The week before the Kentucky Derby was filled with uncertainty: Days before the race, the morning-line favorite, Omaha Beach, was scratched. Then Haikal had to withdraw because of a foot injury. The weather forecast was by turns encouraging and dismaying.
And then, of course, we had the controversial disqualification of Maximum Security, which has given the racing community plenty of fodder for conversation leading into Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
The stewards’ ruling at Churchill Downs two weeks ago didn’t stop the stream of headlines: Days after the race, we learned that neither Maximum Security nor Country House, the horse who was placed first in the Kentucky Derby, would travel to Baltimore to contest the Preakness.
Relatively speaking, this pre-Preakness week has been a quiet one. So far, we’ve had no notable defections (knock wood). The weather forecast looks terrific (knock wood). And we’ve got a field of 13, which makes for a great betting race.
And then there’s the weather. Are we handicapping for an off track? Or are we not? If the forecast gets a little more definitive, we’ll be back with a look at the mudders in the race.
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Our public handicappers are back with their advice for a Preakness wager, which you can place at racetracks and off-track betting facilities, or through on-line wagering platforms.
Good luck, and safe trips to all.
Emily Gullikson, partner at OptixEQ.com
The majority of the wagering action in the Preakness will be focused around #1 WAR OF WILL and #4 IMPROBABLE, both exiting the Kentucky Derby. They have that angle going for them, as recent results show horses exiting the Kentucky Derby typically perform well in the Preakness. Each brings a level of class to this field as multiple graded stakes winners, and they have held consistent speed figures this year. While logical, neither is completely exciting in this race. Trip will be a major factor for the pair, as the race shape looks to be contentious early with those two right in the mix. With a competitive group assembled for this race and with pace being a main factor, there is enough value elsewhere in the field.
Another coming out of the Kentucky Derby is #13 WIN WIN WIN, a horse that could offer value in this spot, and it’s worth noting that he went off at the same odds as WAR OF WILL in the Derby. His trip in the Derby was nothing to get excited to bet him back out of; however, the trip was enough for him to not show his best on the day. #7 ALWAYSMINING will bring his six-race win streak to take on graded stakes for the first time. He exits the local prep, the Federico Tesio Stakes, last month at Laurel. The Tesio winners have struggled in the Preakness, though many were longshots in the race, and he brings a completely different résumé than runners in the past.
In terms of pace, #4 BOURBON WAR deserves consideration with his running style. While he is a new shooter and did not make the Derby field, he ran competitively in both the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby, two races whose form has held up quite well.
Candice Hare, TVG on-air host/analyst
The most wide-open Preakness Stakes in recent memory lies ahead for those at Pimlico this Saturday, and while a Triple Crown bid is not on the line, a fantastic wagering opportunity instead awaits.
#1 WAR OF WILL wound up in headlines for all of the wrong reasons when involved in the tussle with Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby. His talent and accomplishments, however, appear to have been forgotten. The son of War Front burst onto the scene – and straight to the top of many a Derby leaderboard – after he took the Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in quick succession at Fair Grounds. His Louisiana Derby was over after he had severe issues out of the gate, and all things considered, he ran well enough in the Derby itself. He’s drawn in gate one once again, but all things being equal, he should be able to lead from there, and while there are other speeds signed on, he’s shown the ability to handle quick early tempos in the past.
Local charge #7 ALWAYSMINING has yet to face competition of this caliber, but what he has faced he has beaten in the easiest of fashions. The son of Stay Thirsty enters this having won six straight, and his tractability should allow him to be positioned with every chance turning for home in a race that features a solid amount of early speed.
Likely favorite #4 IMPROBABLE hasn’t done much wrong in his career and most recently was a solid fifth in the Kentucky Derby. He’s now had three very tough efforts in a row, however, and one has to wonder how much those hard-knocking tries will have taken out of him.
Brian Nadeau, handicapper at Horseplayer Now and my site Brooklyn Backstretch
Taking a new shooter in the Preakness isn’t usually a path to success, but with the 1-2-3 finishers in this year’s Kentucky Derby passing the race, it might be the right time to look outside the box, especially since the favorite #4 IMPROBABLE (5-2 on the morning line), who was elevated to fourth in the Derby, hasn’t won a race all year. The Florida Derby seems to be a very key prep this year, as winner Maximum Security easily won the Kentucky Derby before being disqualified, while third-place finisher Code of Honor finished in the same spot in Louisville (elevated to second), so I’m going to come back to #2 BOURBON WAR (12-1), since I’ve been high on him all year and his not making the field for the Run for the Roses could be viewed as a good thing, because he arrives in Baltimore fresh and ready to roll. He also had no chance in the Florida Derby due to a lack of pace yet fought late to be fourth, in an effort that was much better than it looked. In the Preakness, however, the pace figures to be honest and contested, the blinkers going on might put a bit more tactical speed into him, and this inside post will allow him to save a lot of ground, too.
