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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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