With the Preakness Stakes to be run at Pimlico on Saturday, here are my power rankings of the main hopefuls following Wednesday's post position draw.
1. Animal Kingdom
Won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs from behind a slow pace, and should be even better shape in the Preakness as the early fractions are expected to be much faster. Outside draw in the Preakness should prove no hindrance as it didn't seem to bother him in Louisville, but it will be interesting to see if he faces any adversity this time as his Derby trip was relatively smooth and trouble free.
2. Mucho Macho Man
Narrowly missed running second in the Kentucky Derby, and the shorter distance of the Preakness probably works to his advantage. He's never finished worse than third in the five two-turn races he's run in, and continues to give the impression in his morning trials that he'll run another big one on Saturday.
He's rounding into form for two-time Preakness-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, and stretches back out to his preferred two-turn trip after shortening up for last month's one-mile Jerome Stakes where he finished second. A likeable 15-1 shot in the morning line.
He's one of the more intriguing entrants among those who bypassed the Kentucky Derby. Ran well in the Arkansas Derby despite pressing a fast pace, but Preakness winners coming off five-week layoffs are rare. Did draw an advantageous post outside the other speed, and should be well-positioned to pounce at the far turn.
Exceed expectations when fourth in the Kentucky Derby after setting the slowest pace seen in the race in decades, but he will face much more pace pressure at Pimlico. Not convinced he wants 1 3/16 miles against this kind of company, even if he allows Flashpoint to handle most of the dirty work early on.
6. Dialed In
The beaten Kentucky Derby favorite figures to have a stronger pace to chase in the Preakness, but he can't afford to drop too far back in the early stages again. Is in line to earn purses and bonus money totaling more than $6 million with a victory, but one could argue Animal Kingdom might be the more effective of the closing types.
Admirably consistent running on turf and synthetic since breaking his maiden last fall, he was found lacking when racing on dirt early in his career. He might be a different horse now, and trainer Tom Albertrani saddled Bernardini to victory in this race five years ago.
He has a nice turn of foot and made a bold move to take the lead late in the Arkansas Derby, but needs to show he can sustain that kind of bid against a tougher field. The addition of blinkers last time seemed to help get him in the race sooner, but suspicions remain that he might be more effective as a late-running sprinter.
A late edition to the prospective Preakness field earlier this week, he will have to improve considerably off a poor 16th-place effort in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Preakness on five previous occasions, but doubts concerning this one as his Santa Anita Derby win was achieved over a weak field.
The likely Preakness pacesetter has a pedigree better suited to sprints and it would be a surprise to see him still in the mix in deep stretch. With only three career starts behind him, he'd be one of the most lightly-raced Preakness winners in history if he should pull a wire-to-wire upset.