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Preakness Countdown - Part I

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Can Kentucky Derby winner Orb make it six in a row? Will a Derby rival turn the tables? Any chance a “new shooter” could upset the apple cart? We’ll find out on Saturday, May 18th when they line up for the 138th running of the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.  Anthony Stabile, best known for picking 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide at odds of over 12-1, will break down the top contenders for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, exclusively on VegasInsider.com, culminating on Friday, May 17 with an extensive analysis of every runner. And don’t forget, you’ll be able to purchase Stabile’s Pick Packs, full of selections and plays for Preakness Day. To purchase Anthony Stabile products, CLICK HERE.
 
It appears as if just eight others will line up against Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the 138th Preakness Stakes this Saturday at Pimlico, and of those eight, five are conditioned by trainers that can already say they’ve won the second jewel of the Triple Crown, including Doug O’Neill, who trained last years’ Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. This year, he’ll be represented by one of the biggest flops from the Derby, GOLDENCENTS.
 
Up until the Derby, Goldencents had done little wrong in his six prior starts. As a juvenile, Goldencents won two of his three starts, including the slot money-laden purse of the Delta Jackpot and was second to eventual B.C. Juvenile and Eclipse champ Shanghai Bobby in the prestigious Champagne at Belmont Park.
 
Goldencents started his sophomore campaign off on the right foot with a win in the Sham before failing as the 2-1 second choice in the San Felipe after getting cooked in an early speed duel. He rebounded nicely to take the Santa Anita Derby at better than 6-1 in his last start before the Run for the Roses.
 
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In the Derby, Goldencents was sent hard early as was expected by regular rider Kevin Krigger but never got to the front, a spot occupied by unlikely pacesetter Palace Malice. By the time the real running began, Goldencents, a son of Into Mischief, had already called it a day and was eased up in the late stages, ultimately finishing seventeenth, beaten nearly 50 lengths. In his defense, Goldencents never appeared to take a hold of the sloppy track at Churchill in what was his first start over a wet course.
 
A son of Into Mischief, Goldencents will try to come back in just two weeks while trying to make O’Neill the first trainer to win back to back runnings of the Preakness since Bob Baffert pulled it off in 2001 and 2002.
 
Speaking of the Silver-Haired Fox, Baffert will send out GOVENOR CHARLIE in here after not having a runner in the Derby for the first time in five years. A five-time Preakness winner, with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and Lookin at Lucky in 2010 being his other three, Govenor Charlie was in fact the last Baffert colt standing that was even being considered for the Derby before he was taken out of the mix just five days before the race because he had some missed some time in the weeks leading up to the race.
 
A lightly raced son of sprint champion and former Baffert trainee Midnight Lute, Govenor Charlie didn’t make his debut until mid-January where he finished second in a seven eighths maiden race at Santa Anita. He promptly broke his maiden in his two turn debut next out by a neck after alternating on the lead the entire way.
 
In his stakes debut last out, Govenor Charlie shipped to Sunland Park for the Sunland Derby and once again battled for the lead most of the way. But unlike in his maiden score, Govenor Charlie put his rivals away on the far turn and cruised to a five length win in track record time under his regular rider Martin Garcia, who piloted Lookin at Lucky for Baffert three years ago.
 
Since his last start in late March, has worked just five times but, as is Baffert’s custom, they’ve all been fairly serious moves, including his last going six furlongs on 5/13 at Churchill in a wicked 1:10 4/5.
 
Like Baffert, trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be looking for his sixth Preakness score on Saturday but, unlike Bullet Bob who has just one starter, Lukas will fire three bullets at the blanket of Black Eyed Susans. Lukas won the 1980 Preakness with Codex, Tank’s Prospect in 1985, Tabasco Cat in 1994, Timber Country in 1995 and Charismatic in 1999.
 
Two of his three Preakness starters, OXBOW and WILL TAKE CHARGE, come into this off of what many are considering sneaky, if not spectacularly good efforts in the Derby, where they finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
 
Under Gary Stevens, a two-time winner of the Preakness himself with Silver Charm and Point Given, Oxbow broke from stall two in the Derby and was actually the first horse into the gate after the scratch of rail drawn Black Onyx. The draw obviously hurt and Oxbow was never really able to get off the inside which clearly was not the place to be on Derby Day.
 
Still, Oxbow managed to grab the lead ever so briefly turning for home before getting passed by several late runners in mid-stretch. Lukas breezed Oxbow an easy half mile on 5/13 at Churchill in :49 4/5 for this. 
 
Earlier in his career, Oxbow, by Awesome Again, broke his maiden in a seven furlong maiden race at Churchill late last fall before closing out his juvenile campaign with a fourth place finish in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. He started this season with a daylight score in the LeComte at the Fair Grounds, was second in the Rebel and finished off the board in the Risen Star and Arkansas Derby.
 
Rebel winner Will Take Charge was making his first start in seven weeks last out in Louisville and was compromised a bit when making his run through the stretch, running up on the heels of a tiring Verrazano. Lukas has decided to switch riders to Mike Smith. Smith won the 1993 renewal aboard Prairie Bayou.
 
By Unbridled’s Song, Will Take Charge won once in four tries as a two-year-old before taking a pair of stakes at Oaklawn from four tries this year. Like Oxbow, he worked a half-mile at Churchill on 5 1/3 but in a much faster :48 1/5.
 
Finally, new shooter TITLETOWN FIVE, a son of Tiznow, will be ridden by Julien Leparoux and appears to be the quickest of the three Lukas runners, especially in the early going.
 
A winner just once in seven tries, Titletown Five finished between the now injured Violence and Orb in a maiden race at the Spa in his third start before breaking his maiden in the last start of his two-year-old campaign when adding Lasix.
 
This year, Titletown Five was second in a minor stakes at Oaklawn Park before finishing off the board in both the Louisiana Derby and Derby Trial. He finished his serious preparations for this with a sharp half-mile drill in :47 3/5 at Churchill on 5/7.

  
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Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders’ Cup.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

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