HORSE SENSE

Fred Faour: A horse-by-horse look at the Preakness field

Justify dominated at Churchill Downs. Can he do it again? Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Preakness Stakes draw was held Wednesday, and the race will be on Saturday. Here is a horse-by-horse look at the race.

1. Quip (12-1) 

Record: 5-3-1-0.

Earnings: $482,800.

Jockey: Florent Geroux.

Trainer: Brisset Rodolphe.

Last race: 2nd, Arkansas Derby.

He will beat Justify if: He improves dramatically and something goes amiss with the big horse. Won the Tampa Bay Derby, but in retrospect did not beat much. The Arkansas Derby is usually a key Kentucky Derby prep, but this year it had no impact. He ran OK in that one, chasing a slow pace, and hanging around when the real running started. Was no match for the winner but fended off a lot of other slow horses. Unless something happens to Justify and he finds himself on the lead, this looks like a tall order. But he could easily hang around for a piece. 

2. Lone Sailor (15-1)

Record: 9-1-3-1.

Earnings: $334,237.

Jockey: Irad Ortiz.

Trainer: Tom Amoss.

Last race: 8th, Kentucky Derby.

He will beat Justify if: He runs the race of his life and Justify slows down considerably. His Derby was not awful, and he might be sharper in this start after a layoff that might have been a tad too long for Kentucky. His Louisiana Derby second would be good enough to get in the mix here, so worth a trifecta look at a monster price.

3. Sporting Chance (30-1)  

Record: 7-2-1-1.

Earnings: $409,790.

Jockey: Luis Contreras.

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas.

Last race: 4th, Pat Day Mile.

He will beat Justify if: He flashes back to 2017, when he looked like a future star. This year he has been more of a purse nibbler. Was a closing fourth on the Derby undercard but might be able to improve in this spot and help add some value to the exotics. 

4. Diamond King (30-1)

Record: 6-4-0-1.

Earnings: $222,600.

Jockey: Javier Castellano.

Trainer: John Servis.

Last race: 1st, Federico Tesio Stakes.

He will beat Justify if: Something goes amiss with the big horse. Still, should be a live long shot. Has been facing lesser, but did run a nice race against top sprinters in the Swale Stakes, and as long as he doesn't try to challenge Justify early, he could hit the board at a silly price. 

5. Good Magic (3-1) 

Record: 6-2-3-1.

Earnings: $2,225,000.

Jockey: Jose Ortiz.

Trainer: Chad Brown.

Last race: 2nd, Kentucky Derby.

He will beat Justify if: The favorite regresses significantly. He has been consistent, but he was no match for Justify in Kentucky, even though he had every opportunity to go past him in the stretch. He also had a near perfect trip in the race. He will be a clear second choice and is the most established horse in the field, but will need to improve to have a real shot and could easily regress as well.

6. Tenfold (20-1) 

Record: 3-2-0-0.

Earnings: $124,200.

Jockey: Ricardo Santana.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen.

Last race: 5th, Arkansas Derby.

He will beat Justify if: He suddenly becomes his father Curlin. Has only three starts, and retreated in his first real test in the Arkansas Derby. Could improve, but running style will probably be a hindrance. Might become a nice horse at some point but this is probably too much too soon.

7. Justify (1-2)  

Record: 4-4-0-0.

Earnings: $2,098,000.

Jockey: Mike Smith.

Trainer: Bob Baffert.

Last race: 1st, Kentucky Derby.

He will beat Justify if: He goes full Barbaro and gets hurt. Or he somehow regresses.  But if he runs anywhere close to his race, he will head to Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. Baffert has sent four Derby winners to the Preakness and won it all four times. His horses tend to keep their form. The turnaround might be tough for such a lightly raced horse, but he faces a much weaker group than what he saw in Kentucky. Will have to eat a short price on him, but it might be better to wait to beat him in New York. 

8. Bravazo (20-1)  

Record: 9-3-1-1.

Earnings: $436,528.

Jockey: Luis Saez.

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas.

Last race: 6th in the Kentucky Derby.

He will beat Justify if: Something goes hideously wrong. Unlike most of the contenders, he had little trouble in the Derby, and basically ran evenly the whole way. His best efforts aren't even in the ball park. Will likely take some money because of Lukas, but candidate for minor awards at best. 

 

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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