A Cat’s 2019 Preakness Picks

May 17, 2019

By Adele

Stewards who threw the Kentucky Derby to 2nd-place finisher Country House flushed this year’s Triple Crown season down the toilet, but I’m pressing on to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18.

Since the Derby, many in the racing community have worked up a righteous lather to justify humiliating Maximum Security by disqualifying his legitimate win. You’d think Max ran the race with switchblades on his shoes and cut every horse who dared get too close.

Adding further insult, Max’s jockey, Luis Saez, got belatedly suspended for 15 racing days for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course.” Yeah, whatever.

A typical suspension is about three days, so Saez is appealing it. But as it stands, the Belmont Stakes on June 8 is conveniently one of the dates he’s forbidden to ride.

Max’s owners have filed a federal lawsuit against the Derby stewards and members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, claiming his disqualification was unconstitutional because the Commission denies due process by claiming stewards’ decisions are final. Apparently, other states, like Louisiana, don’t share this “stewards are gods” stance.

But since neither Max nor Country House are in the Preakness tomorrow, all this human acid reflux is moot.

The Preakness field is only 13 horses. Let’s hope the track dries out (it’s been raining all week), they all keep to themselves and run straight as arrows so those stewards don’t get their panties in a bunch.

War of Will — whom Max allegedly tangled legs with to cause a massive chain reaction, the stewards alleged, that affected nearly every horse EXCEPT Country House — will be in post position 1 under the same jockey, Tyler Gaffalione. He ran 7th in the Derby, but is the second favorite with 4-1 odds. With Max out of the picture, this is War’s chance to show us he can do it.

Also running again is Improbable (new jockey, Mike Smith, 5-2, pp 4). He was one of my picks for the Derby and came in 4th, so I hope he places.

My pick to win is Alwaysmining (Daniel Centeno, 8-1, pp 7). He wasn’t in the Derby, but has won his previous six races, so he’s accustomed to being out front. And, he’s trained by Kelly Rubley, who would be the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.

Alwaysmining (Photo: Jerry Jackson, Baltimore Sun)

The only other horses back for more are Bodexpress (new jockey, John Velazquez, 20-1, pp 9, ran 13th in the Derby) and Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel, 15-1, pp 13, ran 9th in the Derby). The rest of the field is fresh horsefaces.

BONUS: Here’s WaPo’s long-time horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer’s take on the Kentucky Derby and why disqualifying Max based on what might have happened rather than what actually went down was dumb.


Good Luck at Belmont, American Pharoah

June 5, 2015

By Adele

There’s no point analyzing or speculating on the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes, Saturday, June 6. We’ve got a horse within a whisker of being crowned for the first time since 1978, and I’m not going to jinx it.

It may bring good luck to actors on Broadway, but the one thing you never, EVER say to any horse before a big race is, “Break a leg.”

Now that American Pharoah is on the verge of making history, they’re emphasizing the fact that he’s the great-great-great grandson of Secretariat, who happened to be born not too far from here, in Doswell, Virginia, in Caroline County.

And my colleague Max never tires of reminding me that he was born in Caroline County. However, we don’t know, and he doesn’t remember, if he was brought to Richmond from a kill shelter or if someone found him dumped on the side of the road. (Considering how annoying he is, I suspect it’s the latter.)

And I never tire of reminding Max that Caroline County is the final resting place of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing creep’s big brother, because nowhere else would have him, even to throw dirt on him.

But I digress…

Firing Line and Dortmund are skipping the Belmont after failing to outrun the Pharoah in the first two Triple Crown races. The field will consist of only 8 horses, and only one (Madefromlucky) didn’t run in either of the previous Triple Crown races.

American Pharoah is the only horse to run all three, so he’s the least rested before the longest (1-1/2 miles), most grueling race. He’ll be in post position 5.

On his first spin around the Belmont track earlier this week, trainer Bob Baffert said Pharoah ran the wrong way, but he seems in fine spirits.

Cats Working wishes American Pharoah the best in winning the Triple Crown, and may all the horses cross the finish line safely.


The 2015 Preakness Conundrum

May 15, 2015

By Adele

After watched the Kentucky Derby on May 2, my little kitty heart is in pieces — three to be exact — going into the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

I had rooted for Big Brown’s son, Dortmund, to continue his lifetime streak with a 7th win in the Derby, but he came in third, behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. Dortmund had outrun Firing Line in their previous two races, so the Line showed Dortmund what hell payback can be.

