Preakness Stakes Aftermath: If there was a Belmont winner in the field, I didn't see it
Lookin At Lucky comes home first at Pimlico
"The inescapable impression is that an Eskendereya-less classic crop lacks a true star, though that situation could be rectified in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks' time. If there was a Belmont winner in Saturday's field, I don't think I managed to spot it, however."
Simon Rowlands, Timeform US handicapper and analyst, enjoyed the second leg of the Triple Crown but was not overly impressed with the quality of colt on show
Another year, another failed Triple Crown bid.
It is now 32 years - and counting - since the last US Triple Crown winner, Affirmed. This time the dream was over in the second leg, the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, and over roughly three furlongs from home, the point at which the Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver started to wave the white flag.
As he weakened into an eventual eighth, it was Lookin At Lucky, an also-ran when favourite at Churchill Downs, who emerged victorious, getting a much clearer passage than a fortnight earlier and showing considerable resolution in the process.
That Lookin At Lucky is a good horse is self-evident - he was a champion juvenile for good measure - but that he is a very good horse is not. He defeated the previously unexceptional First Dude and Jackson Bend by less than a length with apparently nothing to spare.
There were no hard-luck stories this time (if you exclude fifth-placed Dublin's getting well behind through his own reluctance) though Super Saver would appear not to have recovered from his exertions at Churchill Downs anything like as well as first thought, or as well as did the super-tough Lookin At Lucky.
The inescapable impression is that an Eskendereya-less classic crop lacks a true star, though that situation could be rectified in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks' time. If there was a Belmont winner in Saturday's field, I don't think I managed to spot it, however.
The fact that a bunch of good but not exceptional horses are taking it in turns to beat each other underlines the importance of the run of the race, or a horse's "trip" as Americans call it. A look at the sectionals of past winners of The Preakness is interesting in the context of Saturday's race in this respect.
Given Lookin At Lucky's overall time of 1 min 55.47 sec, the ideal position to be after half a mile was about five lengths back from a leader going through the sectional in 46.47 sec, which was the time posted by First Dude. Five lengths back is almost exactly where Lookin At Lucky was at the time.
I am not sure that Martin Garcia deserves all that much credit for keeping the colt out of trouble in this smaller field when Garrett Gomez could not be blamed for what happened at Churchill Downs. But he does deserve credit for positioning his horse ("rating" it, in American parlance) to optimum effect given the fairly strong pace.
As a spectacle, The Preakness was very nearly as gripping as was the Kentucky Derby. It was real edge-of-the-seat stuff following another spectacular build-up. I turned down the offer of more Balti on Saturday night for Baltimore and have no regrets whatsoever!
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