This week in horse racing: Preakness auditions in focus

By Jeremy Plonk  ( 

April 12, 2022 10:12 PM

After a record-setting $28.1 million was bet at Keeneland for Blue Grass Day, Week 2 of the four-week spring meet features five more prominent stakes races going off Friday or Saturday. The Kentucky Derby trail quiets a bit after a flurry of major preps in recent weeks, but potential Preakness players will be in action in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes and Laurel Park’s Federico Tesio Stakes, the latter designated by the Maryland Jockey Club as a “win and you’re in” for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Handicappers following stakes races at Keeneland during the 2021 and 2022 spring meets have witnessed the following trends:

Stakes favorites: 46.4% wins, 71.4% top-3.

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $8.76.

Top stakes jockeys: Joel Rosario (7-15, 47%), Flavien Prat (3-7, 43%), Irad Ortiz Jr. (4-14, 29%), Tyler Gaffalione (3-15, 20%).

Top stakes trainers: Wesley Ward (5-10, 50%), Graham Motion (2-5, 40%), Brad Cox (5-14, 36%), Todd Pletcher (3-10, 30%).

What to Watch for This Week

The nation’s Champion Sprinter of 2021, Jackie’s Warrior, makes his seasonal return Saturday as an expected heavy favorite in the $500,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Oaklawn Park … Laurel Park’s program on Saturday features four stakes worth $500,000, including qualifiers to the Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes … Jockey Umberto Rispoli will shift his skills to the Kentucky circuit from Southern California this week, following last week’s similar trek by Flavien Prat … In observance of the Easter holiday, Sunday’s schedule will be without Aqueduct, Keeneland, Oaklawn and Laurel Park, among other national fixtures. Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park and Golden Gate Fields will be the Sunday headline cards.

Friday Weekend Firestarter

Keeneland’s Grade 1 $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile on Friday features a fantastic field of 11 turf milers, but only two of those contenders have any interest in the early pace. One of those, No. 6 Smooth Like Strait, is a benchmark for consistency. In his last nine starts, he has two wins and seven narrow defeats by a combined margin of only two lengths. He’ll be in it from the start and punching hard the entire trip. This Southern California-based warrior nearly went wire-to-wire in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard at a mile and an eighth last year. He’ll like the footing at Keeneland and the shorter trip and is my win bet.

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage:

— Turf Paradise: 46%

— Hawthorne: 38%

— Parx: 36%

— Will Rogers Downs: 36%

— Santa Anita: 35%

Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)

— Sam Houston: 50%

— Hawthorne: 50%

— Fonner Park: 46%

— Mahoning Valley: 46%

— Parx Racing: 46%

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or more)

— Golden Gate Fields: 7

— Aqueduct: 6

— Sam Houston: 5

— Tampa Bay Downs: 5

America’s hot jockeys last week

— Kevin Roman (10-18, 56%), Fonner Park

— Jeiron Barbosa (7-16, 44%), Laurel Park

— Jose Alvarez (6-17, 35%), Sam Houston

— Vicente Del-Cid (8-24, 33%), Evangeline Downs

— Flavien Prat (7-21, 33%), Keeneland

America’s hot trainers last week

— Jeff Radosevich (4-6, 67%), Mahoning Valley

— Brett Brinkman (4-7, 57%), Keeneland, Evangeline Downs

— Larry Rivelli (5-9, 56%), Hawthorne, Keeneland

— Ronney Brown (6-13, 46%), Charles Town

— Isai Gonzalez (5-12, 42%), Fonner Park

Contest Play On Deck

Xpressbet will have a pair of handicapping contests in the coming weeks to mark your calendars. First, Xpressbet provides an online satellite option to Keeneland’s $3,500 Grade One Gamble tournament on April 23. Berths into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas are among the prizes, along with $40,000 estimated to the winner. The month wraps with the April 29-30 Golden Gate Fields-Santa Anita Challenge, beginning with an $80 Friday feeder contest and a $500 buy-in for Saturday that includes cash prizes and an NHC berth. For details visit

Statistics courtesy of

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