Racing! Jon White’s final look at the Preakness

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for the Preakness while still looking back at the Kentucky Derby.

I’m coming to you this week from Baltimore, where it’s hard to find a groundswell of interest in the first race since 1996 that the Derby winner (in this case either of the Derby winners) is running in the Preakness. Country House came down with a “cough” according to trainer Bill Mott. The Hall of Fame trainer was reticent the day after the Derby to declare his horse a go for the Preakness.

That’s when the cough fairy flew in to Mott’s barn and landed squarely on the shoulders of Country House, if you get what I may or may not be saying. Best of luck and a speedy recovery to the accidental Derby winner in his recovery.

But perhaps the biggest head scratcher of the last couple days was the 15-day suspension handed down to jockey Luis Saez for failing to keep Maximum Security on a straight path. By comparison, when jockey Assael Espinoza caused an accident that killed a horse and hospitalized two jockeys he got a 10-day suspension from the Del Mar stewards.

It really seemed that Saez did nothing to bring such a hefty suspension. But, what would the uproar be if he wasn’t suspended? Would that bring the decision to disqualify Maximum Security into even more question? So, did they have little choice but to double down on the decision?

Back to the Preakness.

Here’s a couple stories you might have missed.

--A look at the draw in which it seems as many trainers were missing as horses. (Just click here.)

--And, let’s meet Golden Gate Fields celebrity horse Anothertwistafate and his trainer Blaine Wright on the cusp of the Preakness. (Just click here.)

A clarification

It don’t think this rises to a “Who goofed … ?” but needs to be cleared up. In the last newsletter I said that Gary West, co-owner of Maximum Security, told Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he would not appeal the decision of the stewards. What in fact he told Bryce was that it was “doubtful” that he would appeal the decision. Well, we all know how that turned out.

Jon White’s Preakness rankings

On the eve of the Preakness, we’re lucky to have the top expert, Jon White, take a look at what’s happening on the Triple Crown trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, let’s continue with his analysis of the Triple Crown races and his final Preakness rankings, courtesy of Jon, the floor is yours.

“1. War of Will (4-1 morning-line odds). The way I see it, War of Will has a very good chance to win the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes. Hopefully, his eventful trip in the $3 million Kentucky Derby did not take too much out of him, but I think there is a better chance that he moves up off that race because of what had happened in the Louisiana Derby. One can only surmise that he didn't get much at all out of the Louisiana Derby on March 23. He finished ninth in that race and came out with a strained patellar ligament, according to his trainer, Mark Casse. War of Will did not start again until six weeks later in the Kentucky Derby. Inasmuch as the Run for the Roses was his first meaningful race in 11 weeks, he actually should benefit significantly from it.

“Approaching the five-sixteenths pole in the Kentucky Derby, which was contested on a sloppy track, it appeared that War of Will was full of run when he became involved in a traffic jam. He not only was impeded, he came perilously close to clipping heels and perhaps falling. Maximum Security had the lead nearing the five-sixteenths pole when he veered out sharply. Maximum Security went on to cross the finish line 1 3/4 lengths in front, but the stewards disqualified him and placed him 17th for causing interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy. It was the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby that a winner was DQ'd for committing a foul during the running of a race.

“If War of Will's trip had gone well, would he have beaten Maximum Security? I don't think so. But I do think if not for what happened, War of Will might have finished fifth, perhaps even higher. Despite the trouble he encountered, War of Will was beaten less than a length for fifth. A $90,000 check goes to the owner of the horse who finished fifth.

“But what about War of Will's Preakness post position? After having had to deal with the dreaded inside post position in the Kentucky Derby, he again starts from the inside post in the Preakness. This is is not ideal. But at least it's not as if there has been a long drought since a horse won the Preakness after breaking from the inside post. American Pharoah was able to do so in 2015 en route to a Triple Crown sweep.

“War of Will weakened a bit toward the end of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. The distance of the Preakness is a sixteenth of a mile shorter. I doubt War of Will is going to mind that.

“A big plus for War of Will on Saturday is the historical evidence that it's a rarity for the Preakness winner not to have competed in the Kentucky Derby. Only four of the last 35 Preakness winners (Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Cloud Computing in 2017) did not run in the Derby.

“There are four horses entered in Saturday's Preakness who started in the Derby: War of Will, Improbable, Win Win Win and Bodexpress.

“2. Improbable (5-2 favorite). A Preakness win by him is far from improbable. After all, he is the favorite on Keith Feustle's Preakness morning line. If Improbable does get the job done, it will be trainer Bob Baffert's record-breaking eighth Preakness victory.

“Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walden currently share the record with seven Preakness wins each. Baffert's Preakness winners were Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002, Lookin at Lucky in 2010, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. Walden's seven were Tom Ochiltree in 1875, Duke of Magenta in 1878, Harold in 1879, Grenanda in 1880, Saunterer in 1881, Vanguard in 1882 and Refund in 1888.

“Improbable spent much of the Kentucky Derby bottled up as the 4-1 favorite. But when he was clear in the lane, he lacked the needed punch. He finished fifth and was moved up to fourth through the disqualification of Maximum Security. That was the first time in Improbable's six-race career that he's finished worse than second. It will not be surprising if he rebounds and runs a big race Saturday.

"Mike Smith is riding Improbable for the first time in the Preakness. Baffert and Smith collaborated to win last year's Preakness -- and Triple Crown -- with Justify. Smith also won the 1993 Preakness aboard Prairie Bayou.

“3. Alwaysmining (8-1). He's won six in a row, all at Laurel. Most recently, Alwaysmining sat third early and annihilated his foes to win the Federico Tesio Stakes by 11 1/2 lengths on April 20. He gets the acid test Saturday. Alwaysdreaming is attempting to become the first Maryland-bred to win the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983. He also would be the first gelding to win the Preakness since Funny Cide in 2003.

“4. Owendale (10-1). Following his impressive triumph in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13, it's not hard to picture him having a big say in the outcome of the Preakness at nice odds. As far back as ninth early in the Lexington, he passed rivals with a rush on the far turn. After opening a two-length lead with a furlong to go, he went on to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths. His dam, Aspen Light, is a daughter of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini.

“5. Anothertwistafate (6-1). He has finished first or second all five times he has raced around two turns, which is what he will be doing Saturday. He narrowly lost the Sunland Derby when second to Cutting Humor on March 24, then did not have the best of trips when the runner-up to Owendale in the April 13 Lexington. Scat Daddy is the sire of Anothertwistafate. Justify, also a son of Scat Daddy, won the 2018 Preakness while on his way to becoming this country's 13th Triple Crown winner.

“6. Bourbon War (12-1). After finishing a strong second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2, he ran second in the Florida Derby at that same track on March 30. With a come-from-behind style, his chances were compromised by a slow pace in the Florida Derby. That slow pace was set by the victorious Maximum Security, who subsequently finished first in the Kentucky Derby.

7. Win Win Win (15-1). Drawing post 13 for this race did not do him any favors. He never threatened in the Kentucky Derby. More and more it appears he might be better in races around one turn. Whether or not that's the case, I can't help but have a feeling that Win Win Win is going to pop up and do what his name says in a big race one of these days. Keep in mind he is a grandson of two Preakness winners (Sunday Silence in 1989 and Smarty Jones in 2004).

“8. Warrior's Charge (12-1). After losing his first three career starts, he has blossomed by putting together back-to-back dominant victories at Oaklawn Park. Look for him to show early speed Saturday, as he did in those wins in Arkansas.

“9. Laughing Fox (20-1). Rallied from far back to win the Oaklawn Invitational by a neck on May 4. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin and again in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra. But if Asmussen wins this edition of the Preakness with Laughing Fox, it will be a huge upset. Perhaps Laughing Fox can come on late to get into the superfecta. That scenario becomes more of a possibility if there is a fast pace.

