How to Narrow the Focus for Probable Preakness Winners

Horses race through the stretch for the first time in the 2016 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Preakness Stakes has a couple of aliases.

You can call it the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

You might even dust off the old “Race for the Black-Eyed Susans.”

Yet a proper name these days could be “the Encore in Baltimore.”

That’s largely because what you will see in the Preakness on the third Saturday in May at Pimlico Race Course will most likely bear a very close resemblance to what happened on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.

While playing the favorites has become the fast lane to the cashier’s window at the Derby, in the Preakness simply betting on a horse who ran in the Kentucky Derby is the most trustworthy method for picking a winner.

I'll Have Another winning 2012 Preakness. (Eclipse Sportswire)

In looking at the last 10 editions of the Preakness, horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby accounted for nine wins, good for a 90 percent mark. Adding to the impact of those numbers, the lone horse who did not run in the Derby could be seen in the other big race on Derby Weekend at Churchill Downs.

We’re talking, of course, about Rachel Alexandra who used a landslide victory in the Kentucky Oaks as a springboard to victory in the Preakness.

Nor is this a recent phenomenon.

In the last 54 editions of the Preakness, a Kentucky Derby runner crossed the finish line first 47 times for a winning percentage of 87 percent.

And it’s not just the winner’s circle at Pimlico that has become a reunion hall for Derby starters. Looking at the top three finishers in the last 10 renewals, 21 of those 30 spots were filled by horses exiting the Derby (70 percent).

Of the nine who came from another race, two of them were in races at Churchill Downs (the Oaks and Derby Trial), leaving horses from other circuits with the remaining 23.3 percent of the top-three finishes in the Preakness.

As for the route to Baltimore the other seven non-Derby horses took, four last raced at Keeneland (two in the Blue Grass Stakes, one in the Lexington Stakes and one in a maiden race).

Two came from New York (Wood Memorial and Jerome Stakes) and the other stayed close to home, going from Pimlico’s Tesio Stakes to the Preakness.

That lone dose of home-grown talent was Icabad Crane, a New York State-bred who won the Tesio and finished third behind Big Brown in the 2008 Preakness, and he reflects the long-standing inability of a Maryland race to produce a Preakness winner. The most recent Preakness winner to run in a Maryland race immediately before the second jewel of the Triple Crown was Bee, who stung Riva Ridge in the 1972 Preakness.

Deputed Testamony, a Maryland-bred, came close to fitting that criteria. He won the Tesio at Laurel, but ran in the Blue Grass and then the Keystone Stakes in Pennsylvania before winning the 1982 Preakness.

Reflective of how Preakness winners primarily come out of the Derby, there’s usually a rather low reward at the mutuel windows for cashing a ticket in the race. In the last 10 years, four favorites and four second choices have won the race, with none of them paying than more than 3-1 to win and three paying less than even money.

That’s hardly a life-changing score, but then again, when you’re talking about an encore, you can’t expect many surprises at the betting windows.

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