Fans at Pimlico cheer home a winner in this file photo from 2017 Preakness weekend. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)
Historically speaking, it has been difficult for “new shooters” to prevail in the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The statistics are daunting. Horses coming out of the Kentucky Derby have long dominated the Preakness, winning 31 of the last 35 renewals, while runners who skipped the Derby for one reason or another—the “new shooters”—have struggled to reach the Preakness winner’s circle.
But could 2019 be an exception to the overall trend? It’s possible. The first four horses to cross the finish line in the Derby are all skipping the Preakness, leaving a less-imposing group of four also-rans to represent the Derby at Pimlico. And when they line up in the Preakness starting gate, they’ll be significantly outnumbered by a better-than-usual group of nine newcomers eager for a chance to shine on one of racing’s biggest stages.
To Anothertwistafate’s credit, he managed to rally and finish second on both occasions. I’m excited to see him draw an outside post position in the Preakness, because I think he’s much more effective when allowed to race in the clear. This colt has a powerful stride and runs straight and true through the homestretch, which has allowed him to post fast-finishing fractions even in defeat. The last time he got a clear run, he dominated the El Camino Real Derby in front-running fashion, defeating Bob Baffert’s next-out stakes winner Kingly by seven lengths.
In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, Anothertwistafate has been posting consistent numbers in the 94-95 range, placing him among the fastest horses in the Preakness field. The only horse who has run consistently faster is morning-line favorite Improbable (#4), but if Anothertwistafate takes a step forward with a clean trip, he can make up the difference.
Anothertwistafate is 6-1 on the morning line and I’m enthusiastic about betting him to win at that price, though I’m also planning to play him in exotic bets like the exacta and trifecta. The above-mentioned Improbable — the only Grade 1 winner in the field — is a logical candidate to include in the exotics since he crossed the finish line fifth in the Kentucky Derby, a race in which he spent most of his journey boxed in behind horses. Improbable could be in for a similar trip while breaking from post-position four in the Preakness, but perhaps Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith — riding Improbable for the first time — can secure a better trip.
An intriguing longshot contender is Warrior’s Charge (#3), who has really upped his game in recent months for increasingly high-profile trainer Brad Cox. He’s dominated his last two starts at Oaklawn Park in front-running fashion, winning by an average margin of 6 ¼ lengths while posting increasing Beyer Speed Figures of 89 and 97. He’ll be involved in the pace from the outset and could be surprisingly dangerous — he’s won with such ease that we really don’t have any idea how good he might be.
Depending on the size of your betting budget, I have three different wagering strategies for you to consider. The plays involving exactas and trifectas are more expensive, but they also offer greater potential for a truly impressive payoff.