A horse-by-horse breakdown PLUS Benny’s betting strategy for tomorrow’s race!
It’s already been a strange year for the Triple Crown chase, and it’s about to get weirder. Normally you have a ton of horses, including the winner of the Derby, run it back two weeks later in the Preakness. Sometimes we have additions and our job as handicappers is to decide if any of them have a chance to change things. In recent years the Derby winner was a huge and deserving favorite here and the other horses with a chance tended to be the ones who ran well in Kentucky. This year we don’t have the horse who crossed the line first in the Derby, or even the one who was eventually ruled the winner. We only have 4 of the 13 starters coming out of the Derby with Improbable, the fifth-place finisher, being the only one who was even close to the winner. If ever there was a year for a new shooter to jump up and make a name for himself, this is it.
The Preakness is a race run at 1 3/16. It tends to be one where frontrunners do better, which has more to do with the track than anything else. Churchill Downs has one of the longest back stretches in horse racing, along with Belmont Park where the third leg of the series is run. Pimlico doesn’t have that and it makes it tougher for horses to come from behind and catch the frontrunner. The tracks’ turns also contribute to this, which is why we tend to see horses win this race from the front. The handicapping process for the Triple Crown goes something like “the luckiest horse wins the Derby, the fastest wins the Preakness, and the best wins the Belmont.” There is a lot of wisdom in that. In the Derby’s 20-horse field, filled with traffic jams, you have to be lucky. The Belmont is run at the longest distance and on a track where every type of horse has a chance to make a move. The Preakness is run on a track that tends to favor both early speed and horses running close to the rail. It’s not hard to see why the horse who gets to the rail and plays “catch me if you can” ends up in the winner’s circle most often.
Here’s my horse-by-horse breakdown, with each’s chance of hitting the board. At the end I give my betting strategy for the race.
1 – War of Will
This was the horse who had to check and lose momentum due to Maximum Security in the Derby and it cost him a chance to finish better. He has a couple graded stakes wins and ran against graded company in 7 of his 9 races. He is on the rail and has flashed the ability to stalk the pace or be on it in previous races. I couldn’t dismiss him because we don’t know if he was good enough in the Derby due to the traffic trouble. I’m not a huge fan and don’t think he can win, but he has a shot to hit the board underneath in trifecta and superfecta.
2 – Bourbon War
Best win was a $75K Optional claimer and his graded stakes races were nothing special with a 2nd and couple 4ths against weaker competition.
3 – Warrior’s Charge
Speed horse was gate to wire winner of recent races, but they weren’t against the best competition. HE has speed and will be forwardly placed, but doubt he has the speed to run with the best of these.
4 – Improbable
Chalk for the race and rightly so as he has run against the best and held his own. He’s the highest Derby finisher running it back in the Preakness, which automatically means he deserves respect. He’s more of a late runner though who comes from behind. He’s always been solid enough to pick up some pieces, but this is not the style that tends to win the Preakness. If he was longer odds, I would be looking to take the shot on him, but at 5/2 I can’t eat that chalk. He’s the best horse in the race and should definitely hit the board in the top 3, but I’ll be trying to beat him for the top spot at low odds with the wrong running style.
5 – Owendale
Good news is he ran well winning the G3 Lexington last time out. Bad news is he didn’t really beat anyone worth noting. His other wins were a Maiden race and a $50K Option Claimer. Maybe he’s god enough to hang with these horses, but I’m not willing to bet he can until he proves it to me.
6 – Market King
8 ¼ and 37 length loser in his last two against G2 and G3 company. Way over his head here.
7 – Alwaysmining
7 wins in 12 starts including six in a row coming into this race. All of them ungraded stakes scores at Laurel with him on the lead, but he also finished every one of those races strong going away. The competition was well below what he will see here today, but he won every one of those races going away for fun. He was much the best from start to finish in those Laurel races and his style is the style that tends to do well here. He should be on the lead or near it all the way around in this one and he has closed up the last ⅛ mile in 12 seconds or faster. My fear is that he’s always been able to run his race without any pressure. He’ll definitely get some pressure here and if he falters even a little, the speed figures don’t tower over the field enough to make me think he’ll run faster when harder pressed and still have enough to hold off the late runners if the pace is too hot. Definitely has a chance to win but could also lose the early speed duel and end up finishing dead last. I like him for a win bet or on top of Trifecta’s, but if he fades, he’s likely to miss the board completely.
