Maryland runners add appeal to Preakness undercard

The Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse has a bevy of stakes races comprising its undercard. We’ll take a look at a couple of the more interesting heats leading up to the main event here. Don’t forget to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

Pimlico Race 10: The Grade III, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes

#9 LONG HAUL BAY (2-1, morning-line favorite) must be respected on the strength of his comeback win last month. He was highly thought of at three, competing in the Woody Stephens before hitting the shelf for almost a year. Aside from that Woody Stephens debacle, LONG HAUL BAY is undefeated. He’s a solid favorite under Manny Franco but is not unbeatable, especially if the track comes up sloppy.

#4 LEWISFIELD (7-2) has run just as fast as the top choice while competing on the Maryland circuit. He’s a perfect 2-for-2 this year, both starts coming at today’s six furlong distance. That includes a strike in the Not For Love Stakes for state-breds at Laurel last time out. He should be pressing the issue early under sharp local rider Arnaldo Bocachica and hold for at least a share.

The play: $5 exacta box 4/9 ($10)

Pimlico Race 12: The $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes

#8 AX MAN (8-5, morning-line favorite) should start a rolling double for Mike Smith leading into the Preakness, where he has the call on Justify. AX MAN broke his maiden in impressive fashion on debut before getting swallowed up in a wicked pace duel in the San Vicente. Stretching out to a mile after a brief freshening, AX MAN atoned by crushing five others in an allowance prep. The Bob Baffert trainee picks up another 1/16th in the Sir Barton, but that should be no sweat. He also shows a bullet work for this and meets few legitimate pace rivals.

#1 FOREST FIRE (15-1) is a longshot worth considering underneath in Saturday’s Sir Barton.  His best career performance came on a muddy track two starts ago, when he won an allowance/optional claiming at Laurel. He was a hard-fought second in the Private Terms Stakes at the same course last time out. Note the rider change to Luis Saez.

The play: $8 exacta 8/1, $2 win 1

DFJ analysis: Despite having just two mounts on Saturday, Mike Smith looks like a must-have at Pimlico. He’ll be aboard favored AX MAN in the Sir Barton before taking the reins on Justify in the Preakness.

Irad Ortiz Jr., who rides longshot Lone Sailor in the Preakness, has some quality mounts lined up on Saturday’s undercard. His day begins in Race 3, and he’ll ride back-to-back favorites. Later on, Frostmourne gives Ortiz a good win chance at the Grade II Dixie, as does Soutache in the Chick Lang.

Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking