Friday, May 15, 2009

Supergirl vs. Underdog

For everyone that hasn't been following all of the intrigue and maneuvering leading up to the Preakness at Pimlico tomorrow, here's a recap:

Rachel Alexandra, the superlative filly who crushed the Kentucky Oaks by 20+ lengths was not nominated to the triple crown by her original owners (a horse is nominated via a fee paid by the owners prior to the Kentucky Derby). Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer were planning to run their horse in the Oaks and were then considering starting her in the Belmont Stakes in June, which they could enter by paying a supplemental fee as long as all of the available slots were not taken by triple crown nominees.

After her outstanding Oaks performance, the star filly was purchased from Morrison and Lauffer by Jess Jackson, owner of the celestial Curlin, for between three and four million dollars. Jackson immediately announced his intention to run her in the Preakness.

The Preakness is limited to fourteen starters, and like all the triple crown races, preference is given to nominees. The rules state that if there are any available slots left over they can be had via a supplemental fee (in this case $100,000).

There were available slots, but the owners of the other horses initially planned to fill them with nominees that they were not planning to run in order to keep the super-filly out. This was especially important to Mine That Bird's connections, because their rider, Calvin Borel, had agreed to ride Rachel Alexandra in all her races this year (he rode her in the Oaks). Borel's rail skimming ride was a huge part of Mine That Bird's 50-1 upset in the Derby.

In the end, the other owners relented, and Rachel is in. Mike Smith, who piloted Giacomo to a 50-1 upset in the 2005 Derby will climb aboard Mine That Bird.

So Rachel Alexandra is the morning line favorite for the race, and on paper looks head and shoulders above the boys. She'll attempt to become the first filly to win the Preakness since Nellie Morse did it in 1924, but she's probably not aware of this.

This is all very nice in terms of girlpower, but the betting opportunities are stingy. She's going to open at 8-5, and will certainly go down from there, probably to even money.

So what's a bettor to do? As good as she clearly is, she's coming in to this race on only two weeks rest after, which is not much after a big performance, and that makes her beatable. She can't be left out of the exotics, though, so I'm planning to wheel a couple of upset candidates around her in the exacta and trifecta pools.

And the upset candidates are:

Friesan Fire, who is a good horse that ran a stinky race in the Derby. His performance was so bad, that he'll surely be underbet. He's opening at 6-1, and he's a lot better than that.

Mine That Bird, who's been given very little respect since winning the Derby, will also open at 6-1. It's supposed to rain in Baltimore tomorrow, and he's pretty clearly a mudlark - if the track is wet, I'm going to include him on all my tickets.

Big Drama, opening at 10-1, is a speed horse who drew the rail slot on a speed-favoring track. If the strip is dry, I'll include him on a bunch of tickets, too.

And for those who missed the betting bonanza at the Derby, there are three 50-1 shots in the Preakness as well: Luv Gov, Flying Private, and Tone it Down. Remember, all you need is a dollar and a dream.