“10. Bodexpress (30-1). Yes, he's a maiden. He undoubtedly would be an overwhelming favorite in a maiden race. But this is the Preakness and he's a longshot. In the Kentucky Derby, he was in contention on the far turn before being impeded in the traffic jam that took place when the leader, Maximum Security, veered out sharply. Don't forget that Bodexpress was good enough to finish second at 71-1 odds behind Maximum Security in the Florida Derby. That performance suggests it's not totally out of the question for Bodexpress to finish fourth or better at enormous odds in the Preakness. His sire, Bodemeister, finished second to I'll Have Another in the 2012 Preakness.”

Santa Anita preview

It’s an OK card to start the track’s new three-day week schedule. There are eight races starting at 1 p.m. Only three of the races are on the turf, no doubt trying to save the course for te weekend when there are nine races on the grass.

The feature, as it is, is probably the seventh, an allowance/optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies going five furlongs on the turf for a purse of $67,000. The favorite is Velvet Queen, at 5-2, for trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Tiago Pereira. She won her first race and then finished fourth in the Jimmy Durante and third in an allowance. This will be her fourth race.

The second favorite at 7-2 is Holly Hundy for Vladimir Cerin and Kent Desormeaux. Her only win in four starts was her last race, at the maiden level. Post time is around 4:15 p.m.

There is another $67,000 race, an allowance/optional claimer for Cal-breds 3 and up going five furlongs on the turf. It’s the fifth race.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8, 5, 8, (4 also eligible), 8, 9 (1 ae), 8, 8, 9.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE FIVE: No. 1 Morgan S. (10-1)

Morgan S. is making his first start since July last year and races protected today in this allowance race. Trainer Dan Hendricks is 22% off the bench for a big return on investment of 5+. In March and April we see a series of sharp workouts followed by another bullet last week. This is not a claimer race where fast works are done as claim bait so I am even more optimistic on this horse especially given the 10-1 morning line price. The inside post is also winning a high 28% at the meet. A Salute to Lt Dan at 8-1 morning line also looks attractive in here. Jockey Edwin Maldonado rides for trainer Andrew Lerner who is winning 63% second start off the layoff, 36% for the year and 33% shipping like today. An 8-1 morning line in this value allowance race is great. This is the best betting race on the card. Selections 6,1,3,8.

Sunday’s result: Mr. Classical, even with blinkers and early speed, showed nothing out of the gate and simply ran around the track.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Golden Gate weekend preview

We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple meetings, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. (And if want more of Matt, he’s quoted in the Blaine Wright story I did, just click here.) So, take it away, Matt.

“There are three more racing days left this week, led by a 10-race program on Saturday and nine more on Sunday. First post on Friday and Sunday is 1:15 p.m. while Saturday’s Preakness Day card starts at 12:45 p.m.

“The feature race of the week is the $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes on Sunday, for 3-year-olds going a mile on the turf. We have had a good amount of rain this week with more on the way, so it would hardly be a surprise if the race were moved off the grass. That said, many of the horses entered in the race have run well on Tapeta in the past, so I doubt there will be any scratches due to a surface switch.

“Two Kentucky Derby winning jockeys will be riding at Golden Gate Fields in the Alcatraz: Flavien Prat rides recent maiden winner One Bad Boy for Richard Baltas while Mario Gutierrez is slated to be aboard California Derby winner Kingly for Baffert. Other local contenders include Visitant, who ran second in the California Derby, the Jonathan Wong trained pair of Our Silver Oak and The Creep and the Blaine Wright conditioned Erlich.

“The first Northern California ‘baby’ race of 2019 came in last Saturday’s third race, a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds. The race was won by the Ellen Jackson-trained Bulletproof One. Sent off as the 3-5 favorite (she was well meant after a number of fast workouts), Bulleproof One went straight to the lead and set fractions of 22.90 and 46.37 seconds before drawing off in the final sixteenth of a mile, finishing eight lengths ahead of second place finisher Small Surprise. Bulletproof One is by Grade I winner and California stallion Idiot Proof and out of the Decarchy mare Onefunsonofagun, who won eight races. As a broodmare, Onefunsonofagun has produced four winners from four foals.

