BALTIMORE - The best thing about the Preakness draw is that it does not have 20 horses. With only nine entered for Saturday's race at Pimlico, every horse in it is more likely to get a reasonable chance to run his best race. That seldom happens in the Derby, because some horses inevitably will run into traffic trouble.
Derby winner Street Sense obviously got a chance to run his best race with that dream trip along the rail. Some would suggest the colt was lucky. In reality, horses with the acceleration and maneuverability of Street Sense often make their own luck.
Hard Spun, second in the Derby, made his own luck by outsprinting the other speed for the lead and almost taking it the whole way.
Curlin and Circular Quay, the only other Derby horses back in the Preakness, did not have much luck. Both were either wide or in traffic much of the trip, or both. Each should get a cleaner trip in the Preakness, with less opportunity for excuse afterward. With nine horses, the draw really can't put any horse in an impossible spot.
The other difference from the Derby is that Pimlico went back to the traditional draw, not the two-step deal where the connections select the post after a selection order is determined. Horses and posts were drawn at the same time in a one-step process at the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor.
The only intrigue during yesterday's draw was where Hard Spun and Flying First Class would be in relation to one another.
Turned out Hard Spun got the 7 post and Derby Trial winner Flying First Class will start just to his inside in the 6 post. That Hard Spun will be outside of Flying First Class, the likely pacesetter, gives jockey Mario Pino options that he might not have if Hard Spun had drawn inside of the other speed. Every jockey will tell you he would rather be outside, so he can assess the situation rather than be forced to make early decisions to maintain position.
Street Sense drew the 8 post, which is kind of irrelevant for a horse that will drop far back early anyway. Should be fun to watch Calvin Borel try to get to the rail with Street Sense.
Arkansas Derby winner Curlin is the X-factor. Look for the colt to be much closer to the pace than he was in the Derby. Starting from the 4 post should help him stay closer.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was not planning to run Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay in the Preakness until earlier this week. This colt is good enough on his best day, but there is still the matter of Pletcher's 0-for-26 Triple Crown record. Santa Anita Derby runner-up King of the Roxy will be Pletcher's 28th TC starter, and the colt is not without a chance. *