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May 16, 2003

Oscar's 2003 Preakness Green Sheet

The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus was in Baltimore from March 11 through March 23 this year, but thanks to a couple of clowns from the Miami Herald, the circus almost returned this week.

I won’t belabor the story of Jose Santos and the hocus pocus about the “battery operated devise “ that never existed; you are probably tired of hearing about it by now anyway. Suffice it to say that if Jose actually did have a devise, then David Copperfield better start taking riding lessons because Jose is going to be taking over his job as the “Master of Deception”.

Actually if this allegation had proved true, I understand that Steven Spielberg was considering making this into a movie. He was going to call it “The Electric Horseman II”, and was casting Robert Redford as Barclay Tagg, the Energizer Bunny as Santos, and of course his own Atswhatimtalknbout as Funny Cide!

On a serious note for one minute, I wish Jose Santos the very best of luck. Like so many of us in our industry, I supported this gentleman and accomplished rider 100% from the start and feel badly that perhaps the shining moment of his career was somewhat dimmed by some buffoons from Miami seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. Hopefully now they will go back to searching for train wrecks and hanging chads!

Thankfully, it’s now on to Old Hilltop instead of Old Bigtop, and we can get back to horseracing, “The Greatest Show on Earth!”

Let’s take a look at the contenders for the 2003 Preakness Stakes.

FUNNY CIDE

You always have to give serious consideration to the Derby winner. You have to ask yourself, was his win was a fluke? Did he get a dream trip? Did the horses you thought could have beaten him have excuses? Was his stretch run exhausting? Do you think he peaked in the Derby and will regress? Finally, ask yourself, is there a horse in the Preakness who did not run in the Derby, but if he had run you would given him serious consideration (i.e. Red Bullet in 2000)?

If the answer to all these questions is “no”, your Derby winner is your Preakness winner baring some bizarre occurrence.

I asked myself those questions about Funny Cide and with one exception I answered “no” to each. The exception is that I believe that he did get a dream trip. He stalked the pace-setting Brancusi and Peace Rules, took command entering the stretch, and held off Empire Maker who made a winning move around the turn only to flatten out a bit, and a tired but very game Peace Rules, who just failed to last for the place.

Empire Maker will wait until the Belmont, but Peace Rules returns for the rubber match, having beaten the New Yorker previously in the Louisiana Derby.

Funny Cide rewrote the record books with his win. He became the first gelding to win the Derby since the infamous Clyde Van Dusen in 1929. (No, Sakatoga Stable is not changing his name to Cide Van Dusen). He is the first NY bred to ever wear the roses. He became the first Derby winner since 1976 (Bold Forbes) not to have trained over the Churchill surface. And last, but not least, Jose Santos became the first jockey to win the Derby riding “Cide saddle”!

Santos hopes to get the same stalking trip in the Preakness that he had in the Derby. Cherokee’s Boy, and New York Hero should vie for the lead, followed closely by Peace Rules. Funny Cide will sit just off those speedsters, as Santos will attempt to save ground along the rail as best he can. Funny Cide’s sharp 4f work on Tuesday should serve notice to all that he has not lost his edge, and even a possible wet track will not hinder him, as his effort on an off track in the Wood was excellent.

There’s a lot to like about him going into the Preakness. He does not have the speed of War Emblem, last year’s Derby and Preakness winner, however, his versatility more than makes up for it, as he can go to the lead if no one else does, or sit a stalking trip as he did in the Derby. Because of his tactical speed, he will not be at a serious disadvantage breaking from post 9, but it would not have been Tagg’s choice. He is your most likely winner, but by no means is he a sure thing.

PEACE RULES

This colt not only has the family jewels, he has the family Jules! This son of the Forty Niner stallion Jules had won his last 4 races going into the Derby, including the aforementioned defeat of Funny Cide in the Louisiana Derby. He raced just off Brancusi in the Derby, took over the lead when the exhausted Brancusi caved in, and fought on gamely. Although he was no match for Funny Cide, he nearly held off Empire Maker for the place. Give him a lot of credit for that one. When you consider that Brancusi finished last and Peace Rules wound up only than two lengths behind the winner, you will understand just how big a race “Frankel’s second string” ran. Between Funny Cide who had a dream, stalking trip, and Peace Rules who dueled for the lead through fast fractions and still hung in there, there is no question who ran the more impressive race.

While he actually ran the better race in the Derby, this could come back to haunt him in the Preakness as I believe that he had to work much harder than Funny Cide, and asking him to come back in two weeks and beat Funny Cide might be asking too much. While the two are hard to separate, it is for this reason that Funny Cide is my top choice.

Peace Rules does not have the versatility of Funny Cide, as he has shown that his best races are when he is on or just off the lead. Although he is a fighter down the stretch, he appears to be vulnerable to a horse with momentum running at him in the final stages, as was the case with Funny Cide and Empire Maker in the Derby, and Man Among Men in the Pinjara last fall at Santa Anita.

