Run at 1 3/16 miles, the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md. will take place May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. The discussions of a Triple Crown winner will have to wait at least until next year with Country House (and Maximum Security) not participating in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
While there will not be a Triple Crown on the line for 2019, this is a competitive horse race and many entrants in this field have a to win a prestigious Grade 1 race.
1. Do the horses coming out of the Kentucky Derby have an edge in the Preakness?
Overall, I think each race should be treated as an individual. However, looking at recent results, four of the last five winners of the Preakness — Cloud Computing in 2017 being the exception — raced in the Kentucky Derby. However, it is worth noting that three of those were Derby winners: California Chrome, American Pharoah, and Justify a year ago. Exaggerator won the Preakness in 2016 after finishing second behind Nyquist in that year’s Kentucky Derby. Looking at the results in depth over those last five years, horses running out of the Derby generally perform well in this race compared with the “new shooter” type horses coming from other tracks and out of Derby prep races.
2. Alwaysmining is one of those “new shooters” coming out of the Federico Tesio Stakes, the local Preakness prep. How do Tesio winners perform in the Preakness?
Again, this question will be answered using the same five-year sample size, with data provided by OptixEQ. Four out of the last five years, the Tesio Stakes winner has participated in the Preakness Stakes. Of those four participants, not one has hit the board in the Preakness. That said, all of those horses were “longshot” types in the wagering with the odds ranging from 12.30-1 to 51.70-1. As mentioned in the first question, each race should be treated as an individual and so should each horse. Alwaysmining comes into this race with form and speed figures unlike and far above those previous Tesio-Preakness runners. Considering both form and speed figures, he fits with his Preakness competition and should be taken seriously. Class will be a legit test moving up to a graded stakes for the first time. Trip also will be a factor for him because with that step up in class he will face a tougher challenge early with several opponents sharing his running style. To his credit, he was able to track a few lengths behind the pace when he won the Tesio and proved he is not a one-dimensional, front-running type. Alwaysmining has shown that versatility, but he now will have to prove it against classier types. He does not come into this race “soft” or “vulnerable” based on his previous races, however value should still be a consideration.
3. How does the pace shape up for the 2019 Preakness Stakes?
The pace scenario looks to be one of the most crucial handicapping aspects to the race, and the Preakness appears to be the type of race where the best trip will have a major say in the outcome. As far as race shape, there are “need-the-lead” types like Warrior’s Charge, but there are a number of horses — War of Will, Improbable, Market King, Bodexpress, and Anothertwistafate — in here that like to be close to the lead or have proven to be most effective when getting a trip forwardly placed within a length or two of the pacesetter. With many horses vying for that trip, that can make for a contested pace or at least an honest pace considering the participants. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, which had a more open pace that did not particularly favor any type of run style, this race could set up from a horse stalking from off the pace. Horses that fall into that stalker roll include Bourbon War, Owendale, Alwaysmining, Signalman, and Win Win Win. Interesting that Bourbon War was included in that group, though if the pace is very fast early he probably will take up a deeper closing spot along with Everfast and Laughing Fox. Class and finishing ability will be the real determining factor late as many could be in contention on the far turn, and the true test could come down to the stretch run.
4. How does one separate the top two choices on the morning line, War of Will and Improbable?
Coming into this race, there is little separating the pair of runners, Improbable and War of Will, expected to vie for favoritism in the Preakness. Both horses are exiting the Derby with different trips, though overall a similar effort by the pair with little between them late. Both horses are graded stakes winners with similar speed figures but perhaps a slight edge in that department to Improbable. The question gets back to the previous one in terms of pace. In terms of trip, both seem to possess a similar, tracking running style and will be looking for similar here. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be taking over aboard Improbable, and with that change could see a tactic that will have him closer to the front end than he has been in his last two races. Unfortunately for War of Will, he drew the rail again and that does not do him any favors with this race shapes up. They will very likely need to use War of Will early for tactical position and probably will be looking for any opportunity to get outside of horses. This is not just with that transpired in the Derby, but in general how War of Will prefers to race. With both horses expecting to establish early position, they could be sitting close to an early pace that is faster than what they prefer and typically face. While class makes them tough and capable, pace/trip could be to their detriment.
5. Who do you like to win the 144th Preakness Stakes?
Given the recent success out of the Kentucky Derby, the focus will to key around a horse exiting that race. With some questions and value lacking on War of Will and Improbable, the attention turns elsewhere and right back to Win Win Win, a horse given the selection earlier this month to win the Derby. Full disclosure, this pick is not one with real confidence, however Win Win Win could actually be better value in this race. He had some positive factors heading into the Kentucky Derby, and was actually just about the same live odds at 16-1 as War of Will. Comparing the two trips, it is fairly clear War of Will and Bodexpress encountered trouble on the far turn. Regardless of where you stand on the overall result and placing, there was clear trouble for those two horses that anyone watching the race can see. The “trouble” for Win Win Win in the Derby is not nearly as obvious. Looking at the trip as a whole, it is the type of run where he did not have much of a chance at any point to get into the race. That type of effort should not take much out of him physically, whereas both War of Will and Bodexpress had physical races and were asked to run their best for a good portion of the race. Win Win Win’s trip will go largely unnoticed, and since he has not won any of the Derby prep races he could easily be dismissed in here. He drew post-position No. 13 and that will scare some folks off as well, but with the configuration and almost a quarter-mile into the turn, Win Win Win should be able to find position with this race shape. Even with the minimal exertion and minimal chance to run his race in the Derby, I still would have liked to have seen more run from WIN WIN WIN to be a bit more confident with the pick and instead will let value be the deciding factor.
It should be an exciting edition of the Preakness Stakes. “Five Questions” will be back in a few weeks for the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. Looking forward to betting the race, and for those still finalizing your Preakness handicapping, take advantage of the unique information available now at OptixEQ.com. Thanks for reading and, as always, good luck horseplayers!
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