LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Last year’s Kentucky Derby runners dominated the 2018 Preakness, with Justify winning, Bravazo finishing second, Good Magic fourth, and Lone Sailor fifth. Only the newcomer Tenfold, who rallied to be third, prevented a Kentucky Derby sweep of the Preakness superfecta.
Such dominance may prove difficult to repeat this year. As of Thursday, nine days before the Preakness, four Derby horses – Improbable, War of Will, Win Win Win, and Bodexpress – were being considered, and none was among the top three in the Derby. Improbable, elevated to fourth place upon the disqualification of Maximum Security, finished closest, beaten 3 1/4 lengths.
This leaves newcomers with a better chance than usual to win the Preakness, something done by non-Derby starters only four times since the turn of the century. Cloud Computing was the last to do so in 2017, following Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Bernardini in 2006, and Red Bullet in 2000.
With that backdrop, let’s get acquainted with some of the new shooters being considered for the Preakness. Listed below are the four who most excite and are preferred over Signalman and Laughing Fox, other early possibilities.
◗ Alwaysmining – A winner of six straight, including the Federico Tesio Stakes on April 20, he is hard to evaluate since he has no graded stakes experience and has recorded all of his victories at Laurel Park. He is somewhat battle tested, however, having beaten a couple of horses who went on to race in the Derby. He defeated Win Win Win, seventh in the Derby, in the Heft Stakes late last year, and a couple months later in the Miracle Wood, he easily handled Gray Magician, who would be the runner-up in the UAE Derby in Dubai before running last in the Kentucky Derby.
Alwaysmining’s last couple of stakes have not included horses of that quality. Few top local colts were willing to take him on, and the races proved little more than exhibitions. However, these races still seem meaningful, particularly the 1 1/8-mile Tesio, where he was given the opportunity to come from just off the pace, a departure from his pacesetting style.
◗ Anothertwistafate – Of all the newcomers, he is the one who most intrigues this handicapper. Originally a standout on the synthetic at Golden Gate Fields, he took his show on the road this spring, falling just short of qualifying for the Derby after runner-up finishes in the Sunland Derby and Lexington Stakes. Though he lost those races, he handled dirt without issue and threatened despite less-than-ideal trips. His poor journey was unmistakable in the Lexington, where he was boxed in for much of the running, which was especially detrimental for a speed horse like him since it took away his strength of sustained pace.
◗ Bourbon War – He came close to making the Derby but failed to crack the top three in the Florida Derby. Although he was a nonthreatening fourth that day, the Florida Derby proved a key Derby prep. The victorious Maximum Security crossed the wire first in the Derby, only to come down for veering out late on the second turn, and Code of Honor, who ran third in the Florida Derby, crossed the wire third and was moved up to second.
In particular, the competitive effort from Code of Honor in Louisville points to Bourbon War being a Preakness player. Twice this year in Florida, Bourbon War was precisely three-quarters of a length behind that rival, first when second to him in the Fountain of Youth and then in the Florida Derby, narrowly beaten for the show position by Code of Honor.
◗ Owendale – He took advantage of Anothertwistafate being stuck in traffic in the Lexington, swooping past on the outside and getting the jump on that rival, but this colt still deserves credit for winning a fast race despite losing ground. Although just a Grade 3, the Lexington rated highly on speed figures. It earned him a 95 Beyer Speed Figure and a 120 TimeformUS rating – numbers more in line with a major Kentucky Derby prep than a secondary one such as the Lexington.
His Lexington was a reversal of form from his Feb. 16 Risen Star loss, his only other stakes start, where he ran eighth behind War of Will and Country House, beaten 10 lengths.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.