"We're happy with our post," Joe Cornacchia said. "There's a lot of speed with us, on the inside, but Polar Expedition's outside. He's the one that should be out there early."
Go For Gin isn't expected to be too far off the pace, but Cornacchia's remarks indicated that his horse won't be in the lead, as he was for most of the Derby. Favored Holy Bull and longshot Ulises figured to be up front early at Churchill Downs, but Holy Bull, breaking flat-footed, was banged around leaving the gate, and Ulises could carry his speed for only half a mile.
Neither Holy Bull, whose training was compromised by a minor blood infection, nor Ulises is running in the Preakness, but there are still enough speed horses to go around in the 10-horse field. Besides Polar Expedition, the runners with quick licks include Silver Goblin, who led until the final eighth of a mile in the Arkansas Derby, and Tabasco Cat, who was unable to use his natural speed in the Derby because Go For Gin broke awkwardly and bothered him at the start.
The Preakness, the middle race in the Triple Crown series, usually draws smaller fields than the unwieldy Derby, and consequently post positions are less important. The winners of the last 10 Preaknesses have come from these posts: 3-3-6-2-6-3-7-7-4-4.
This is the way they will line up Saturday:
Tabasco Cat, with Pat Day riding, at 6-1 on the morning line; Go For Gin, Chris McCarron, 2-1; Concern, Garrett Gomez, 7-2; Silver Goblin, Dale Cordova, 6-1; Powis Castle, Brent Bartram, 20-1; Blumin Affair, Jerry Bailey, 8-1; Kandaly, Craig Perret, 20-1; Polar Expedition, Curt Bourque, 20-1; Looming, Andrea Seefeldt, 7-2; Numerous, Pat Valenzuela, 6-1.
All will carry 126 pounds, same weight as the Derby. Concern and Looming, both owned by Robert Meyerhoff and trained by Richard Small, will run as an entry. The purse is $688,800, with $447,720 going to the winner. At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is the shortest Triple Crown race. The Belmont Stakes, in New York on June 11, is the longest at 1 1/2 miles.
The morning line, which was put together by veteran handicapper Clem Florio for Pimlico, is subject to review. Go For Gin's 2-1 number seems about right, since he was 9-1 in the Derby. But it would be surprising if Concern and Looming go off as the second choice, even though they will be over-bet because of their Maryland connections. The buzz horse has been Numerous, well rested after winning the Derby Trial a week before the Derby. Nick Zito, Go For Gin's trainer, has repeatedly said that trainer Charlie Whittingham's colt is the one to beat.
In a preliminary line earlier this week, Florio had Numerous at 9-2, then he upped the odds at entry time Thursday when the colt drew the outside post. Numerous has run just off the pace in his best races.
Silver Goblin's odds are too low and Blumin Affair's too high. Silver Goblin has won six of nine starts but scored all of those victories against second-rate competition at Remington Park. In his first start outside Oklahoma, Silver Goblin couldn't outrun Concern and Blumin Affair in the Arkansas Derby.
Blumin Affair, winner of only two of nine starts, has had six consecutive non-winning races, dating to October, but he continues to be dangerous after a third-place finish behind Go For Gin and Strodes Creek in the Derby. Blumin Affair is either a horse who will break through in one of these important races or a strong finisher who will continue to lack that necessary punch.
Only four Derby horses--the fewest since 1985--are running in the Preakness: Go For Gin, Blumin Affair, Tabasco Cat, who was sixth at Churchill Downs, and Powis Castle, who was eighth.
Kandaly, the Louisiana Derby winner who was scratched from the Derby because of a muddy track, should run Saturday, with no rain in the forecast.
"The way my horse is doing, he should run the race of his life," said Ron Lamarque, the car dealer who owns Kandaly.
"But I don't know if the race of his life is enough to beat these horses."