According to evangelical preacher Harold Camping, the end of the world BEGINS today at around 6 p.m. (is that Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific?) with some earthquakes. BUT — and this is really good self-promotion for Camping — the total end of the world will not actually occur until October 21. C'mon, Pastor Camping. That's a whole lotta latitude. You cannot respectably handicap the APOCALYPSE and say, "Well ... it's between now and the next six months ..."
Is it only coincidence that the Rapture kicks off at roughly the same time the Preakness does? And is this a sign the Apocalypse is at hand? Behold, KEGASUS, the half-man half-beast holding court AT THE SITE OF THE GREAT RACE!
And now, for the apocalyptic moment our readers have awaited, THE THINKER's Preakness selections. Can lightning strike twice? All I can say is, I've given this race careful thought and consideration to give you the very best of my handicapping skills. So let's proceed and LET IT RIDE:
1. #11 - ANIMAL KINGDOM. Naturally. No self-respecting handicapper of the Triple Crown would get off his inspired pick after it roared home to win the Kerntucky Derby at 20-1. But even if he weren't my pick for the Derby, THE PRINCE would be IT today. ANIMAL KINGDOM is the class of this field. Curiously, the naysayers whose pockets are lighter because of him, still do not give him his due respect even though he looks every bit his daddy's son — "he looks like a KING out there," said one analyst. LEROIDESANIMAUX never got the respect he deserved in his day, as a super-horse, either, probably because he's got that "(BRZ)" after his name. ANIMAL KINGDOM is the best horse in this race. In my opinion, he will prove to be a great one when the dust settles. But even the greatest of them all, SECRETARIAT, lost to a horse named ONION ... Which proved the inspiration for the satirical political publication of the same name. (I made that part up, but it sounds plausible.)
2.#9 - MUCHO MACHO MAN. This horse is a warrior, as are all stakes horses who carry the HOLY BULL bloodline. Some analysts argue he's on a downward glide, form-wise. I would argue the opposite, that the really good horses only get better under trials by fire. He's clipped heels, been hard bumped, blocked and forced wide in past races, and he always seems to get there. Kathy Ritvo, like Graham Motion, the classy and unassuming Brit who trains ANIMAL KINGDOM, is one trainer with a compelling personal story coming back from a heart transplant, who steers clear of the trash talking and imperious orbit of Zito-Pletcher-Baffert-Assmussen. It's time for some other good guys to bask in the spotlight of training a great horse. I think this race may develop as an exciting grudge match between ANIMAL KINGDOM and hard-luck 3rd place finisher MUCHO MACHO MAN.
3. #4 - FLASHPOINT. Of the new arrivals to the Triple Crown wars this lightly raced and freshened Wesley Ward trainee looms as one of the most dangerous to the top choices. In a race which promises a hot pace, this horse will be a pressing pace factor with lots of upside and pure speed. Look out.
4. #10 - DIALED IN. A lukewarm choice. This Nick Zito trainee has a $6 MILLION BONUS incentive for its connections to win the race. Still, it's ultimately up to the horse, whose best chance is to close into a hot pace with his late kick and pick up the pieces of an ANIMAL KINGDOM duel with MUCHO MACHO MAN or FLASHPOINT. One GOOD outcome if the RAPTURE is at hand is we won't have to put up with Zito's God-speak about his horses, as he'll surely be one of the chosen 200 million (how did they aarrive at that figure ... polling?) to take that RAPTURE escalator to HEAVEN.
Also consider for your exactas and trifectas, MR. COMMONS (#14), a 40-1 bomb who ships in from California as a true contender and pace factor; ASTROLOGY (#1), another upset possibility from the 1-hole, royally bred and fit for Steve Asmussen; and SWAY AWAY (#6), another dangerous closer from the Seattle Slew line, with speed that belongs and plenty of upside.
FINALLY, make sure to keep an eye out for this guy, Pastor Camping's FIRST AND ONLY choice: