This field is ripe for upset, but Menifee looks like winner

How The Experts See It

May 15, 1999|By Gary West | Gary West,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Kentucky Derby wasn't definitive, so most observers are still waiting for some horse to step forward and prove himself clearly superior in this class of 3-year-olds. But the wait could continue long after today's 124th Preakness, because this group has no standout. The best of this year's sophomores are evenly matched, and many of them have the same stalking style. That's why the Derby was so, well, eventful, and that's why this Preakness remains so difficult to analyze.

But this much is clear: The Preakness rests temptingly in an unlocked jewelry box. It's just begging to be stolen, for the field lacks any serious front-running speed. And anybody with the daring to attempt a heist could become an upset possibility.

Valhol, Torrid Sand, Cat Thief and Patience Game all have a dollop of speed and should be prominent from the start. But the most attractive potential thief in the group could be Kimberlite Pipe. He looks magnificent, and he's training enthusiastically.

So in the short run (less than a quarter-mile) to the first turn, watch for the unfolding of a possible heist. Watch also for positioning. In the Derby, Menifee got shuffled back, and Excellent Meeting could have had a more comfortable trip going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. They'll try to stay closer here. The early running will also be critical for Worldly Manner and Stephen Got Even on the outside.

Kimberlite Pipe, Worldly Manner and Cat Thief will probably lead the group down the backstretch and into the second turn, and if the pace is moderate they could prove difficult to run down. Menifee, who's powerful on the straights, will advance, as will Excellent Meeting. And jockey Chris Antley will probably call on Charismatic with about a half-mile remaining. The Derby winner can sustain a drive longer than most horses, and if the Preakness becomes a test of perseverance, he could again score.

Charismatic and Stephen Got Even probably run the turn better than any of their Preakness rivals, and they could loom threateningly at the top of the Preakness stretch. But from there to the wire, Menifee is clearly best of the group.

And so here's one opinion of the Preakness outcome: Menifee, Charismatic, Stephen Got Even. The opinion is offered with respect also for the chances of Excellent Meeting, Worldly Manner, Cat Thief and Kimberlite Pipe and with an awareness that in this race, no victory will be gift-wrapped.

Gary West is the turf writer for the Dallas Morning News.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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