Before I get into the races today that involve the All Stakes Pick 4 ending with The Preakness Stakes in Race 13, a little back history on my experience with this Pick 4, or should I say nightmares. It started in 2005, the first time I attempted a Pick 4 on Preakness Day. I decided to play just a $24 ticket(the bet increment was still $1 then) and in the first leg, The Dixie Stakes which had a field of 5, I went 4 deep, leaving off Cool Conductor. Well you can guess who won, and I promptly hit the other 3 legs, including my single of a 4/1 shot. The Pick 4 that ended with Afleet Alex somehow overcoming getting sideswiped to win the 2nd jewel of the TC ended up paying around $1,800, and I was sick, all because I tried to save $6.
2006 I played another economical ticket, making it through the first 3 legs and having Barbaro and Brother Derek in the last leg. Of course the overriding story here is what happened to the 2006 Derby winner, but on a personal note, I had thought about including Bernardini, but ultimately decided not too. Omitting him from my ticket cost me another grand. In 2007 I had Street Sense singled and was looking good at the top of the stretch, then here came Curlin. And he kept coming, and coming, nipping my single at the wire. 2015 in the Dixie, I left off Ironicus at the objection of my friend Brian, who loved the horse. Well, I think you know how the story turns out at this point. The way I see it, I’m due in this Pick 4. I’m thinking this is the year I break the jinx and take home the cash. Hoping you’ll join me on this journey.
RACE 10 The Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes: Last year the headliners were A.P. Indian and Whitmore, this year the top horses coming in are Long Haul Bay, Lewisfield, and Switzerland?? Only Long Haul Bay has won a Graded Stakes in here, taking last year’s G3 Bay Shore. There looks like 4 horses in here will battle it out for the early lead; Red Dragon Tattoo, Lewisfield, Switzerland, and Laki. Thinking it’s either Lewisfield or Laki that ends up with the lead. 7-Laki could be very dangerous in this spot at a big price. He’s 2 for 3 on an off track which is 99.9% certain to be true at race time. Was well beaten in this race last year, but again, the quality at the top of that race was better than this year’s edition. 4-Lewisfield has done very little wrong in his 7 race career, never finishing out of the money. 5-Switzerland has won 3 races in a row after disappointing at short prices race after race early on his career, prompting endless “Switzerland is stuck in neutral” jokes. 2 of those 3 wins came on an off track. 6-Irish Colonel will be coming off the pace, and is hoping for a speed duel between the early front-runners. His last 3 races have been on an off track, which he has 2 wins on and earned his highest BRIS speed figure in 100 two back. 9-Long Haul Bay, the favorite, is 3 for 4 lifetime but has never been on an off track. Will be coming from slightly off the pace. Hard to ignore. I’m using all 5 of these on my ticket.
(OFF TURF) 11 The Very One Stakes: I love turf sprints, and I really hope this stays on turf, because if not there’s no point in playing this Pick 4. 7-Girl Knows Best has proven herself on soft turf, winning by 6 lengths in an Allowance race at Keeneland. 8-Boos did her best racing on softer turf when still in France. Saturday will be her first experience on it in the US. 11-Smiling Causeway has never been on softer turf but is 3-2-0 in 5 turf starts. Arnaud Delacour is 28% +90 days off. 12-Just Talkin has only 1 out of the money finish in turf races 6 furlongs or shorter. Jason Servis and Jockey Irad Ortiz are 8 of last 15 races teaming up. Using these 4 horses in this leg. UPDATE: Because it’s OFF TURF, going ALL in here
RACE 12 LARC Sir Barton Stakes: This is the make break race because I really LOVE a horse here, and it’s NOT the ML favorite Ax Man. 2-Pony Up is the 2nd choice on the ML at 7/2, and I’ve been waiting 5 weeks for him to run back after his 3rd place Lexington effort. If you didn’t watch it, Pony Up and My Boy Jack were both near the very back nearly halfway through the race on the backstretch when both started making their move around the same time. While MBJ decided to go around horses on the outside, John Velazquez tried to shoot Pony Up through the inside but had his momentum halted because there was no hole to go through. Finally was able to split horses near the stretch, but by this point MBJ had gotten 5-6 lengths on him. To his credit Pony Up closed very well, losing by less than 3 lengths. Unsure how he will handle the off track, but I wanted to take a stand somewhere, and while Ax Man has dominated in 2 of the 3 races he’s had, his lone bad start was versus Stakes Company. Yes it’s Baffert and Smith, but I see him being way over bet and this is also his first time away from Santa Anita. Plus, Baffert can’t have all the really good 3 year olds, right? Also wanted to mention the 1-Forest Fire, who may decide to go straight to the lead from the rail. His highest speed figure was on an off track 2 back. Nevertheless, singling PONY UP.
RACE 13 The Preakness Stakes: Look, Justify is unbeaten in 4 career starts, including Kentucky Derby 144 two weeks ago after surviving a brutal early speed duel with Promises Fulfilled. But it would be foolish to think, based on that race with a track that had gotten over 2.5 inches of rain in the hours leading up to the Derby, that he’s unbeatable. Yes, I know they’re expecting similar conditions Saturday, but not all off tracks play the same, and you have to wonder how much that race took out of Justify. Big efforts on off tracks are a lot of times very taxing. Think about this, 2017, 2013, 2010, 2009, and 2004 Kentucky Derby’s were all run on off tracks. Of the 5 winners, not only was Smarty Jones the only one to come back to win the Preakness, he’s the only one to win a race after that period. Also keep in mind that there’s the whole issue with his foot bruise. While I understand that horses do get bruised and scraped in their races, they don’t usually come back to run in a Grade 1 less than 2 weeks later. While I’m not bold enough to completely kick him to the curb, there’s enough cause for concern to believe he’s vulnerable.
Good Magic has never ran a bad race, and he ran well on the sloppy track at Churchill 2 weeks ago, though I don’t think he was ever going to catch Justify. My concern is that he may have ran his best 2 weeks ago, and he’s ripe for a letdown. 6-Tenfold has only 3 races and has never been on an off track, but is by Curlin out of a Tapit mare, so seems to be well bred for an off going. Impossible for me to dismiss at 20-1. Using all 3 of these.
So here’s what my Pick 4 ticket looks like: 4,5,6,7,,9/ALL/2/5,6,7 a $60 ticket based on a $.50 increment play. While I don’t expect anyone to play the same numbers I have blindly, I’m hoping the information provided helps.