In search of redemption at Pimlico

May, 15, 2013

As much as the Preakness serves as the second leg of the Triple Crown, it also represents an opportunity for a second chance.

The long history of the Triple Crown includes several chapters in which a horse erased the painful memory of an awful effort in the Kentucky Derby by winning the Preakness.

All in all, since 1984, 16 of the past 29 Preakness winners were beaten in the Derby, a statistic that resonates with five probable starters in Saturday's race.

In 1986, Snow Chief was sent off as the $2.10-1 favorite in the Derby but wound up a surprisingly poor 11th. Two weeks later, though, he rebounded to win the Preakness as the 5-2 second choice.

Five years later, Hansel finished 10th as the 5-2 favorite in the Derby. Overlooked at 9-1 odds two weeks later at Pimlico, he reverted to top form and won the Preakness. He also won the Belmont Stakes.

Longshots have also found redemption in the Preakness. Louis Quatorze was 16th in the 1996 Derby at 13-1 odds and bounced back to take the Preakness at 8-1 odds.

All in all, since 1984, 16 of the past 29 Preakness winners were beaten in the Derby, a statistic that resonates with five probable starters in Saturday's race.

Two in particular, though, who are hoping to prove that the first Saturday in May was simply one very bad day are Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents.

Both horses figured to play key roles in the outcome of the Derby.

Goldencents was the 7-1 third choice in the Run for the Roses after winning the Santa Anita Derby, but finished 17th in a field of 19.

Itsmyluckyday was sent off at 9-1 in the Derby and finished slightly better than Goldencents -- with slightly meaning a 15th-place finish.

In the case of both horses, there were several potentially valid reasons for their awful efforts. The sloppy track in the Derby, for one. The blistering early pace each of them chased, for two.

Then again, maybe they peaked in April instead of May and are in the midst of tailspins.

Deciding on the right answer to those possibilities can add a few of the pieces to the puzzle that is the Preakness.

Orb, the Derby winner, is unquestionably the horse to beat.

But his main competition? Triple Crown newcomer Departing? Mylute, who was fifth in the Derby?

GoldencentsGetty ImagesGoldencents looks to prove his 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby was an anomaly.
Perhaps it could be Goldencents. While no match for Orb in the Derby, his race in the Santa Anita Derby indicates he has much more ability than he showed in a 49 ½-length loss in the slop at Churchill Downs.

Perhaps on a dry track he can reprise the form he showed in his three stakes wins -- the Santa Anita Derby, Sham Stakes and Delta Downs Jackpot -- and use his sharp early speed to make things difficult for Orb.

Itsmyluckyday has even better credentials in one regard. Prior to finishing up the track in the Derby, he was second in the Florida Derby to … Orb. Itsmyluckyday finished just 2 ¾ lengths behind Orb that day, a far cry from the 22 ¼ lengths he was beaten by in the Derby.

What happened to him in the Derby? Who knows.

Yet if there were any lingering aftereffects from his bad day in Louisville, they were not apparent this past Sunday when he worked between races at Monmouth and reeled off a speedy 47 ⅕ four-furlong drill.

"Perfect. He did just what I wanted," trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said about the work. "I caught him galloping out in 59 [seconds] and change. I couldn't have asked for it to work out any better."

Whether either horse can derail Orb's bid for the Triple Crown remains to be seen. But for Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday, the Preakness clearly offers something that is not always readily available in life -- a second chance.

On Saturday, it will be up to one of them to take advantage of it.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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