By Jim Freer
Monday, May 18 -- If you made our suggested Preakness bets, you were cheering loudly and feeling saved when Tale of Verve weaved his way through the slop and beat Divining Rod by a length for second place.
Tale of Verve, at 28-1, finished seven lengths behind the 4-5 favorite American Pharoah. The $1 exacta paid $62.20. That was part of our suggested saver exacta part wheel.
We also had a $3 show bet on Divining Rod that paid $7.80. Otherwise, we had no payouts.
Our $50 in hedge-style Preakness bets resulted in a $70 payoff--a 40 percent return on investment.
That cut into the loss thus far on our Triple Crown bets.
We had $132 in suggested bets and a return of $75.30 on the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
One of our winners was a saver exacta part wheel of American Pharoah over Firing Line that paid $36.30.
Our totals through the Preakness are $182 in bets and $145.30 in payoffs. That is a 20 percent loss on investment.
We'll try for a profit in the Belmont Stakes on June 6 when American Pharoah attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
He could face as many as ten challengers. Our early view is that Materiality will be the top threat.
Materiality won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 28 and finished a late-running sixth in the Kentucky Derby on May 2 after a very troubled trip. Trainer Todd Pletcher did not run him in the Preakness
We predicted that Firing Line would win and would be followed by American Pharoah. Divining Rod and Dortmund.
Our starting point bet was a $1 exacta box of Firing Line, American Pharoah and Divining Rod.
Our saver exacta had American Pharoah and Firing Line on top. Underneath, we had those two horses with Dortmund, Mr, Z, Tale of Verve and Danzig Moon. That is ten $1 bets for a total of $10.
In the Kentucky Derby. Firing Line finished second by a length to American Pharoah after their thrilling stretch duel. Dortmund was in that battle until deep stretch and came in third, a length behind Firing Line
Firing Line had the outside post in the eight-horse Preakness, and we thought that could be an advantage considering his tactical speed.
Factoring in the forecast of a possible downpour that indeed arrived shortly before Preakness post time, we found more to like about American Pharoah and Firing Line.
American Pharoah was the only horse with a win on an off track-- in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15.
Firing Line had never raced on a wet track. But he is a grandson of Lion Heart whose progeny often take well to off tracks, Lion Heart is widely known for finishing second to Smarty Jones in quagmire-like conditions at the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
But Firing Line stumbled leaving the Preakness starting gate, and one of his front heels clipped a back heel.
That incident, called "grabbing a quarter," often hinders a horse from reaching best stride in a race.
Firing Line never advanced beyond fifth place Jockey Gary Stevens eased him in the stretch and he came in seventh, 48 lengths behind American Pharoah.
Early indications are that Firing Line will not run in the Belmont.
Tale of Verve caught our pre-race attention for two big reasons
*He had a win at the 1 3/16 mile Preakness distance. That was in a maiden race at Keenland on April 23, The time of 2:00.23 was not stakes caliber. But he won by two widening lengths and appeared ready to keep running.
For the Preakness, it was likely that That Tale of Verve would pass some tiring horses with a shot at hitting the board if one or more of the favorites faltered or had a troubled trip. Dortmund appeared to tire in the stretch, and Firing Line lost all chance at the start.
*Tale of Verve's trainer Dallas Stewart has a record of finishing second with horses at 25-1 or higher n Triple Crown races. Those runners-up were Macho Again (2008 Preakness), Golden Soul (2013 Kentucky Derby) and Commanding Curve (2014 Kentucky Derby).
In last year's Derby the $1 exacta of 5-2 favorite
California Chrome and 37-1 late-running Commanding Curve paid $170.00. We had it in our saver exacta part wheel.
The generally soft-spoken Stewart is talking
very optimistically about Tale of Verve's chances in the Belmont.
But note that Derby star Commanding Curve was sent off at 9-1 in last year's Belmont. He failed to challenge and finished ninth.
California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in dominant fashion. But he came in fourth in the Belmont behind Tonalist, Commissioner and Medal Count.
American Pharoah will be the tenth horse since 1997 to go into the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown Eight of those predecessors failed to win the Belmont. I'll Have Another was scratched the day before the 2012 Belmont.
All of this is a reminder that in horse racing, as in life itself, it is important to keep n mind that what happened last time will not necessarily happen again next time.
The Belmont is next time and is less than three weeks away.
It is not too soon to start handicapping, and we welcome you to send your ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.