2022 Preakness Stakes

#1 Simplification (6/1)

Looked strong coming into the Florida Derby off a SOFT/REV combo but failed to sustain his previous 75/74 (4F/Final) from January by regressing to a 74/71 when taking on the extra distance. Good tactical form reversal in the Derby to relax more early for a 75/79h. However, runner starting to build a bit of a reputation for bouncing off efforts though as resume also features an impressive juvenile sprint of 75h/73 being encored with a dud 72h/60h. Back in two weeks off a strong Derby try, looks a bit hard to trust, especially if he reverts to his tactics of getting close to the pace. If he settles into his new role as one all of a sudden able to relax early and run on later, he can fit a ticket for bottom of exotics. Would really prefer double-digit odds on the board here though.

#2 Creative Minister (10/1)

One of the more lightly-raced runners in the field, he gets his first big class test today looking to burst onto a bigger scene off a good-looking string of COMP > SOFT > REV pattern progressions while holding the biggest late energy dirt spread of the field's last spins. Plenty of potential here and will likely end up well-used as a “B” horse in the public's horizontal wagers.

#3 Fenwick (50/1)

Blasted off when trying blinkers to a 71/76 DTOP maiden score at Tampa but didn't follow that with much nor hold a past foundation for it. Doesn't fit well here today.

#4 Secret Oath (9/2)

Filly takes another shot at the boys after an impressive Oaks victory off the NPT (New Pace Top). Tough spot here now having to survive a DTOP that featured a pretty substantial uptick in both 4F and Final Figure. I worry about a repeat of the Arkansas Derby try. She looked game there when making her sweeping move from last to 3rd but was ultimately turned away in stretch. Female runners have a much better sense of themselves and their own ability while male runners tend to be more worried about outdoing each other and are more willing to over-push their limits. I think this dynamic could have factored in the Arkansas Derby loss and puts her at risk here today as well. Her wins have come from sweeping by as the best while it remains a question if she has the grit to engage in a hard-fought duel. Off a DTOP, an often regressive spot, I don't know she'll offer the odds to see if she can replicate the one-on-one fight that Swiss Skydiver put up as a filly upsetting boys in the 2020 Preakness, one of the best stretch duels in recent memory being right on par with Songbird v. Beholder from the 2016 BC Distaff.

#5 Early Voting (7/2)

So far, so good for another lighter-raced runner of the field prompting positive Form Cycle Patterns with each start as a COMP debut > NPT > REV progressor. Should want the lead here and at face value is a good second choice in this race with the best upset potential. Strategically though, I like the favorite's chances to hurt his confidence here and think the value play lies in backing him to wrap things up late saving for next outing while left off the board here.

#6 Happy Jack (30/1)

They've experimented back and forth with blinkers showing mixed results. Opt to use them today and his best route run came with them while triggering a REV with a -8 dirt spread (best late speed of career). Figures much too slow for a win bet but looks the type to canter on by tired runners possibly blowing up the bottom of exotics at a price.

#7 Armagnac (12/1)

Has been an “opportunist” type with both victories coming gate-to-wire against main rivals that were heavily spent early on energy. The most recent upset of an odds-on favorite was a rival off a NEG debut. Looks like too optimistic of a spot here likely sitting in an early position he either won't like or can't sustain compared to the rivals' resumes.

#8 Epicenter (6/5)

Favorite comes out of a Derby pace meltdown where he by far out-sustained fractions of other top-half of field pace runners. Flavien Prat on Zandon said he thought he was the winner until Epicenter fought back on him and said “not today.” Very few runners put in timed works for today's contest but Epicenter proved he's recovered and healthy by recording a breeze for this quick turnaround. While the 80 Final is matched by a handful of runners, the 6F Figure isn't, so any relaxation the field allows at that split gives him a chance to improve his Final Figure to one tough to match. I could see this one earning the “Meat Loaf Triple Crown”…because “2 Outta 3 Ain't Bad.”

#9 Skippylongstocking (20/1)

Nice developmental foundation to prompt 3 straight NPTs then work through a DTOP to put up the 72/80 in last, by far his best performance in terms of giving late effort. Appears to be undervalued here as one that could easily run into the exotics late while peaking.

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