Only one horse has a chance to win the Triple Crown and that's Kentucky Derby champion Super Saver. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will take the next step towards racing immortality this Saturday in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
Super Saver benefited from a dream trip two weeks ago when jockey Calvin Borel hugged the rail throughout most of the Derby before drawing off to an easy 2 1/2-length victory over the fast-closing Ice Box. Borel has now won three of the last four Triple Crown events, including the 2009 Preakness aboard Rachel Alexandra.
Can Super Saver duplicate his previous outstanding performance? Its quite possible, but the morning line favorite will not have the luxury of a sloppy race course this time around. That could be a huge factor since two of his three lifetime wins have come on off-tracks. In addition, the WinStar Farm homebred will not be running at Churchill Downs, a surface he absolutely adores.
Theres no doubt the Derby winner is a very good colt in a year in which the three-year-old crop is loaded with average horses. But he has never posted back-to-back wins in his seven-race career, and his odds this coming Saturday will be much lower than the 8-1 the public received two weeks ago.
Super Savers main competitor is Kentucky Derby favorite, Lookin At Lucky. The Bob Baffert-trained colt comes into the Preakness with a different jockey for the first time as Martin Garcia replaces Garrett Gomez in the saddle.
Trouble is this colts middle name and the Kentucky Derby was just another in a long line of miserable trips for the son of Smart Strike.
Most public handicappers shied away from Lookin At Lucky in the Derby after the colt drew the inside post position in the 20-horse field. The two-year-old champ felt the consequences right away getting pushed from the eighth spot all the way back to 18th in a matter of seconds.
Lookin At Lucky still made an impressive move, closing from 18th to sixth as the field moved through the stretch, but he ran out of gas inside the final furlong without improving his position.
Even if Lookin At Lucky receives a better trip this Saturday, winning the Preakness might be asking a lot for this California-based three-year-old. Its been almost a decade since the last time a West Coast horse (Point Given in 2001) won the Preakness.
Moreover, its hard to bet on a horse that consistently finds himself in tight quarters each and every race, especially as the probable second choice.
OTHER KEY CONTENDERS
Paddy OPrado sports in-the-money finishes in six of his last seven appearances, including a third in the Kentucky Derby.
After racing just off the lead in his two previous starts, the son of El Prado came off the pace at Churchill Downs getting a similar rail trip to Super Saver. The only difference was the winner had a free and clear path while Paddy OPrado had to veer in and out behind tiring horses.
Theres no denying the fact he could improve on his third-place effort with a better trip, but dont forget, he still has won only one race in his seven- race career, not the prototypical record for a Preakness winner.
Super Savers other three main challengers did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
Schoolyard Dreams makes his first start in six weeks after a dismal fourth to Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial, and after the race, trainer Derek Ryan revealed the horse was less than 100 percent due to a slight throat problem.
Prior to that effort, the son of Stephen Got Even made a huge middle move in the Tampa Bay Derby, wresting the lead away from Super Saver around the final turn before losing to Odysseus by a nose. On the negative side, that race was already his third start in 2010 while Super Saver was making his first appearances in over three months.
Also, its unclear whether Schoolyard Dreams will be as effective at the 1 3/16-mile distance compared to 1 1/16-miles, so proceed with caution at the betting windows.
Caracortado is another three-year-old that finished fourth in his latest race. However, the gelding had a legitimate excuse in the Santa Anita Derby as he was interfered with by a fast fading Lookin At Lucky.
Trainer Michael Machowsky has trained Caracortado up to the Preakness working him seven furlongs in 1:24 3/5 in preparations for the colts first trek over 1 1/8-miles.
Lightly-raced Yawanna Twist is the final horse with a shot at crossing the wire first on Saturday. His 30-1 morning line suggests little chance, but dont be deceived by that number. The stakes-placed three-year-old has as much talent as any other horse in this field.
His second-place finish in the Illinois Derby was a much better effort than it looked on paper. The race was only his fourth ever start and first away from his home base in New York.
It was also the first time Yawanna Twist stalked the leader on his own as he sat a length or two behind American Lion for the first six furlongs. He then ran head-and-head with the pacesetter from the far turn until the eighth-pole before failing to keep pace over the tiring and heavy Hawthorne surface.
Even with the loss, he still finished over 11 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher. That experience should give the son of Yonaguska the bottom he needs to improve even more in his fifth career start.
Yawanna Twist is also bred to handle the extra distance as both his grandsire (Cherokee Run - 1993) and damsire (Olivers Twist - 1995) finished second in the Preakness.
Selections: 1) Yawanna Twist; 2) Super Saver; 3) Lookin At Lucky