The Preakness Stakes might be known as the second leg of the Triple Crown but it’s your first best chance to score a big payday on StableDuel. A first-of-its kind platform for daily live horse racing contests, StableDuel will offer its biggest prize pool ever this Saturday: The $20,000 Preakness Stakes Challenge.
Think of StableDuel the same way you’d think of any fantasy sports platform. To win, you have to create the best roster of horses — a stable — just as you would select football players for a fantasy team. The better each horse performs, the more points you rack up. The top horses in each race (based on morning-line odds) are assigned the highest salaries. Since each team has a salary cap, teams can’t consist of all “favorites” and inevitably require players to identify winning “longshots” or sleeper picks that can be added to a stable for lower salaries.
Saturday’s big contest at StableDuel requires the standard selection of 10 horses per team. Each stable assembled must stay within a $50,000 virtual salary cap. The horses available for selection in the contest are the runners from all 14 races that are scheduled to be run at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday (the Preakness Stakes is race 13 on the card).
The winner of the contest will take home $8,500 and the top finishers behind the winner will also be handsomely rewarded. To check out prizes and to enter the contest, download the StableDuel app and enter the contest once it’s live on Preakness week.
America's Best Racing's John Piassek is an avid StableDuel player and Maryland racing handicapper, and he's sharing his strategy for playing this contest here. You can find John on the StableDuel app under the username "Bob Sacamano".
As noted above, playing StableDuel contests requires a different way of thinking than playing pari-mutually. You have to be mindful not only of how many low-priced horses you're using, but which ones you're using. If you spend a lot of money on a horse who you don't think is the most likely winner, you're investing a large percentage of your bankroll in less-than-ideal situations.
Another twist is that points are added or subtracted based on how much a horse wins or loses by. For every length a horse is in front or behind at the wire, they earn or lose an extra point. As such, picking a horse who wins by open lengths is more valuable than picking a horse who wins by a nose.
Here, I'll share one of my StableDuel stables for this Saturday, separating my horses into three categories: favorites, mid-priced horses, and longshots.
Race 12: Preakness Stakes
Horse: #3 Medina Spirit
Salary: $9,200 (18.4% of bankroll)
Analysis: He's the lowest-priced horse I'll take this stable, representing almost a fifth of my bankroll. He's done his best work when he's on the pace, and Pimlico is a speed-favoring track. He has an advantageous post position, as neither of the two horses drawn to his inside have that much early speed. I don't think he'll have too much trouble crossing over to the lead and getting an advantageous trip. The only downside is that he tends to win by close margins, so you may not get a ton of extra points out of him beyond the 60 points he'd get for the win. Nonetheless, I think he's the likeliest winner among all horses offered at a reasonable price, and is a fine horse to build the stable around.
Race 9: Runhappy Skipat Stakes
Horse: #8 French Empire
Salary: $8,000 (16% of bankroll)
Analysis: I'm taking a bit of a gamble with this pick, as I'm going against a big favorite in this race. The 5, Chub Wagon, is 8-5 on the morning line, and is a perfect 5-for-5 lifetime. However, this Pennsylvania-bred filly has done her best racing at Parx Racing, and horses who race well there don't always transfer their form over well to other tracks. Further, she has lots of early speed, and horses like her are susceptible to getting burned up on the lead, especially in a race like this where there's a lot of other front-runners. If she finishes up the track, it's going to cost many other players a lot of points and eat up a lot of their equity.
I'll try French Empire instead, who looks to sit a great trip. She won four in a row over the winer and spring at Turfway Park and Oaklawn Park. Every time she won, she rated right off a fast pace and drew away for big wins. She gets an upgrade in the saddle, with Javier Castellano getting the mount for the first time, and going out for trainer Brad Cox for the first time. This filly could win going away, and add a lot of points to the stable.
Race 8: James W. Murphy Stakes
Horse: #8 T D Dance
Salary: $7,500 (15% of bankroll)
Analysis: This is a unique race. The 2, Outadore, is the big favorite on the morning line at 7-5, but trainer Wesley Ward announced the other day that he is likely to scratch. As a result, just about everyone in the field is going to be an excellent value horse.