American Pharoah and Dortmund are both trained by Bob Baffert, and he has them stabled at Pimlico side-by-side, so they’re practically roomies.

Once any horse wins the Kentucky Derby, I believe it’s poor sportsmanship to wish him not to take the Triple Crown, so my fair side wants to see American Pharoah win the Preakness.

But deep down I still want Dortmund win it. Baffert says this may be Dortmund’s race because he’ll like the distance, shorter than the Derby by 1/16 mile.

And then we have poor Firing Line, who’s endured second-place finishes in his last three races against these two, yet he’s gamely trying to win for the fourth time.

All three have to be pooped, since the Derby was only two weeks ago. For the Preakness, American Pharoah and Dortmund forebodingly drew post positions 1 and 2 at the rail, respectively, while Firing Line got the far outside pp 8.

That’s the good news. Only 8 horses in the field this time. Mr. Z (pp 3) and Danzig Moon (pp 4) also ran in the Derby, placing 13th and 5th, respectively. The remaining 3 horses are new faces, and I’m not considering any of them.

All eyes will be on American Pharoah, Dortmund, and Firing Line in this year’s Triple Crown menage à trois. If American Pharoah can’t do it, then I want Dortmund and Firing line each to win the Preakness and Belmont and make it a team triumph.

As always, may the best horse win, and may they all cross the finish line safely.


A Cat Picks the 2014 Preakness

May 16, 2014

By Adele

Only the most heartless brute would want to dash the hopes of a horse with a shot at winning the Triple Crown, so I’m betting my treats on Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, the odds-on favorite at 3-5 in the 10-horse field, to win the Preakness Stakes May 17 at Pimlico (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

But as always with horse-racing, there’s a bit of drama going on in the barn. “Chromie,” as they call him, has a blister in his throat that makes him cough. His trainer said it was there for the Derby and didn’t get him down, so let’s keep our paws crossed.

Also, it’s been raining, uh, cats and dogs in these parts, and the track may be muddy. Chromie has never run in mud, but he’s never been finicky about the surface, so I hope he’s good with getting his hooves dirty.

He drew the 3rd post position in a field of just 10 horses.

I’ve got a couple of other favorites. A filly named Ria Antonia is the only girl in the race, running from pp 6 with Calvin Borel on her back. They say she’s no Rachel Alexandra (who beat the boys back in 2009) and she has the worst odds at 30-1, but if Chromie can’t pull it off, I hope Ria does.

My pick to show is Ride on Curlin (odds 10-1), although he not only drew the widest post position (10), but he’s in for a rude surprise when he’s mounted this time by Joel Rosario and sees his Derby jockey, Calvin Borel, on Ria Antonia’s back.

Another horse to watch is Pablo Del Monte in pp 9 (odds 20-1). He had earned a last-minute spot in the Derby when Hopportunity got scratched, but took a pass. More rested between his races, he’ll be fresher than Chromie, but does he have what it takes to win a Triple Crown race?

May the best horse win, and all cross the finish line safely.


A Cat’s Picks for the 2014 Kentucky Derby

May 1, 2014

By Adele

Ahhhh… can you smell the fresh hay? Triple Crown season is my favorite time of the year. Why does a cat like me have this thing for horses? Could I have a case of hoof envy? I wouldn’t mind having a set, if they had claws.

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, May 3 (beginning at 4 p.m. on NBC), and I’ve been poring over the contenders, searching for the next Triple Crown winner.

Unfortunately, Hopportunity has already been scratched because he just turned up with a sore left front leg, but if it heals he could turn up later to try for 2 out of 3 at the Preakness.

Wicked Strong is one of the human favorites, running in post position 19 with 6-1 odds. He was originally named Moyne Spun, but his owners started calling him Wicked Strong in 2012 after the Boston Marathon bombings. Of whatever he wins during Triple Crown season, 5% will be donated to a fund for the Marathon victims.

Personally, I think this is all too much pressure to lay on a horse, and Wicked has shown it by running a few disappointing races already this year, so I’m not betting my treats on him, but I wish him luck.