He is an accomplished frequent flyer, and has had more men on him than Heidi Fleiss. He has won at 5 different tracks and had 5 different riders, including Jose Santos, although Edgar Prado has ridden him the last 3 times. There is no reason to think that he will not handle Old Hilltop on Saturday, although his one off track appearance was an off the board finish at Saratoga in his 2nd career start. However, he has three wins on the turf, and generally horse that do well on the lawn give a good account of themselves on an off track.

SCRIMSHAW – SENOR SWINGER ENTRY (Oscar’s Bud Longshot)

Never, Never, NEVER overlook a D. Wayne Lukas trainee in a classic race. When Scrimshaw won the Lexington, many people thought he had a legitimate chance in the Derby. I thought he needed one more race and apparently he did. Note the commentary on the Derby chart:

Scrimshaw drifted in at the start bumping with Ten Most Wanted, tracked the leaders four or five wide, was asked for his best three furlongs out while between foes but flattened out in the drive.

The Preakness is his third race off a layoff, and he is sure to improve. The question is will it be enough? He has the breeding to get the distance as he is by Gulch who sired Derby winner Thunder Gulch. His broodmare sire is Sham, who but for the great Secretariat, would have been a Derby winner himself.

Provided he gets a clean break (which he has not gotten in 4 of his 6 lifetime starts), he could be a dangerous horse down the stretch. True, he finished 11th in the Derby, however, other Preakness winners have run poorly in the Derby. Snow Chief, Hansel, Pine Bluff, Tabasco Cat, and of course Point Given come to mind.

If you like Scrimshaw, you also get Senor Swinger thrown in for free. Although this son of El Prado is trained by Bob Baffert, he is owned by Scrimshaw’s owner’s Bob and Beverly Lewis, so these two horses will run as an entry. How much better can you get than to bet on a D. Wayne Lukas horse and get a Bob Baffert horse in the bargain?

Senor Swinger is coming off a turf win in the Grade 3 American Turf at Churchill on Oaks day. Although he didn’t beat a stellar field, he went 6 wide and prevailed in a stiff drive in a race that was better than it may appear at first glance.

The only downside here is that if you really like one of these horses and not the other, and he wins, your value will be greatly reduced because of the coupling.

CHEROKEE’S BOY – Beware the Local Horse!

As the Preakness field approached the 16th pole in 1995, my only concern was deciding how I was going to spend the money I was sure to make on the exacta of Timber Country and Thunder Gulch. Timber Country had the lead and looked like a winner. Thunder Gulch, the Derby winner, was in a heated battle with the local horse, Oliver’s Twist. Not to worry. Thunder Gulch had shown extraordinary determination in his battles earlier in the year with Suave Prospect, and I was certain that there was no way that a local horse would out kick him to the wire. Well you know how that one turned out! I don’t know what in the Dickens got into Oliver’s Twist that day, but he ran a huge race on his home track.

Then last year, a War Emblem / Proud Citizen exacta looked like a lock. That is it looked like a lock until the local horse, Magic Weisner pulled a rabbit out of a hat to close for second.

Lesson learned the hard way, folks. Never count out the local horse when playing exotics. Of course the local horse must be legitimate, and I believe that this year’s version is better than Oliver’s Twist or Magic Weisner.

Cherokee’s Boy has 6 wins in 12 starts, including 5 stakes (all ungraded). His two tries in graded company were a 3rd in the Laurel Futurity (G3), and a 5th following a bad break in Ten Most Wanted’s Illinois Derby. He is 3 for 3 at Pimlico. He has drawn the rail, leaving, Fogelsonger no other alternative except to “go to the front and improve his position from there”. Trainer Gary (Captain Bodgit) Capuano is red hot at Pimlico these days.

Can he win this race? I doubt it. He may have peaked in the Federico Tesio, which is best race to date. He has not had a break since he began running last September, so a regression would not be unexpected. His only chance will be to steal the race with slow fractions on the front end, but neither Peace Rules nor New York Hero will let that happen. Funny Cide will be stalking right behind them all, ready for a “Cide attack” as they turn for home. If Cherokee’s Boy had drawn outside, I would not even consider him, but breaking from the rail, he is worth a second look.

Can he hit the board? There is a good possibility of that with a little luck and a ground saving trip around Old Hilltop’s tight turns. At 15-1, I would not leave him out of your exotics, although a win would be a real surprise.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. NOW PERFORMING IN THE CENTER RING, THE 128TH RUNNING OF THE GRADE I PREAKNESS STAKES!

HERE ARE YOUR BETS:

Key FUNNY CIDE and PEACE RULES in trifectas with:

The entry of SCRIMSHAW and SENOR SWINGER, CHEROKEE’S BOY, and KISSIN SAINT.

We didn’t talk about Kissin Saint who finished a distant 3rd in the Wood. He is strictly a closer, and his style does not fit this track, however, he is bred to get the distance, and in the event that a suicide speed duel develops he can pick up a piece simply by passing tired horses.

So there won’t be a Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey circus after all. The clowns hopefully will remain in Miami. Lion Tamer is not entered. The Ringling Brothers and PT Barnum are no longer with us; however, Bailey will show up - aboard Ten Cents A Shine.

No, there is no circus, but you just might see a pretty good Cide Show!

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