If Outadore had never been entered in the first place, T D Dance would likely be a solid morning line favorite, coming off an impressive first-level allowance win at Fair Grounds for Brad Cox and Javier Castellano. In a race where not many others have good recent experience in grass races going long, T D Dance has a big edge. Because of the scratch, you can have the most likely winner of the race for just $7,500, when he'd likely go for $9,000 or more if Outadore did not enter.
Race 10: Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes
Horse: #13 Completed Pass
Salary: $7,500 (15% of bankroll)
Analysis: Trainer Claudio Gonzalez and jockey Angel Cruz are a dangerous combination on the Maryland circuit. In the past 60 days, they're hitting at 29% when they teamed up, and they were unstoppable almost all of last year. This horse ran some big races on the circuit last year, winning the Laurel Dash Stakes and finishing second by a neck in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes after a rough break. In his first start this year, he won the King Leatherbury Stakes over this track in a game effort. I'm looking for him to improve second off the layoff. If he does, he'll be tough to beat.
We've now gone through four horses, all of whom I consider the likeliest winners of their races. They take up about 64.4% of the bankroll, so I'll need all of them to run well to have a chance to win.
Now we'll dive in to some mid-priced contenders, who might not be the most likely winner, but are intriguing value plays and can certainly put points on the board.
Horse: #5 Tapwood
Salary: $5,000 (10% of bankroll)
Analysis: Grass racing season has just begun in Maryland, and a lot of horses in these races haven't raced on that surface recently. Tapwood is the only horse in the race who has won on grass this year, having won a miaden special weight race at Tampa Bay Downs on January 1. That was a gutsy effort, as he closed off a slow pace and never gave up in the stretch. He gets Sheldon Russell, one of Maryland's top jockeys, in the saddle.
Race 12: Dinner Party Stakes
Horse: #3 Kuramata
Salary: $5,000 (10% of bankroll)
Analysis: This horse is going to be considered the "other" Chad Brown horse in the race, as Brown also trains the favorite, the 5, Sacred Life, at 7-5. However, Kuramata also profiles as a serious contender. He's making his third start in the United States, and just his fourth start anywhere ever. He's a perfect 2-for-2 in tis country, coming off a very impressive win in a first-level allowance at Aqueduct where he drew away easily in the end. Irad Ortiz Jr, the country's top jockey, will be in the saddle. I don't know if he can beat his stablemate, but he has license to put in a very big effort.
Horse: #2 Burning Bright
Salary: $3,000 (6% of bankroll)
Analysis: He won impressively at Turfway Park two races back, then battled on the lead and held on for a second-place finish. He goes out for trainer Jonathan Thomas, who is 27% with horses off a 46-90 day layoff, and gets Javier Castellano in the saddle for the first time. With early speed and an inside draw, he should get the trip he wants.
Race 11: Maryland Sprint Match Series Stakes
Horse: #2 Yodel E.A. Who
Salary: $3,000 (6% of bankroll)
Analysis: I'll take a shot with another Sheldon Russell horse. This one is trained by his wife, Brittany, who has established herself as one of the top trainers in Maryland over the past year. This gelding was impressive first off the claim for the new stable at Gulfstream Park three races back, drawing away after rating right off the leaders. He raced well at Belmont Park last out, closing strongly against a tough allowance field to lose by just half a length at 6-1. This is a tougher field than anything he's seen before, but he's got a strong middle kick and has dangerous connections. At his price, he's tough to ignore.
At this point, we've covered eight horses, who cost $48,200, leaving us $1,800 for the final two horses. Now it's time to go looking for some longshots. All these two have to do is not get negative points, and they'll be good. To avoid getting negative points, they have to finish in the top five, while losing by less than ten lengths. If they finish in the top two, this stable will be in excellent shape, as they'll have put up a lot of points without taking up a lot of equity.
Horse: #7 Sugar Daddy
Salary: $1,000 (2% of bankroll)
Analysis: Another Claudio Gonzalez/Angel Cruz horse, he should get a good trip rating off the pace. He got a bit discombobulated last out when he was bumped at the start, but he's had some time off since then and should fire a good effort.
Horse: #7 Fionnbharr
Salary: $750 (1.5% of bankroll)
Analysis: She'll make her second start of the year here, after adull effort in the Dahlia Stakes last out. This is a big drop in class, down to a first-level allowance. She's shown good closing speed in the past, and jockey Carol Cedeno has gotten off to a good start at the Pimlico meet.