When a fresh face to the Triple Crown arrives on the scene at the Preakness, there is always a degree of interest, with people wondering, "Is this perhaps the horse who can beat the Kentucky Derby winner?"
Yet far more often than not over the past 20 years, these new shooters have been horses to avoid in the win betting for the Preakness. Since 1997, just three Preakness winners did not race in the Kentucky Derby: Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, and the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
It has been the Derby winners and, to a lesser degree, losers in the Derby who have fared best. The Derby winner has won 10 of the past 20 Preakness Stakes, with horses who lost in the Derby winning seven times over that period.
That is not to suggest that these new shooters should be entirely dismissed. They have blown up the exotics in recent years by cracking the top three, several times at large prices.
Cherry Wine split the victorious Exaggerator and Derby winner and third-place Nyquist in finishing second at 17-1 odds last year; Tale of Verve and Divining Rod ran second and third behind American Pharoah at 28-1 and 12-1 in 2015; and in 2014, Social Inclusion finished third behind California Chrome as the 5-1 second choice.
So, knowing the potential value that a top-three finish from a new shooter to the Triple Crown could add to Preakness gimmicks, let's examine the fresh additions to the Triple Crown.
He is the least-experienced entrant, having made just three starts, all at Aqueduct, with his most recent finish being a third place in the Wood Memorial. It was partially for this reason that his trainer, 2016 Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, opted to bypass the Kentucky Derby and point to the Preakness, along with the fact that owners Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence had Practical Joke for the Derby, in which he ran fifth.
Cloud Computing seems to have upside, so much so that Javier Castellano jumped off Gunnevera, whom he rode to be seventh in the Derby, in favor of this colt (though he often does ride for this barn).
The form from Cloud Computing's two stakes races has not held up well, with Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry running 10th in the Derby and J Boys Echo, who defeated Cloud Computing in the preceding Gotham Stakes, running 15th in Louisville.
Conquest Mo Money
A speedy colt purchased for a mere $8,500 at the Conquest Stable dispersal in November at Keeneland, he has won three races and placed in two others while earning $508,900. No wonder owner Judge Lanier Racing is willing to put up a $150,000 supplemental fee to run him in the Preakness.
Although his highest Beyer Speed Figures, a 93 for a second in the Arkansas Derby and a 91 for another runner-up finish in the Sunland Park Derby, are moderate at best, the form from the Arkansas Derby held up in Louisville. The winner, Classic Empire, ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby after early trouble, and third-place Lookin At Lee rallied to be second.
He was purchased privately after a determined victory in the April 22 Illinois Derby, in which he ran down the favored Hedge Fund after that one had spurted away at the top of the stretch. Even against a mediocre graded-stakes cast, it represented an encouraging victory from this still-developing 3-year-old, who one start earlier won a maiden race in this third race at Fair Grounds.
Speed-figure handicappers won't be as enthused about his chances since his top Beyer is just an 88 and others in this field such as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire have each run a 102 in their most significant victories.
He came rolling late to win the 1 1/16-mile Lexington Stakes on April 15 at Keeneland, making up 11 lengths over the second half of the race, including four lengths in the final furlong. Now, he gets an extra furlong in which to race in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.
Although he turned in an improved effort in winning the Lexington, that race did not draw the cream of the 3-year-old crop, and his victory might not have come at all if the third-place finisher in the Lexington, No Dozing, had not experienced a rough trip that seemingly cost him more than the neck he was beaten.
One start before the Lexington, Senior Investment was sixth in his only other stakes race, the Louisiana Derby, a race from which the one-two finishers -- Girvin and Patch -- came back to be rear-half finishers in the Kentucky Derby.
Term of Art
Following a seventh in the Santa Anita Derby, in which a grueling pace would have figured to play to his closing style and make him a factor, he probably will be the longest shot in the Preakness at odds of 30-1 or higher.
Even if the Santa Anita Derby is excused, his earlier races this year do not suggest Preakness success. He kicked off the year with a fifth in the Sham Stakes, followed by a fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and then was third in the San Felipe in his race before the Santa Anita Derby.
Of those, his race in the San Felipe was his best, though he merely picked up the pieces to be third behind Mastery and Iliad while never a threat.