Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
Before we move forward to the only race that really matters, you know.....the one this site is devoted to, let's take a look back at the Preakness. My biggest thought is that it was as satisfying a race, and result, as any fan could have hoped to have seen. First of all, the best horse won, and also earned the victory by clearly running the best race. Rachel Alexandra vied for the lead on an extremely honest pace, one that doomed all others that dared to sit even close, drew off into the stretch, and still had enough left to hold off the horse that dominated the Kentucky Derby. Secondly, Mine That Bird confirmed his KY Derby win with an equally terrific effort, and in doing so proved that he is a completely different horse when significantly rated in his races and also one that may well have improved at exactly the right time. Plus, his jockey Mike Smith rode him flawlessly, as deep closers are almost always tricky to ride, and frequently victims of race dynamics as well as traffic. This is not to knock Calvin Borel, who has risen to new heights with two completely different and utterly flawless rides in both Triple Crown races, but Mike Smith showed that the real star is Mine That Bird, a horse that is much more than simply a lucky recipient of a brilliant ride in the KY Derby.
As for others in the Preakness, Musket Man also proved himself a consistently tough competitor, as unlike his KY Derby counterparts ( save Mine That Bird ) he once again showed up with a strong effort, and even improved to have likely run his best race yet. An argument could be made that if this exact field, minus Rachel Alexandra, had run in the Preakness, Musket Man would have won, as he would have stalked a more modest pace set by Big Drama, and taken over from that one, and further held off Mine That Bird who would have thus been compromised by a slower pace. A lot of ifs, no doubt, but hardly an impossible scenerio. Regardless, Musket Man remains a force to be reckoned with in the future. Big Drama didn't run that badly either, as he still finished 5th after dueling in the rapid pace in just his second start of the year, and ultimately may well be distance challenged. I look forward to seeing him in the King's Bishop on the Travers undercard in three months, a race that has the potential to be every bit as exciting as the main event that day. The 3YO sprinters of 2009 may be as talented and deep a crop as we have seen in many years ( if not ever ).
So, where does this leave us going forward? Well, quite obviously, a lot depends on whether or not Rachel Alexandra shows up in the Belmont Stakes. It is an understatement to say that should she run we will be treated to the kind of showdown that is all too rare in racing, one that will generate excitement for racing fans and non-fans throughout the world. If she doesn't run, we will still have a very interesting group, as not only will Mine That Bird be in the starting gate, Charitable Man and Dunkirk, among others, will very possibly be joining him. Whatever your opinion of them for the Belmont, both have shown genuine talent and promise in their short careers, and Dunkirk was too good in his first three races to take his performance in the sloppy KY Derby at face value. As of right now, whether or not Rachel Alexandra is in the gate on June 6th, I believe Dunkirk is the horse to beat. But, I still have 19 days to come to my senses.
Good luck to that happening.