Hanson: Spot Plays for Newbury, Pimlico May 18

May 17th, 2024

It'll be a long and exciting day of racing around the world on Saturday, as my attention will be focused on the action at Newbury in England in the morning and the Preakness Day program at Pimlico the remainder of the day. I'll resume my England bankroll action with a play at Newbury, and then provide spot plays for several of the undercard events at Pimlico.

After Ghostwriter finished fourth in the 2000 Guineas (G1) two weeks, my original $1,000 bankroll for England is now down to $734. The win play on Saturday will be for $37.

Newbury Race 7 (Fillies' Trial, 12:15 p.m. ET)

In this 1 1/4-mile race that often produces contenders for the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot, I'll lean on #4 Meribella (8-1) in the field of six three-year-old fillies.

Meribella made a winning debut at Newmarket last August over seven furlongs. Rating smoothly in second following an alert break, Meribella responded well when called upon inside the final quarter-mile and didn't need much encouraging to prevail by one length.

I endorsed her in this space for the following month's May Hill (G2) at Doncaster, but she was scratched. The Ralph Beckett charge remains with plenty of upside, being a beautifully bred daughter of Sea the Stars and out of a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Poet's Word.


Prognosticating on the Preakness Day program 24 hours in advance is tricky business, given the forecast of rain that is sure to affect conditions on both tracks.

Pimlico Race 1 (10:30 a.m. ET)

My first bet, which actually occurs before the Newbury one, is a maiden tentatively scheduled for five furlongs on the turf. A surface switch might actually help #6 Maximillions Dream (10-1), who sped off to an early lead in his debut at Aqueduct last fall before stopping badly after a half-mile. The race was won by Sea Streak, recently a dominating winner of the Long Branch S. at Monmouth Park.

Maximillions Dream received some play in the market in that 12-horse field, so can probably improve off the effort at this shorter trip and against this more modest field with Lasix added. Trainer Tom Morley has strong stats with second-time starters and layoff types, too.

Pimlico Race 8 (Maryland Sprint [G3], 2:48 p.m. ET)

#6 Prince of Jericho (7-2) arrived on the scene too late when we last backed him a year ago in the Chick Lang (G3), but the plethora of speed here and his fondness for six furlongs point him out as one to watch for in the late stages here.

The Russells, trainer Brittany and jockey Sheldon, have started this brief meeting very fast, and this improving four-year-old colt has rarely run a bad one for them.

Pimlico Race 9 (James W. Murphy S., 3:30 p.m. ET)

I wouldn't be surprised if this one mile test for three-year-olds was transferred from turf to dirt, in which case it might be a tougher heat. Either way, #12 Fulmineo (9-2) is intriguing.

The Arnaud Delacour trainee possesses relatively solid form on the turf, having placed in both the Pilgrim (G2) and Columbia S., and it appeared he was compromised by a modest early pace when second in an entry-level allowance at Laurel last month while facing older horses. I'll tread a tad more lightly if this is on the main track, though he has placed in two of three on the dirt.

Pimlico Race 12 (Dinner Party [G3], 5:52 p.m. ET)

In an interrupted career, the Chad Brown-trained #5 Running Bee (9-2) has finished first or second in seven of nine starts. Although he didn't fare well as the favorite in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) in December, he bounced back to finish a close second in the Tampa Bay (G3) to Never Explain, who produced a 15-1 upset victory in this race last year.

He looks ready to return to the stakes ranks after an interim allowance win at Keeneland, and frankly he's facing a lot of veterans here that seem rather well exposed and/or perhaps past their prime.

Pimlico Race 14 (7:43 p.m. ET)

I'll go back to the Russells in this allowance finale scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the main track. #6 It's Viper (3-1) is going to need some pace help, but I'm encouraged by the fact the four-year-old loves this track with two wins and a second in three previous tries at Old Hilltop.