“In Preakness news, El Camino Real Derby winner Anothertwistafate drew post 12 of 13 and will be ridden for the first time by world-renowned rider Jose Ortiz. Anothertwistafate has worked twice on the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta surface since his most recent race to date: a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Multiple people who have watched his works have reported he has worked fantastic leading up to this race. My hope is that Ortiz lets him get in his high, natural cruising speed and keeps him in the clear. He’s a hard-trying horse and with this five week freshening, I think he can improve off of his last race at Keeneland.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos Race Course will open its grandstand at 7 a.m. for simulcasting on Preakness Stakes day. The clubhouse and Vessels Club will both open at 8 a.m. The live racing action later that evening will be headed by the stakes debut of Ed Allred's Chocolatito, who looked so impressive when making his first start as a sophomore on April 26. The Favorite Cartel gelding will be one of nine sophomores racing in the $25,000 Dillingham Handicap on Saturday. First post is 6:15 p.m.

“In his 2019 debut, Chocolatito posted the meet’s fastest 330-yard time of 16.58 seconds with a convincing two-length victory. Chocolatito came into that race having made only three starts during his 2-year-old campaign, winning once while also running second in a trial to the Golden State Million Futurity in late October. His connections gave him plenty of time off following that runner-up effort before bringing him back for that eye-catching return. To be ridden by Vinnie Bednar for trainer Scott Willoughby, Chocolatito will be facing a strong group in the 400-yard Dillingham. The field will include Howard Nichols' Dexxter, fourth in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity and eighth in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity last year. He recently finished fourth behind Powerful Favoritel in the Grade 3 El Primero Del Ano Derby on March 31.

“On Sunday night will be the first futurity of the year when a field of 10 goes in the Grade 2, $361,700 Robert Adair Kindergarten at 300 yards. J. Francisco Diaz’s homebred Chayito Cartel, who was the fastest qualifier in the May 5 trials, will head the field while in search of his third victory in as many starts. Diamond Rock, Dreams Divine and Cartel Jess Rockin – each a winner of both of their career starts – are among the other top contenders. The weekend action kicks off with an eight-race program starting at 6 p.m.”

Ed Burgart’s LA pick of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 6 Separate Intensions (7-2)

She is one of three class droppers in this $6,250 claimer and gets a key post switch from the number two slot to the six position in the seven-horse field. She was only beaten one length for the victory in last fourth-place try vs. three-time winner JB Gray Dawn, who was victorious earlier this year for $12,500. She also returns to the 300-yard distance where she scored neck maiden victory four races back.

Final thought

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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, May 17.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 16th day of a 41-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $46,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $75,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Breezy BeeKent Desormeaux125J. Keith Desormeaux7-275,000
2Field BetFlavien Prat120Doug F. O'Neill4-175,000
3Equal MeasureEvin Roman120Robert B. Hess, Jr.5-275,000
4SunriserGeovanni Franco125J. Eric Kruljac4-175,000
5Royally BlandDrayden Van Dyke120Michael W. McCarthy12-175,000
6Calentita Martin Pedroza120Peter Miller12-175,000
7Twinkle DreamBrice Blanc120Patrick Gallagher20-175,000
8Runaway LuckEdwin Maldonado120Adam Kitchingman4-175,000


7 Furlongs. Purse: $43,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tribal RoarEdwin Maldonado123Genaro Vallejo5-125,000
2Sheer FlatteryRuben Fuentes125Steve Knapp3-125,000
3Spokane EagleAgapito Delgadillo125Doug F. O'Neill5-225,000
4MatriculateTiago Pereira123William Spawr9-525,000
5American CurrencyDrayden Van Dyke125Jerry Hollendorfer7-225,000


