On Saturday, racing fans across the country will turn their attention to the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will also draw the attention of handicappers and bettors hoping to make a nice score on one of racing’s biggest days.
Naturally, all eyes will be focused on #4 Always Dreaming, winner of the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Bodemeister is 4-for-4 this year and hasn’t been seriously challenged during that timeframe; furthermore, his Derby win was achieved in eye-catching fashion, as he tracked a solid early pace before taking command to win easily.
Being a speed horse, Always Dreaming is perfectly suited to the Preakness Stakes, which has a tendency to favor horses racing on or near the lead. If he repeats his Derby performance, Always Dreaming will be very tough to beat, though there are a few reasons to consider playing against him. For one, Always Dreaming received a pretty clean trip in the Derby, avoiding trouble at the start and staying clear of traffic while racing near the rail, which may have been the best part of the track. He’ll also be a very heavy favorite in the wagering—perhaps 3-5 or 4-5—which means that playing him to win won’t be very appealing.
Always Dreaming could also face a serious challenge from #5 Classic Empire, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled start left him farther off the pace than usual. With a clean run, Classic Empire might have finished much better in the Derby (he actually ran about 9 ¼ lengths farther than Always Dreaming), and as the reigning champion 2-year-old, his talent is undeniable. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, he overcame a tough trip to win the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby with a solid late rally, which marked the third Grade 1 victory of his career. He’s very versatile in terms of running style, and might be just reaching his peak after missing a race and some training during the winter. Expect to see him much closer to the lead in the Preakness, which should give him every chance to run down Always Dreaming in the homestretch.
One longshot that I would strongly consider is #2 Cloud Computing, a lightly-raced colt trained by Chad Brown. Cloud Computing was late getting to the races and didn’t debut until Feb. 11, when he won a maiden race sprinting three-quarters of a mile at Aqueduct while defeating the next-out winner Mineralogy. Off of that solid effort, Cloud Computing made his stakes debut in the March 4 Gotham Stakes, where he finished a strong second despite his lack of experience.
Cloud Computing auditioned for a potential Kentucky Derby run when he contested the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 8, but a slow start left him off the pace while racing over a track that favored front-runners. Under the circumstances, he had little chance to catch the leaders, but he did well to finish a clear third.
By skipping the Kentucky Derby to await the Preakness, Cloud Computing has had plenty of time to prepare for what will be his toughest race to date. And while it’s hard to say if he really wants to run this far, his pedigree suggests that the Preakness distance is within his capabilities.
Cloud Computing may also benefit from meeting a field that doesn’t appear to have much speed on paper. In fact, according to Cloud Computing’s Brisnet pace figures (which attempt to quantify early speed), Cloud Computing is the most consistently fast horse in the Preakness field. I think he has a very big chance to finish in the trifecta, possibly even splitting Always Dreaming and Classic Empire for a spot in the exacta.
Since Cloud Computing’s morning line odds are solid (12-1), let’s key him in our wagers to try and boost the potential payoffs while also considering the speedy Arkansas Derby runner-up #10 Conquest Mo Money on one ticket.
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$4 exacta: 4,5 with 4,5 ($8)
$3 exacta: 4,5 with 2 ($6)
$2 trifecta: 4,5 with 4,5 with 2 ($4)
$1 exacta: 2 with 4,5 ($2)
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$5 exacta: 4,5 with 4,5 ($10)
$4 exacta: 4,5 with 2 ($8)
$2 exacta: 2 with 4,5 ($4)
$2 trifecta: 4,5 with 4,5 with 2,10 ($8)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!