Horse Racing

Preakness Preview: Nyquist Looking to Continue Dominance

Preakness Preview: Nyquist Looking to Continue Dominance

History in the making looks to continue on Saturday as the undefeated Nyquist looks for the second leg of the Triple Crown in the Preakness Stakes. Following in the footsteps of California Chrome and American Pharoah, Nyquist looks to be the third straight Kentucky Derby winner to head into the Belmont with Triple Crown aspirations.

Nyquist showed his dominance two weeks ago, as jockey Mario Gutierrez positioned him close to a quick early pace in the Kentucky Derby. When asked in the stretch, Nyquist responded, opening up two lengths and holding off the late move of Exaggerator to win by just over a length. The 2015 Champion two-year-old colt has gone three-for-three in 2016, and eight-for--eight on his career heading into the Preakness.

This second leg of the Triple Crown is the shortest of the three races, something that will likely help Nyquist with his close up running style. Surprisingly, only two other Derby participants come back in this second leg as Exaggerator and tenth-place finisher Lani are the only others making the quick, two-week between races, return.

Nyquist should get a very similar trip as he did in the Preakness in the Derby. The pace is likely to be quick once again as numerous horses could show early speed, led by the maiden Laoban. Expect Nyquist to rate in the clear within four to five lengths, and look to move into the stretch. Jockey Mario Gutierrez has been in a similar position before with I’ll Have Another and should know when to make his move on Saturday. If the track comes up sloppy, you may even see Nyquist closer to the early pace.

There are a few runners in with a chance to pull off the upset in the Preakness. Leading the way is the Derby runner-up Exaggerator for the Desormeaux brothers. While he may be better suited for the longer Belmont Stakes, he tries this leg with hopes of another swift early pace to close into. With rain in the forecast, the slop monster does move up, but it will also likely lower any value you may receive at the betting window. Exaggerator has a shot to turn the tables on Nyquist, the question is if 1 3/16 miles will be enough ground for him to do it.

A couple of newcomers for Hall of Fame trainers are also in the mix in the Preakness. Bob Baffert sends out Collected as he comes off three victories from four stakes starts on the year. Collected has some versatility as he could get a very similar trip to Nyquist in the Preakness. The decision will be left to jockey Javier Castellano as to when to move with Collected as he likely won’t allow Nyquist to get the early jump on him Saturday.

Trainer Todd Pletcher starts Stradivari from the outside with his go-to guy John Velazquez aboard. Stradivari is more of a wildcard in the Preakness as he has made only three career starts. This will be his first stakes start but he has shown that he is deserving of the opportunity.  He sprung onto the scene most recently as he blew away an allowance field at Keeneland by 14 lengths and has trained well into the Preakness.

In the end, can any of the other 10 entrants in the Preakness defeat Nyquist? Possibly, but it isn’t likely. Nyquist has handled everything tossed at him thus far in his career. He has shipped well, has handled different distances and weather conditions, and has won from on or off the pace. Looking at how things are expected to unfold in the Preakness, it looks like we will be cheering on another possible Triple Crown winner in three weeks.

Eagle, Scuba Headline Field for Hawthorne Gold Cup

Barbara Weidl

Eagle, Scuba Headline Field for Hawthorne Gold Cup

Saturday marks the 80th running of the most historic race on Hawthorne’s calendar as the $150,000, Grade 3 Hawthorne Gold Cup returns. To be contested at 1 ¼ miles over the Hawthorne main track, a field of eight has assembled with a mix of locals and out of towners. A trio of graded stakes winners in Eagle, Scuba, and Hay Dakota lead the way in the Gold Cup.

The 8-5 morning line favorite in the Hawthorne Gold Cup is Eagle, from the barn of trainer Neil Howard.  The 2016 winner of the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland and second-place finisher of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill last year, Eagle has raced with mixed results during his 2017 campaign. He opened the season with a pair of fourth-placed efforts in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds.  He returned to Keeneland in April, finishing second in this year’s edition of the Grade 3 Ben Ali before a flat effort in the Pimlico Special in May.  He got back on track though, winning the Michael Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Grand before running a good second in the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth in August.  He enters the Gold Cup off a fifth-place performance in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic at Churchill in his most recent start. Ty Kennedy gets the call aboard Eagle on Saturday.

