Piassek's Plays: Building a Bankroll on Preakness Day

Group thinking leads to winning bets on Preakness day at Pimlico. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels. Piassek’s Plays is brought to you by Horseplayers.com, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). Horseplayers.com offers low-cost feeders every day and BCBC and NHC qualifiers every weekend, and it’s the only site where you can qualify for the $1 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Pimlico, May 21, Race 9, $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes, post time 3:31 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, May 19: 3-8:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, May 20: 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 5-6 p.m. ET on USA Network; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, May 21: 12-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 2-4 p.m. ET on CNBC; 4-7:30 p.m. ET on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, May 22: 12:30-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

#5 Old Homestead: This Louisiana-based speedster has never trailed at any point in his three career starts. He won his first two races in impressive fashion at Delta Downs and then passed his first class test with flying colors when he won the Laffayette Stakes at Keeneland last out at 9.90-1. Thomas Pompell, who has ridden him in all three starts so far, comes in here just for this mount. There's some speed drawn to his inside, but he looks fast enough to outkick them all early and get to the rail and the lead. From there, he can run them off their feet and win easily.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on 5

$5 exacta, 5 with 7

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$15 to win on 5

$8 exacta, 5 with 7

$2 exacta, 7 with 5

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$30 to win on 5

$15 exacta, 5 with 7

$5 exacta, 7 with 5

Pimlico, May 21, Race 11, $150,000 Sir Barton Stakes Sponsored by Brandon and Diannah Perry to Benefit TAA, post time 4:53 p.m. ET

#4 The Addison Pour: This year's Sir Barton Stakes drew a field of ten 3-year-olds who have not won an open stakes race. One Sir Barton winner has gone on to win the Belmont Stakes, Sarava in 2002. Of this year's entrants, only Ethereal Road is Triple Crown nominated.

The Addison Pour, one of the locally-based runners in here, comes in off a career-best race. He rated off the pace in a first-level allowance optional claiming race and dueled down the stretch to win by a neck, despite racing wide thoroughout. He ran a lifetime-best Brisnet speed figure of 96 and a career-best Equibase mark of 90. His trainer, Brittany Russell, is one of the top conditioners in Maryland. She recently won the training title at the Laurel Park spring meet and won three races on opening weekend at Pimlico. Jevian Toledo, who guided home six winners on opening weekend, is in the saddle. If this Maryland-bred gelding can save more ground than last time, he should be primed for the fight turning for home, and that fight is one he can win.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$4 to win on 4

$3 exacta, 4 with 8, 9 ($6 total)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$11 to win on 4

$7 exacta, 4 with 8, 9 ($14 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$16 to win on 4

$12 exacta, 4 with 8, 9 ($24 total)

$1 trifecta, 4 with 8, 9 with 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 ($10 total)

Pimlico, May 21, Race 13, $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes, post time 7:01 p.m. ET

#8 Epicenter: In a slightly different timeline in which D. Wayne Lukas decides not to scratch Ethereal Road and let Rich Strike into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Epicenter enters the Preakness as a winning Derby favorite and with a Triple Crown bid in his sights. He was overshadowed by Rich Strike's huge closing rally, but Epicenter ran a big race of his own. He rated fairly close to a very fast pace, including an opening quarter-mile in a record 21.78 seconds and a first half-mile in a sizzling 45.36 seconds. Everyone else who was even close to the early lead was well-beaten, but Epicenter made a move into the teeth of that blazing pace at around the five-eighths point. As the field turned for home, Epicenter pulled clear and it looked like he would win the Derby by daylight. He did a tremendous job fending off the challenge of Zandon but he could not withstand the bid of Rich Strike, who sat well behind the crazy early fractions and took full advantage of a pace meltdown. However, given that Epicenter was up close to that descructive pace, there's no question he ran a gigantic race.

In the Preakness, there isn't as much early speed so it's very likely that the fractions won't be as fast. Epicenter's shown the ability to be on the lead or rate just off it, and he's shown much more ability than either of the other two likely pace-setters, Armagnac and Early Voting. He should have no trouble sitting the trip and powering on to victory.

The problem is, almost everyone else has the same opinion that Epicenter is going to win. He's 6-5 on the morning line, and there's a very good chance he goes off as an odds-on favorite. There's no value found in betting a horse like that, so playing him on top of someone else in the exacta is the way to go.

#4 Secret Oath, the winner of the Longines Kentucky Oaks, has been very impressive all year long. She looked like the dominant force in the 3-year-old filly division after two easy wins at Oaklawn Park, which inspired her connections to take a shot with her in the Arkansas Derby. She finished third after a wide trip, but bounced back to win the Oaks by two lengths at a generous 4.40-1. In all likelihood, she'll sit a few lengths off the pace and make her trademark move after the lead. I don't think she'll be able to catch Epicenter, but she should be able to outkick the others and round out the exacta.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$10 exacta, 8 with 4

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$25 exacta, 8 with 4

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$50 exacta, 8 with 4

Year-To-Date Statistics

39 starts: 7 wins, 6 seconds, 6 thirds

$10 Budget Plays: $390 bet, $339.20 returned

$25 Budget Plays: $975 bet, $972.95 returned

$50 Budget Plays: $1,950 bet, $1,928.14 returned 

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