Dialing In

All of the answers to the 136th Preakness Stakes lay in the stack of papers known to horse junkies as “The Form.” The official name of the publication,  Daily Racing Form, makes it all seem so easy in retrospect.

It’s horse racing’s version of The New York Times.

How many horse players correctly pegged Animal Kingdom, a 21-1 longshot, as the winner of the Kentucky Derby a fortnight ago? On a Derby Trail where an upset acted like the rule instead of the exception, the underdog left Louisville with the bed of roses.

You have 14 betting choices to win Saturday’s race at Pimlico. Not every horse can win the race. This isn’t football and it’s not a Sunday. Toss Concealed Identity, Flashpoint, Isn’t He Perfect, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Norman Asbjornson & Sway Away for various reasons. Mostly because these horses flat-out aren’t as good as the rest.

Animal Kingdom will go off as the favorite on Saturday evening. That’s almost a given. I think Dialed In will get a tremendous amount of support on Preakness Day, thanks to the Nick Zito connection. I’m not buying the Animal Kingdom hoopla. I think it’s an awful idea to ship in on Preakness Day. The horse has never raced at Pimlico before and really could use a practice lap or two around the tight turns at Old Hilltop. Then again, I didn’t win the Kentucky Derby. Graham Motion did. He can pretty much do whatever he wants at this point.

Astrology, Dance City, Midnight Interlude and Shackleford make up choices all of the wise guys select. If all the starts align, Astrology could shock everyone with a rail ride for the ages with veteran jockey Mike Smith on board. All of the horse writers absolutely love the way Astrology worked so far this week. One last note: Astrology has never finished off the board.

Dance City kicked furiously getting off the van on Wednesday and put in poor works on Thursday and Friday. I always try to find a Todd Pletcher horse to put in my trifecta, but there are many things about Dance City I don’t like. He’s lightly raced. He’s only broken the Beyer speed figure of 90 once in his career. He switches jockeys. Toss him.

Midnight Interlude enters the race as the best hunch play of the week. Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia team up again from the 7-gate in the Preakness Stakes. They won last year with Lookin At Lucky. It’s obviously a different deal this year. Baffert’s horse never fired in the Derby, finishing 17 & 3-4 lengths back of Animal Kingdom. I’m drawing a line through the race. Do the same at your own peril.

Shackleford reminds me of a golfer who can lead after the third round of a tournament but never gets the job done. Taking the lead in the Derby, with no excuses at the mile pole, Shackleford ran out of gas. The pace of this race (as in any horse race) will determine how well Shackleford performs. He obviously can’t win on the lead. He needs to stalk. Watch late in the race for a flying horse with the number five saddle cloth.

That leaves one horse.

Dialed In will win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday afternoon.

He has the best connections, put in the best works and has a great emotional story on his side.

It will all seem so easy two minutes after they start the 136th Preakness Stakes. The challenge is picking the winner before they ring the bell.

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