The 9-5 second-choice in the Gold Cup is the Brendan Walsh trained Scuba. The multiple graded stakes winning gelding posted a big 2016 campaign, finding the board in all eight of his starts last year.  His season closed with a bang, as he rattled off victories in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at Parx, the Temperence Hill Invitational at Belmont, and capped his season by winning the Grade 2 Marathon on Breeders’ Cup day. Receiving a break after his Marathon win, Scuba began his 2017 season with sixth and fifth-place efforts respectively in the Ben Ali and Flat Out Stakes. After running fourth in the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine, he finished second in the Birdstone at Saratoga on Aug. 3. Scuba enters the Gold Cup off a pair of sixth-place efforts in the Greenwood Cup and Temperence Hill but figures to be the pace of the race on Saturday. Alonso Quinonez gets the call on Saturday to ride.

The field for the Hawthorne Gold Cup:

PP           Horse                                    Trainer                 Jockey             M/L

1              Hay Dakota                         J. Berndt              C. Roman            12-1

2              Futile                                   C. Hartman        R. Prescott           6-1

3              Side Pocket                        J. Smith, Jr.          V. Santiago         15-1

4              Volgograd                           H. Rodriguez      E. Perez              20-1

5              Eagle                                     N. Howard         T. Kennedy         8-5

6              Van Damme                       R. Gorham          T.D. Houghton   8-1

7              Empirestrikesagain          A. Mitchell          S. Sanjur              15-1

8              Scuba                                    B. Walsh            A. Quinonez       9-5

Pair of State-bred Sprints on Saturday Undercard

The top sprinters in the state will also be on the track on Saturday as part of the Gold Cup day undercard. Race four on Saturday is the $100,000 Powerless Stakes for Illinois-bred fillies and mares to be contested at six furlongs. Race eight is the Lightning Jet Handicap as the state-bred boys sprint for $100,000.

Puntsville has been installed as the even-money favorite in the Powerless Handicap for trainer Michelle Boyce.  A winner of 10 of 20 career starts, Puntsville has won three of four races in 2017, including the Hoist Her Flag Stakes at Canterbury and the Richie Scherer Memorial at Arlington Park.  Regular rider Victor Santiago gets the call on Puntsville. 

The Lightning Jet Handicap is a rematch of the top two finishers from the state-bred Buck’s Boy Handicap earlier this month at Hawthorne. The winner of that race, Goneghost, is the 2-1 morning line favorite as one of a pair for trainer Scott Becker in the race that also includes the speedy D’Rapper (5-2). Trainer Michele Boyce with saddle talented three-year-old Devileye, who faced the first defeat of his career in the Buck’s Boy, finishing second to Goneghost.

The fields for the Powerless and Lightning Jet Handicaps:

Powerless Handicap

PP           Horse                                    Trainer                 Jockey                  M/L

1              Kalispell                                J. Johns                O. Hernandez    10-1

2              Dr Winn Kyi                         S. Manley            R. Prescott          8-1

3              Puntsville                            M. Boyce             V. Santiago         1-1

4              Darlin Rosie                        R. Dobbs, Jr.       C. Roman             12-1

5              Jolee                                     A. Mitchell          S. Sanjur              9-2

6              Ima Little Kitten                 R. Lindsay            J. Molina, Jr.       12-1

7              Church Road                      S. Manley            C. Ulloa                 6-1

8              Shar Ran                             M. Tomlinson    E. Perez                10-1

Lightning Jet Handicap

PP           Horse                                    Trainer                 Jockey                  M/L

1              Goneghost                         S. Becker             V. Santiago         2-1

2              Mexico Memories           L. Hellman           A. Quinonez       20-1

3              Reigning Catfish                 J. Smith, Jr.         C. Roman             8-1

4              Devileye                              M. Boyce             S. Sanjur              7-2

5              D’Rapper                             S. Becker             V. Bailon              5-2

6              Cashel Rock                        D. Matthews      J. Lopez                10-1

7              Armando’s Star                 M. Cristel             R. Prescott          5-1

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.