Don't bet against the favorites in the Preakness Stakes. We offer you some tips and trends for the 140th running of the The Second Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Let's cut to the chase, for horse players, the Preakness Stakes has presented the least amount of value in the betting odds out of the three Triple Crown races historically. Don't expect to buy that new boat, or pay for your child's college tuition if you hit the superfecta like one theoretically could cashing in on the Kentucky Derby. Because of a variety of factors, including less entries and smaller wagering pools than the first leg, the race is dominated by short-priced horses. First run in 1873, if you placed a $2 win bet on every post-time favorite, one would have deposited a 16% return on their investment, unlike the Derby where one would have lost 5% risking such a strategy. In fact, the favorite has adorned a blanket of Black-Eyed Susan's over 50% of the time (44% since 1960) for the race, well above the 33-35% norm found at your average American thoroughbred race track. Moreover, in the modern era, out of the last 54 races, the first or second choice has won an astounding 65% of the time.
The short-priced phenomenon is a product of the classiest, and speediest 3-year-old horses peaking at the time of the race. It's no secret that Kentucky Derby entrants typically dominate over runners coming out of other races in the Preakness. In addition to the Derby winner, who is almost always an automatic entry in their attempt to win the elusive Triple Crown, we often see the fastest front-end runners who showed something in their Run for the Roses take another stab at the winner in Maryland, rather than testing their stamina in the longer mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes where some may have concerns at meeting the distance. Any potential Triple Crown candidate will have a completely different challenge to overcome on Long Island, but first he or she must face off against the live runners from two weeks ago hungry to topple their bid. Typically, horses not coming out of the Derby just do not have the speed nor class to contend. Below is a chart showing in-the-money finish percentages for runners exiting the first leg of the Triple Crown since 1960 versus those not coming out of the Derby:
Out of 263 runners, non-Derby entrants have finished in the money on average 14% of the time, and make up 23% of show bets or better since 1960. Conversely, 275 Derby entrants have hit the Preakness tote board roughly with 45% of runners, and comprised the money finish in 77% of the races during this time. Although not charted above, figures are even more skewed if a non-Derby runner failed to win their prior race. Out of 155 entries, only 9% of runners on average finished in the money, dwindling an already skimpy margin nearly in half.
As you can surmise from the success of Derby runners entering the Preakness, form is critical. Since 1992, only one winner did not run within 30 days of running the race, and only one winner had not taken the finish line as a 3-year-old (Timber County, 1995). Moreover, like the Derby, a horse must have shown decent success at longer route races when considering the one-and-three-sixteenths mile distance these young horses must cover. Since 1992, only two winners did not finish within four lengths of the leader in a mile-and-an-eighth race or greater in their career (Charismatic, 1999 & Bernardini, 2006). Also during this time, every winner of the Preakness had raced in a field of 10 or more runners. Again, this is a testament to class, and Derby entrants in the modern era are guaranteed to face 15 or more foes.
Have I mentioned yet how important speed is to winning the Preakness? Since 1990, every winner has run a 100 Beyer Speed Figure or better in their career leading up to the race. In addition, every winner during this time has eclipsed this number in one of their last three career starts. This leaves us with the first, second, and third place Derby finishers as the only contenders to win the 140th running, as the other runners have failed to hit above the century mark: American Pharoah (4-5), Firing Line (4-1) and Dortmund (7-2). Their best Beyer figures to date are 105, 106, and 104, respectively.
The Preakness typically has a very fast pace, and one needs to run mid-pack or tighter to the lead if they stand to win the race. Jockeys Martin Garcia and Gary Stevens rated Dortmund and Firing Line on the lead in the Derby to set up some very honest fractions. American Pharoah, whose only question marks going into the first leg of the Triple Crown concerned his prior competition and if he could win overcoming any trouble, answered his critics resoundingly two weeks ago, running slightly wide throughout the race. He has the best tactical speed out of any of the horses in the field, and should see a more tired front-end to pass than in his last start. Dortmund, who Baffert revealed suffered a small colic issue a week before the Derby, is American Pharoah's only real threat, as Firing Line looks primed to bounce off his career best effort. Dortmund will have to catch a flier, and be on his toes to overtake American Pharoah for the win, but my money is on Bob Baffert's two superstars coming in first and second, easily. My betting advice is to not go overboard on your budget. Save most of your dough for the Belmont, which has much more value as a bettor and should be heavily wagered with American Pharoah vying for the Triple Crown (wink, wink). Don't piece together some wild exotic ticket with longshots sprinkled all around. Play a single(s) on any bet type. And also, don't bet against the favorite with your sports picks.
As always, use this information to support your leans.
Best of luck!