straight, by a total of 43 ½ lengths, and because she has won so easily, she still has much left in the tank, which is more than you can say about many of these hard-knocking leftovers from the Derby trail. The only question is: how will she handle racing against the boys for the first time? In this opinion, easily. A formidable favorite.
1 Big DramaThis speedy colt had enough earnings to run in the Derby, but his connections passed to aim for this spot. He has won five of seven starts, including 2-for-2 around two turns, and is eligible to move forward from his last race since it was his first in more than three months. After drawing the rail, he's the most likely pacesetter and should still be in front at the top of the stretch.
5 Friesan FireHe was this column's pick to win two weeks ago and, despite being beaten by more than 42 lengths and finishing 18th, we're sticking with the beaten Derby favorite. He had arguably the roughest trip of all the horses after being bumped at the gate, and when jockey Gabriel Saez realized the colt wasn't firing that day, he shut Friesan Fire down. Since then, the horse has worked five furlongs in a tick over :58 at Pimlico, so perhaps not being pushed on Derby day actually saved some gas for the Fire. Remember, the Derby was his first start off a seven-week layoff, so he still has bullets left.
2 Mine That BirdBe careful not to dismiss the longshot Derby winner. Many are claiming the victory to be a fluke, a combination of a sloppy track, a favorable rail trip and a savvy jockey. But there's also the possibility that the gelding is just coming into his own at the right time. He was the only horse to do any kind of running in that race, and there's no reason to think he can't do it again.
Musket Man was very game in the last furlong of the Derby and always seems to run his race.... Pioneerof the Nile doesn't seem to have the explosive kick when he's stalking the pace, which he's done in his last two races, as he does when he sits back as a closer. He and Papa Clem were in position to pounce at the top of the stretch at Churchill, but neither showed acceleration.... Late-running Terrain could pick up the pieces to hit the board.
Preakness preview galleryWho do you think will win the Preakness, and why? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.