When I envision how Saturday’s Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course might unfold, it isn’t hard to make a case that a longshot or two could outrun their odds and finish in the trifecta at solid prices.
Let’s face it—on paper, it looks very difficult for anyone to defeat the impressive Kentucky Derby winner #7 Justify. After opening his career with three impressive wins for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, including a romp in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby that earned massive speed figures, Justify elevated his game to a new level in the Kentucky Derby, pressing a very fast pace (faster than ever recorded by a Derby winner) before pulling away in the homestretch to win by 2 ½ lengths.
The Derby was contested over a sloppy, sealed track, and with similar conditions expected for the Preakness, I get the feeling that Justify will stride out near the front once again, run the other speed horses off their feet, and record a fifth consecutive victory.
The “run the other speed horses off their feet” possibility is important to keep in mind, because the last two wet-track editions of the Preakness produced exactly that outcome. In 2015, Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah set a fast pace that tired out fellow speed horses Dortmund and Mr. Z, allowing the late-running longshots Tale of Verve and Divining Rod to finish second and third. In 2016, Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist likewise went out through a fast pace that exhausted not only the other speed horses but himself as well; the deep closers Exaggerator and Cherry Wine (the latter a significant longshot) finished first and second.
With this in mind, I’m going to play against #1 Quip and #3 Sporting Chance, potential candidates to challenge Justify for early supremacy, and focus my attention on #5 Good Magic and #8 Bravazo. Good Magic does his best running from a few lengths off the pace, a strategy he employed when finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and while winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. Good Magic is the clear second choice in the Preakness and won’t offer much value in the wagering, but Bravazo seems to be overlooked a bit despite finishing a solid sixth with a very wide trip in the Kentucky Derby. The well-bred son of Awesome Again won the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes during the winter and strikes me as the type that can pick up the pieces late to finish in the Preakness Stakes trifecta.
I’ll also consider the chances of the lightly-raced #6 Tenfold, who was beaten just a half-length for second place in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby five weeks ago despite racing wide throughout. As a son of Curlin, he’s bred to enjoy a wet track and is another that could come running late to finish on the board at a nice price.
Here’s how I would play the Preakness Stakes:
$7.50 trifecta: 7 with 5 with 6,8 ($15)
$5.00 trifecta: 7 with 6,8 with 5 ($10)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!