How to bet it? BOURBON WAR is 12-1 on the morning, and I’ll be making a win-place-show (WPS) bet on him, as anything over 8-1 is way too good to pass up, especially when the exotic spots could be filled by anyone, and there’s nothing worse than having a $20 winner and not cashing a bet. I completely tossed the aforementioned IMPROBABLE in the Derby, and he didn’t do any real running when fifth (moved to fourth), even with a clean trip, but this is such a weak field that he almost has to hit the board somewhere, so I’m going to key him in second, third, and fourth in the superfecta with BOURBON WAR in first, second, third, and fourth in the other slots, and then use the rest of the field in the unoccupied second, third, and fourth slots:
- BOURBON WAR-IMPROBABLE-ALL-ALL
- BOURBON WAR-ALL-IMPROBABLE-ALL
- ALL-BOURBON WAR-IMPROBABLE-ALL
The field this year is so evenly matched, and there’s no standout, that it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see two of the four slots in the super filled by a pair of 40-1s, especially since bombers like #8 SIGNALMAN (30-1) and #11 LAUGHING FOX (20-1) are hardly overmatched on paper and will also love the pace.
Seth Merrow, publisher of Equidaily.com and handicapper for Capitol OTB
The racing world is still abuzz after the Derby disqualification two weeks ago, but that furor will die down for at least a few hours on Saturday and the focus will shift to handicapping the Preakness. Without the top Derby finishers to rely on, this edition of the second jewel of the Triple Crown is a competitive betting event.
I’ll go with ALWAYSMINING (#7) to win. His solid six-race win streak is the attraction, but the storylines are fun, too. His trainer would become the first woman to win the Preakness and his breeder produces only one or two foals a year and calls a neighbor to help out at foaling time.
OWENDALE (#5) could be primed for a big effort. The connections re-grouped after the disappointing 12th-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star and were rewarded for their patience with a lifetime best Beyer number performance in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. The horse had a big workout at Churchill before that win, and trainer Brad Cox was perhaps even more impressed with the workout leading into the Preakness.
The likely favorite is IMPROBABLE (#4), trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, whose names are enough to attract attention. We’re missing the top four finishers from the Derby but this guy was fifth as the beaten favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made amends.
I’ll give WIN WIN WIN (#13) another chance. I liked him to be in the mix in the Derby and that didn’t work out, but I have to think he’s better than we saw in Louisville. Let’s look for a rebound.
Horses that had run their previous race at Oaklawn did well at Churchill on Oaks and Derby days (they won 10 of the 27 races, including the Derby), I’ll play around a little bit with both WARRIOR’S CHARGE (#3) and LAUGHING FOX (#11).
You can only use so many horses and keep your wager affordable, so I’m leaving out a couple that I might regret: WAR OF WILL (#1) and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE (#12). We’ll see…
Ed DeRosa, director of marketing for Brisnet.com
While this year’s Preakness Stakes lacks star power with neither Kentucky Derby winner contesting the run for the Black-Eyed Susans, it makes up for that in compelling storylines on and off the track.
We’re looking for a compelling storyline at the wagering window, too, and hopefully with a happy ending.
Our strongest opinion is not on who will win but on who will lose (or at least on who is so underlaid that he’s impossible to back on the win end).
#4 IMPROBABLE is the morning-line favorite, and he can win, but reading the tea leaves on whatever Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is brewing here leads me to believe that this horse will not fire his best shot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. E.g., Improbable is more Dortmund than he is American Pharoah (Dortmund finished third to American Pharoah in the Derby and was no threat to his stablemate in the 2015 Preakness).
Unfortunately, the Magic 8 Ball waters get pretty murky in terms of sourcing a strong opinion after chucking Improbable, so my wagering will surround getting the longer shots of those I think are capable into the number versus planting my flag with one horse.
The longshot who intrigues me most is #11 LAUGHING FOX, winner of the Oaklawn Park Invitational last out, and sort of “the other closer” in my mind other than BOURBON WAR, who’s getting a lot of buzz for this race (and rightfully so, but he’ll be a much shorter price).
My main plays will involve #11 LAUGHING FOX getting in the mix with #1 WAR OF WILL, #5 OWENDALE, #7 ALWAYSMINING, #9 BODEXPRESS, and #12 ANOTHERTWISTAFATE.
A $0.50 trifecta key box 11 with 1, 5, 7, 9, 12 costs $30 and means that Laughing Fox has to finish in the top three with two of the other five horses in the other slots.