The odds-on human favorite is California Chrome, in post position 5 at 5-2, but he’s not my pick either.

To place or show, I’ll be rooting for Ride On Curlin, who will have the wily Calvin Borel in his saddle. This is sentimental, because Ride On is the son of Curlin, and he has Storm Cat in his family tree on his mom’s side. He’s finished no less than 3rd in 8 of his 9 previous races. He’ll be in post position 18 with odds of 15-1, but if 3-time Derby winner Borel can steer him to the rail, Ride On Curlin could make it.

My pick to win is Wildcat Red. He’ll be in pp 10 with jockey Luis Saez. Wildcat has won 4 of his 7 lifetime races, and has never finished farther back than 2nd. His odds are also 15-1.

One other horse I’ll be cheering with all paws crossed to place or show is Medal Count in pp 13 at 20-1 odds. He’s a distant cousin of the amazing Barbaro, who never recovered from his tragic freak accident in the 2006 Preakness, as well as Eight Belles (the filly ran 2nd to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, only to fracture both front ankles and get put to sleep right on the track, I still have nightmares.)

May all the horses and jockeys cross the finish line safely.


Preakness Looking a Little Peaked

May 17, 2013

By Adele

Since Orb won the Kentucky Derby fair and square, I’m giving him 4 paws up to win the Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico. Any horse who’s got a decent shot at the Triple Crown deserve the cat vote, and Orb is the strong favorite with humans, too.

This would make his 6th win in a row.

If he pulls it off, I hope they don’t say it was slam-dunk because he’s running against only 8 other horses.

Orb drew post position 1, which puts him against the rail. This could be a problem, since jockeys gravitate to the rail to give their horses the shortest distance to run. If Orb doesn’t have a flying start, he could get crowded out to the back of the pack or worse.

You don’t want to be the horse with all the others kicking dirt in your face.

There hasn’t been a winner from the rail position since 1994, when Tabasco Cat did it.

None of our Kittens are running in this Preakness, which has disappointed Max no end. He’s just getting into the sport, and his Derby pick, Fear the Kitten, isn’t running — again.

If Orb happens not to win, my alternate favorite is Mylute, ridden by the only female jockey, Rosie Napravnik. We girls must stick together. Mylute and Napravnik also ran in the Derby and came in 5th.

The temperature should be in the mid-70°s with possibly scattered storms. I hope it’s not another mudbath like the Derby.

Best of luck, Orb! And may all the horses be safe.

BONUS: Here’s a list of Preakness winners going back to 2000.


A Cat’s 2013 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 3, 2013

By Adele

Triple Crown season is here again. The horses are at Churchill Downs, ready to run the 139th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4.

Rain may make the track a muddy mess, which is always worrying. And my pick has never even run on dirt before, so I’m sticking my tail out here.

This year, the post positions I’ll be watching are 14, 15, and 16. That’s where Verrazano, Charming Kitten, and Orb, respectively, will be running.

My pick to win is Charming Kitten, ridden by Edgar Prado. He’s finished in the top 3 in his 7 lifetime starts (winning 2). For the Derby, he’s one of the long shots, with odds of 20-1.

I think the Kitten’s got the stuff to pull it off. Running between the two favorites may spur him to greatness. Also, he has a Virginia connection. His father, Kitten’s Joy, once won the Virginia Derby.

Watch Charming Kitten’s last winning race, which was in January. Appropriately, he did one for Dad in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Verrazano (4-1) and Orb (7-2) are considered the horses to beat in the full 20-horse field.

The other horse to watch is Revolutionary in No. 3 position, ridden by Calvin Borel. Borel is famous for sneaking along the rail to win, and he’s in the perfect position to do it this time.

Revolutionary, Verrazano, and Charming Kitten were all trained by Todd Pletcher.

PS: Max has been showing an interest in horse-racing because it suits his short attention span. He is bummed that his pick, Fearless Kitten (who happens to be Charming Kitten’s half-brother), ended up just missing the cut at No. 21, so he’s the first alternate for the Derby. If any horse gets scratched at the last minute, Fearless Kitten is in, and then the Run for the Roses becomes the Run of the Kittens!

May the best horse win, and all cross the finish line safely.


Cats Working Preakness Picks

May 18, 2012

By Adele

Unlike the odds-makers who are obstinately picking Bodemeister in post position 7 as the favorite in the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19, I’m a cat who would never shred any horse’s Triple Crown dream. I’m putting my treats on Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in pp 9.

I think Bode will run a close second.

My wildcard favorite is 30-1 longshot Tiger Walk, who will be under Kent Desormeaux. Tiger will be at the rail in pp 1, but in a field of only 11 horses, I don’t think Kent will let him get hemmed in.

My original Derby pick and current idol, Dullahan, is taking a pass on the Preakness to rest up for the Belmont Stakes. If I’ll Have Another blows his chance at the Triple Crown this Saturday, Dully will be my man again because distance is his thing, and the Belmont is the longest race of the three.

Good luck to all the Preakness horses. May they and their jockeys cross the finish line safely.

PS: After 800+ posts, Cats Working will be taking a long overdue and much-needed break next week, but we will be back after Memorial Day.


Cat Picks the Preakness

May 13, 2010

By Adele

I know, I know. My Kentucky Derby pick sucked. American Lion came in 11th. That’s the last time I underestimate jockey Calvin Borel’s rat-like cunning. It doesn’t seem to matter which horse he rides; the guy knows how to slip through cracks.

On May 1, Borel won his 3rd Derby in 4 years on Super Saver, who must have been surprised because his face was covered with mud. But now Super has dreams of winning the Triple Crown. Who am I to rain on his parade?

Super Saver is my Preakness pick. He’ll be in post position 8 on May 15.

On the other hand, if I were picking an underdog, it would be Paddy O’Prado in pp 10. He came in 3rd in the Derby under Kent Desormeaux, the jockey who won the Preakness in 2008 on Big Brown.

Two other Derby contenders will be back — Lookin at Lucky and Dublin. Lucky was the Derby favorite, but the mud got to him and he came in 6th. Now he’s catching no break with a jockey-switch to Martin Garcia, which never bodes well. He’ll be in pp 7 beside his nemesis, Super Saver.

Dublin ran 7th in the Derby and will be on the outside in pp 12 with Lucky’s Derby jockey, Garrett Gomez.

The only other horse out of the 12 running who intrigues me is Yawanna Twist in pp 5 with Edgar Prado. He came in second against American Lion in the Illinois Derby in April.

There’s no crazy filly like Rachel Alexandra running on a whim with Calvin Borel. That pair cost Mine That Bird his Triple Crown last year. I just hope it’s a pretty day and nobody gets hurt.


Big Brown Raced Like a Cat

June 8, 2008

By Fred

Horses need nine lives almost more than cats. For Big Brown, deciding it made no sense to do a mad dash in blistering heat at Belmont may very well have ruined his remarkable racing career.

OK, so he got disgusted during his one chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years, but he’s only 3 years old. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid.

Big Brown reminded me of Barbaro in the way he could make all the other horses look like they were standing still while he hardly broke a sweat. He even seemed to be having fun.

But when they started calling him a shoo-in for the Triple Crown, I had bad Barbaro flashbacks. “Pride goeth before the fall” and all that jazz.

Sure enough, trapped in a mob right out of the gate, Brownie gamely took hooves and tail in the face until his jockey could get him in the clear. But by then it was too late. He’d had enough and decided racing wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Now instead of a superstar who won every race, Big Brown will be remembered as the only Triple Crown contender who came in dead last.

It’s not fair. He’s just misunderstood.

Big Brown may have the body of a horse, but he obviously thinks like a cat. His trainer camouflaged it with steroids that kept him artificially pumped and enthusiastic. But after his “catnip” was discontinued cold-turkey in April and Big Brown realized that racing sober is dirty work, he gave it up cold-turkey, right in the middle of the track.

If people tried to race cats, this sort of behavior would be common. The rare cat would actually finish the course. For a blanket of flowers or a trophy we wouldn’t be allowed to eat from, the rest of us couldn’t be bothered.

Big Brown’s last-minute decision to pass on the Triple Crown cost him lucrative deals, but he doesn’t seem to care. To learn what went down right from the horse’s mouth, read his interview with Fox.

I think Big Brown could have a future in television, starring in a remake of Mister Ed with his trainer Rick Dutrow as goofy Wilbur Post. Their first episode could be, “Ed, the Recovering Junkie.”


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