xTC Slow Derby. Fast Preakness.
That's the likely scenario today, when 14 3-year-olds half of them starters in the slow-motion Kentucky Derby break from the gate in the 117th Preakness.
There are several different kinds of speed horses in the race. Speakerphone, Technology and Alydeed have early speed; Dance Floor, Casual Lies and Pine Bluff use tactical speed; Conte Di Savoya and Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee are closers.
The rest of the field is made up of a potpourri of lesser animals who have yet to prove themselves in the big leagues.
It's a tossup exactly where the long shots fit in, but two of them Big Sur and Fortune's Gone have early speed and likely will add to what Lynn Whiting, Lil E. Tee's trainer, predicts will be "a hotly contested pace."
The track should be rated "fast" by the 5:31 p.m. post time despite last night's rain. However, that could change with the forecast calling for party cloudy skies and a chance of thunderstorms.
At the trainers' Alibi Breakfast yesterday, Whiting said: "There are bona fide speed horses in this race. I don't see any other way that the race can be run except with a very fast pace up front."
Sonny Hine trains Technology, who starts from the second post position. Hine has said Technology is going to the front, "even if we die on the lead."
Add to that the fast reputations of Speakerphone and Alydeed neither of whom ran in the Derby and the Preakness should be a much livelier contest than its Triple Crown predecessor two weeks ago.
So if the first mile of the Preakness is going to be faster than the first mile of the Kentucky Derby, what will that mean?
When the field turns for home today, look for the horse with tactical speed that lays five or six lengths off the pace and then can accelerate quickly going into the final turn. Dance Floor, Casual Lies or Pine Bluff could win in that scenario.
If none of the horses can make that kind of move, the closer who lags behind can explode in the final quarter. Lil E. Tee, Conte Di Savoya and Careful Gesture fall into this group.
Very few front-runners win the Preakness. One has to go back a decade to Aloma's Ruler in 1982 to find a horse that has led the entire 1 3/16th miles.
"What we have is a bettor's dream," said Joe De Francis, president and chief executive officer of Pimlico. "When the Derby winner comes to the Preakness, he's usually at odds like 2-1 or shorter. But this year, Lil E. Tee is 7-2, one of the longest prices for a Derby winner in modern times. It shows you the depth and quality of the field."
It also shows that the plodding time of the Derby originally listed as 2 minutes, 4 seconds, then changed to 2:03 because of a faulty timing device didn't scare the competition.
It will be the richest Preakness in history. If the full field of 14 goes to the post the largest field since 14 ran in 1970 the gross purse will be $744,800. The winner's share will be $484,120, nearly $40,000 more than the previous record of $445,900 won by Summer Squall in 1990.
The race has had its dramatic buildup from dismay in the Dance Floor camp over the horse's post position (14) to the day-by-day medical bulletins on the status of Technology's injured heels.
And trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that drama could continue today: "All of these horses have a legitimate chance to have one great moment."