Justify to Continue Trend of Derby Winners in Preakness Pricing

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 15, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

Odds on Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness Stakes in parimutuel wagering have been almost unbettable in recent years, and we can expect the same on Saturday.

The betting favorite has won 72 of the 142 Preakness Stakes (50.7%), with the chalk last winning at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore in 2015 when American Pharoah triumphed en route to becoming the first 3-year-old thoroughbred since Affirmed in 1978 to win horse racing’s Triple Crown. American Pharoah then won the Breeders’ Cup Classic that November, becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam of thoroughbred racing. What did you get done in 2015?

With Kentucky Derby winner Justify more than likely to go off at well less than even money in Saturday’s Run For The Black-Eyed Susans (post time 6:20 p.m. ET; NBC), it will mean 5 of the last 6 Preakness Stakes will have seen the favorite — the Kentucky Derby winner — priced at less than even money in parimutuel betting.

Traditionally the second-most attended and bet-on horse race in North America, the Preakness has seen five fillies emerge victorious, with the last being Rachel Alexandra in 2009, but it looks as though there won’t be any fillies running this year (entrants will be taken Wednesday). Last year, Cloud Computing (opening morning line odds 12/1; final post odds 13.4/1) became the first entrant since Rachel Alexandra and only the fourth horse in the last 34 years to win the Preakness after not entering the Derby, as trainer Chad Brown earned his first Triple Crown win and jockey Javier Castellano — riding the horse for the first time — got his second as race favorite. Derby winner Always Dreaming (opening morning line odds 4/5; final post odds 1.2/1) finished a disappointing eighth in the 10-horse field.

With Brown committing on Sunday to race Good Magic in the Preakness and other talent in the race, including the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Bravazo and new Preakness shooters such as Quip, Diamond King and Sporting Chance, expectations of a breeze win here for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Justify are no foregone conclusion, with the undefeated Justify, like Derby runner-up Good Magic, having to race on just two weeks of rest.

Let’s look at the horses from this year’s Derby who appear to be skipping the Preakness, as well as the last 10 Derby winners, their Preakness odds and how they fared:

Derby Horses Likely Not In Preakness

Audible
Bolt d’Oro
Combatant
Enticed
Firenze Fire
Flameaway
Free Drop Billy
Hofburg
Instilled Regard
Magnum Moon
Mendelssohn
My Boy Jack
Promises Fulfilled
Solomini
Vino Rosso

In the last 10 years, the Kentucky Derby winner has won just three times at the Preakness, with four of the last five favorites going off at less than even odds. And with Justify priced at -250 to win at Pimlico on Saturday in the current futures bet market (Bovada), expect the grandsire of Johannesburg to go off well below even odds, possibly around 1/2, even with Good Magic entered. Also noticeable are the smaller field sizes in the Preakness with maximum 20-horse Kentucky Derby fields having 10 or less entrants in five of the last six years. With the news on Sunday that Bolt d'Oro would be skipping the race, the total number of Preakness Stakes Probables was still only at eight, with Pony Up listed as a “Possible,” so a smallish field (again) -- no Bolt d’Oro, no Audible, no Magnum Moon and no Mendelssohn -- means bettors will have to pay a steep price to back Justify and the number of Justify-Good Magic exactas and Justify-Good Magic-Quip trifectas should be large.

One possible approach to handicapping this race heading into the draw and weather forecast is to simply isolate Justify (4-0-0 in 4 lifetime starts) and compare him to the potential current milktoast field. Doing this, it’s hard to even imagine Good Magic (99 Beyer Speed Figure) catching him down the homestretch with the son of Scat Daddy registering 107, 104, 103 and 101 Beyers in his four career starts and seemingly in cruise control at the finish lines at the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Some great horses run hard and look like well-oiled machines trampling toward the finish line, while Justify seems to effortlessly flow silently like water downstream, able to make a surging move at any time. A smaller field and a shorter race seem like gifts to Justify, who has already proven he can win on a fast or off track.

And it’s hard to think the two-week rest thing or perceived lack of experience will hinder this chestnut-colored colt who ridded us of “The Curse of Apollo” by winning at Churchill Downs on May 5. As it stands now, Justify (-250 to win Preakness Stakes, Bovada), Good Magic (+350), Diamond King (+1400), Quip (+1600), Bravazo (+2000), Sporting Chance (+2200) Tenfold (+2500) and Lone Sailor (+2500) are listed as Probables, with Pony Up (+3300) a “Possible,” so only nine (maybe) horses for now. But even with a potential small field and so many quality horses bypassing the Preakness, it’s hard to imagine Justify going off less than the 1/10 odds that 1979 (Spectacular Bid) and 1948 (Citation) went off at, paying $2 Win bettors just $2.20 — the shortest return of all winners in the 142 runnings of the race.

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Good Magic to Challenge Justify in Preakness https://t.co/XJxjPEgph8 @BH_JBalan #TC18 pic.twitter.com/JI5WMPdzQC

— BloodHorse (@BloodHorse) May 13, 2018
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Free Preakness Stakes Trifecta Pick: Justify-Good Magic-Quip

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