The field for the 2012 Preakness won't be finalized for a couple more days, but we can still take an initial look at the probable field in order to form a few early handicapping thoughts. Once the Kentucky Derby is completed, the other legs of the Triple Crown tend to involve significant handicapping time evaluating the "new shooter", or horses that didn't run in the Derby. Sometimes, we'll see a new shooter like Bernardini (2006) - a tremendously talented colt that went on to challenge for Horse of the Year honors. Bernardini didn't race in the Kentucky Derby due to his late development, and not because of any talent deficiencies.
For every Bernardini there are countless also-rans that will make their Triple Crown debuts after the Derby. This year's crop of new shooters seems more likely to be on the also-ran side of the equation, as opposed to the super star side. It's doubtful we're going to see a Bernardini-type colt running at the Preakness on May 19th.
Below is a quick take on a few of the potential new shooters for this year's Preakness:
Brimstone Island - His highest class win came against $17,000 claimers at Laurel Park in February. He's an immediate toss.
Cozzetti - Shown some flashes of talent here and there but would need to run the best race of his life to win the Preakness. Possible, but unlikely.
Guyana Star Dweej - He's never faced much in terms of talent and he appears to be over his head in the Preakness
Hierro - Won the G3-Derby Trial and looks like a nice colt going forward. He's a little short on stamina n the pedigree.
Isn't He Clever - Ran a huge race in the G3-Sunland Derby and then bounced to the moon in the G1-Arkansas Derby. Tough to get a read on this colt and he could be a bit of a wild card. On paper, his Sunland Derby race is good enough to compete with his rivals. His Arkansas Derby race is clearly not up to par. (UPDATE: Isn't He Clever is now out of the Preakness.)
Paynter - Lightly raced with a lot of room to still develop. He ran big in the G3-Derby Trial in just his third lifetime start.
Pretension - He won an ungraded stakes race at Pimlico on Derby weekend but he's finished well back of his rivals each time he's attempted to run against graded company.
Teeth of the Dog - Like Paynter, this colt is lightly raced and still developing, which is potentially a huge combination in any race. He hasn't raced since April 7th and could be ready to fire a big race right off the short layoff.
Tiger Walk - He ran fairly well in the New York prep races this spring but he needs to show improvement to have any chance at a win.
Zetterholm - He's never faced anything but New York-bred horses in his brief career; that's a major class hurdle to overcome.
Looking at our list of new shooters for the Preakness, I think it's safe to eliminate most of those horses as serious contenders to win on on May 19th. The new horses that appear to have the best shot at making an impact in the race are Isn't He Clever, Paynter and Teeth of the Dog. Cozzetti and Hierro are decent looking colts, but each appears to be a cut below the top horses coming out of the Derby.
Derby winner I'll Have Another, runner-up Bodemeister, fourth place finisher Went the Day Well and fifth place finisher Creative Cause all appear to be the legitimate standouts heading into the Preakness. In order to challenge any of those four horses, Isn't He Clever needs to find the form he displayed in the Sunland Derby, while Paynter and Teeth of the Dog must continue to move forward in their development process. If we were to handicap which of those two scenarios is more likely to occur on Saturday, I'd go with the continued development of Paynter and Teeth of the Dog.
UPDATE: With the announcement that Isn't He Clever will not run in the Preakness, Paynter and Teeth of the Dog are the key new shooters to watch this Saturday.