The Jury: Bets and fades for May 20

May 20th, 2023

Preakness Day at Pimlico is the focal point on Saturday, and James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson oblige with their top plays there (and elsewhere) on a big afternoon of action.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: A hot and contested pace appears likely for Saturday’s Chick Lang (G3), and I’ll tab #7 Prince of Jericho (9-2) on the cutback. A convincing winner from off the pace in his last sprint stakes, the three-year-old colt unsuccessfully stretched out to longer distances in his last two outings. Prince of Jericho favors shorter trips, winning both attempts at six furlongs, and his Brisnet numbers fit.

Vance Hanson: #3 Inflation Nation (4-1) needed more distance than six furlongs by the end of last year, and gets some Saturday in the Paradise Creek S. at Belmont Park over seven furlongs on the turf. The Christophe Clement trainee was probably in need of a race when second in the one-mile Woodhaven S. at Aqueduct last month in his first start since early November, but expecting him to make a quality run late here while taking a step forward second time off the layoff.

Ashley Anderson: Morning line favorite #3 Artemus Citylimits (5-2) has struggled against graded stakes company in his last four and may bounce back with some class relief in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint S., but I'll take a swing with a longer shot in #13 Beer Can Man (8-1), who failed as the favorite in his last three when sprinting between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 furlongs. A cutback in distance may suit the Can the Man gelding, who is 5-for-7 at five furlongs and may improve second start off the layoff for Phil D’Amato, a 22% winner in non-graded stakes. Regular rider Flavien Prat will retain the mount and won with the five-year-old the last time he raced at today's distance.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: After weakening to last as an odds-on favorite, #1 Atone (9-5) will try to rebound in Saturday’s Dinner Party (G2) at Pimlico. I’ll play against the Grade 1 winner, who has never been the most consistent performer, and favor #4 Hurricane Dream (7-2) off a sharp allowance win at Keeneland.

VH: #3 Artemus Citylimits (5-2) turned in some strong efforts against much better competition last fall, but a sub-par run in the Shakertown (G2) last month in his season debut has me looking elsewhere in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico. He could bounce back from that, but this five-furlong trip might be a bit sharp for him as he seemingly prefers 5 1/2 or six.

AA: #2 Beguine (3-1) comes off a five-month layoff to face nine fillies and mares in the six-furlong Skipat S. at Pimlico. The Gun Runner filly is 0-for-3 at today's distance and last placed second in the Garland of Roses S. at Aqueduct after getting collared with 70 yards to the finish. Trainer Ned Allard is winless in his last eight graded stakes tries, and Beguine will get a new rider in Javier Castellano. The four-year-old is vulnerable against a deep field, and I'll look to beat her with #5 Princess Kokachin (6-1), who's 5-for-10 from today's distance and 2-for-3 at Pimlico. #3 I'm the Boss of Me (4-1) also has a chance here. The Midshipman mare was last seen wiring a six-furlong allowance optional claimer at Oaklawn and will get Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Grade 3 winner Nagirroc (8-5) is the one to beat off a runner-up effort in the Transylvania (G3), but I’ll give the edge to #8 Wonderful Justice (5-1) in the James W. Murphy S. at Pimlico following a troubled trip in the same race. The Brad Cox-trained colt appeared to be rallying boldly when he was stopped in the stretch, and the progressing three-year-old has trained forwardly in the interim for Brad Cox.

VH: #1 Limited Liability (8-1) might find the stretchout to 12 furlongs agreeable for trainer Shug McGaughey in the Louisville (G3) at Churchill Downs. Grade 2-placed in his first couple seasons of racing, the gray son of Kitten's Joy exits an allowance win over nine panels at Keeneland and should continue to get better. He's one I'll be considering in the win pool and for exactas and trifectas.

AA: A trio of Triple Crown nominated horses will drop down in class to face each other in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton S. on the Preakness undercard. Among them are maiden winner #3 Tapit's Conquest (4-1), #6 Denington (5-1), and heavy favorite #4 Arabian Lion (2-5), who finished second by a half-length to First Mission in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington (G3) last out. Arabian Lion has not won since graduating on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita, but the Justify colt should finally return to the winner's circle here while facing just five rivals. Trainer Bob Baffert is a 32% winner in non-graded stakes, and Arabian Lion is eligible to improve while racing on Lasix the first time, a winning move for Baffert 37% of the time. John Velazquez will regain the mount and won with the colt on debut. Should Baffert get the win here, he'll earn his fourth victory in the Sir Barton, tying him with Graham Motion and Nick Zito for the most wins by a trainer in the race's history.