4½ Furlongs. Purse: $65,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Side Street DaveEdgar Payeras122Gary Sherlock4-1
2Zero DownMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-2
3Cal's GemRuben Fuentes122Luis Mendez4-1
4Kenzlee's GovModesto Linares122Vernon E. Aguayo20-1
5Hot SocksJ.C. Diaz, Jr.115Steven Miyadi10-1
6You'reright AgainAlonso Quinonez122Lloyd C. Wicker10-1
7Shady EmpireEdwin Maldonado122Jeff Bonde7-2
8Pour On the ColeFlavien Prat122Michael W. McCarthy5-1
Also Eligible
9El Tigre TerribleJoseph Talamo122Peter Miller3-1
10Project LeaderEvin Roman122Marcia Stortz6-1
11Bam Bam AgainGeovanni Franco122Jorge Periban8-1
12Wicked BlueEswan Flores122Vernon E. Aguayo20-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Chasing MomentsGeovanni Franco125Gary Sherlock7-225,000
2Cat's DesireRuben Fuentes125Nestor M. Capitaine6-125,000
3OsteriaBrice Blanc125Clifford W. Sise, Jr.5-125,000
4Miss OmnipotentMario Gutierrez120George Papaprodromou12-125,000
5Lady BeyonceAlonso Quinonez120Lloyd C. Wicker15-125,000
6Hansen Tale BluesEvin Roman125Victor L. Garcia9-225,000
7SweetenerEdwin Maldonado125Jeff Mullins3-125,000
8Awesome AmandaDiego Sanchez125Dan Blacker4-125,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $67,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Morgan S.Drayden Van Dyke125Dan L. Hendricks10-1
2Joe JacksonTiago Pereira123Jack Carava5-1
3A Salute to Lt DanEdwin Maldonado118Andrew Lerner8-1
4Prodigal SonMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill9-2
5Sir EddieRuben Fuentes125Dan Blacker4-1
6Teacher's TreasureFlavien Prat120Eddie Truman5-2
7Terrible TedDiego Sanchez125Hector O. Palma12-1
8Psycho DarEvin Roman123Steven Miyadi7-2
9Hollywood DancerAssael Espinoza125Gus Headley20-1
Also Eligible
10Oh ManRuben Fuentes123Steven Miyadi4-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. 'POST TIME: 1:00 PM'. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Fast CottonAgapito Delgadillo125Jerry Wallace, II4-116,000
2Downside UpMartin Garcia125Patricia Harrington30-116,000
3Honeymoonz OverHeriberto Figueroa125Tim Yakteen5-116,000
4Bear Chum Assael Espinoza125Sean McCarthy6-116,000
5Curly's MarkTiago Pereira125Philip A. Oviedo8-116,000
6Union RebelAaron Gryder125Ryan Hanson5-216,000
7Ayacara Geovanni Franco125Vladimir Cerin6-116,000
8Market SentimentEdwin Maldonado125Steve Knapp7-216,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $67,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Devils DanceDrayden Van Dyke124Craig Anthony Lewis6-180,000
2Red Bunting Joseph Talamo124Ronald W. Ellis6-1
3Cavernndchipmunks Flavien Prat124Philip D'Amato8-1
4Holly HundyKent Desormeaux124Vladimir Cerin7-2
5Velvet QueenTiago Pereira124Richard Baltas5-2
6Shes All WomanMartin Garcia124Doug F. O'Neill10-1
7Square PeggyEdwin Maldonado124Brian J. Koriner4-1
8Muthhila Alonso Quinonez124Anna Meah10-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $42,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Wilhelmina's GirlEswan Flores125Hector O. Palma10-150,000
2First StreetEdgar Payeras125Robert A. Bean30-150,000
3Daddys Real DivaEvin Roman120Lisa Bernard5-250,000
4Charlotte LouiseJ.C. Diaz, Jr.118David E. Hofmans4-150,000
5VellaAlonso Quinonez120Lloyd C. Wicker6-150,000
6And CountingHeriberto Figueroa125Dan Blacker6-150,000
7Golden NecklaceAssael Espinoza120James M. Cassidy15-150,000
8A Dime for MeMartin Pedroza120Mark Glatt3-150,000
9Sure AngelAaron Gryder125Jeff Mullins10-150,000