8 – Signalman
In the money 6 of 7 career starts with the last 5 races all graded stakes. He’s a deep closer, which is problematic style for winning this race. He’s a horse that has raced against better and that gives him the class edge. Doubt he wins, but he’s involved for a piece underneath with his late turn of foot and ability to close strong.
9 – Bodexpress
So this horse is running in the Preakness and has not broken his maiden yet. Normally a horse starts his career against other horses who never won before and once he graduates with his first win, then they slot them into the level they think the horse belongs at. For some reason his trainer has decided to skip this step of the process. He has a couple placings already, but I’m not backing a horse with zero wins running against the cream of his 3-year-old crop. Even without the top horses, the ones here are still all good enough to not only win their maiden races, but also other races as many of these are multiple time winners with black type stakes history.
10 – Everfast
Horse is owned by Calumet Farms and they are looking to get a horse that wins a big race to use as a reason to get stud fees for breeding. Really though the horse is overmatched, and they are praying he pulls something out of his ass here.
11 – Laughing Fox
Live longshot. Maybe not for the win, but to add some value to your trifecta and superfecta at 20-1 I think he is live. He has closed the final ⅛ of a mile in sub 12 seconds while picking up lengths and picking off horses as he passed them. That’s always something I am interested in, especially with multiple horses looking for the lead here. If they run too fast and tire out, this is the kind of horse that can pull off an upset or add value to your exotic tickets at long odds.
12 – Anothertwistafate
This is my Preakness horse right here. HE had 3 wins, then missed by a nose in the Sunland Derby, running what was basically another winning race. He came back last time out and was boxed in on the rail looking for room, but still managed to finish 2nd again with run left in him at the finish line. It was bad luck, yet he still ran a good race with winning potential in him. He has the right pace style on or near the lead and his pace figures match up really well here. Again, he had trouble in his last race and still put up a winning fig. If he avoids that trouble here, which an outside post and early speed should help him do, he could easily take a step forward off of that race and a step forward would make him the top fig horse in this race. I’m hoping he creeps up to 10-1, but anything near 7-1 I’m going to get some money down on.
13 – Win Win Win
I like this horse, but he doesn’t project to win this race. He’s a deep closer. Deep Closers get a piece underneath in the Preakness, but rarely if ever find the front. Win Win Win has class on many in this field competing at the highest levels against the best of his peers. I wouldn’t be shocked if he hits the board, but I would be if he ends up winning. Like him better in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.
Of all the horses vying for the front, I think Anothertwistafate gets it eventually over Always Mining and War of Wills. That means he should be the one on the lead coming around the final turn. Depending how hard he has to work to get it will determine if the late runners can catch him. Improbable is the classiest and arguably best overall horse in the race so he should be the one you include underneath with Anothertwistafate. Again, with his style and his short price, I’m not taking him to win and am hoping he finishes in the money instead. The other two deep closers I like best are Laughing Fox and Win Win Win. Win Win Win has class, so I know he can run with these other horses because we’ve seen him run with them or better already. He has a crappy post and wrong running style, so I don’t think he can win, but he belongs in the discussion. Laughing Fox is my money horse. Anothertwistafate and Improbable are both going to be kind of chalky. In order to juice up my payouts, I need a third horse that is not chalky to help make some money here. I really like the way Laughing Fox closes. Again, I doubt he can win and get to the front, but if he gets up to second or third at 20-1, even with chalk in front of him it will pay well.
12 – Anothertwistafate
4 – Improbable
11 – Laughing Fox
I will be boxing these in trifecta and superfecta for a couple bucks, and also throwing in 13 – Win Win Win.
I’m also going to make sizeable trifecta bets on Anothertwistafate in first position followed by Improbable in 2nd or 3rd with Laughing Fox and Win Win Win. I want to be heavily invested in trifecta’s with Anothertwistafate who I think is undervalued here for the win. I’ll use the boxes as savers in case I’m wrong and he finishes underneath, but I’m not willing to use a 5/2 Improbable on top as he has red flags for the win given his style. Not willing to take that at short odds.