Kentucky Derby winner Chateaugay will probably go off the favorite in Saturday's 87th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, but the smart money (Le., mine) is going on Candy Spots to redeem himself after his disappointing third place finish in the Churchill Downs classic.
It's not blind faith, or a frantic hope to recoup my lost two dollars. Candy Spots in the best three-year old in the nation. His Derby loss was the first of his career, and it might have been attributable to a surprisingly poor ride by Willie Shoemaker. Three times during the race "Shoe" got Candy Spots into a tight squeeze where he had to be checked, and this might have thrown the California colt off enough to cost him the victory.
Candy Spots' main competition will come not from Chateaugay, but Never Bend. The New York horse has won more than $500,000 in his 14-race career, and has never finished worse than third. The conditions of the Preakness are more favorable to Never Bend than the Derby, in which he ran second. Never Bend is a front-runner and the Preakness is a shade shorter than the Derby. Further more, No Robbery, the horse whose stout pressure helped tire Never Bend after he had run the first six furlongs of the Derby in a blistering 1:10, is out of the Preakness with an injury.
Chateaugay is a good horse: his Derby race was phenomenal. But he's going to be a real flop in the Preakness. I've seen too many horses run one brilliant race over their heads and then go sour to take Chateaugay's chances too seriously.
Last year, for example, Decidedly shattered Whirlaway's track record as he romped to a brilliant triumph in the Derby. He looked solid in the Preakness. Decidedly run eighth, beaten by 14 lengths. The same sort of let-down is going to happen to Chateaugay.
Two other horses have outside chances. Sky Wonder is rapidly improving; he finished a sharp second in the Withers at Aqueduct last Saturday. On My Honor was fast-finishing fourth in the Derby, but the Preakness distance of 13/16 miles is probably a bit too short for him.
Candy Spots will beat out Never Bend, followed by Sky Wonder, Chateaugay, On My Honor, Lemon Twist, and Country Squire.
Candy Spots should go off at reasonable odds (probably about 5 to 2). It's the perfect situation to spend that money you were saving to pay your term bill. He can't lose.