A Triple Crown sweep lies silent this year with Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike side-stepping Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. But a trio of big-time talents make this year’s middle jewel a fabulous, triple-threat race.
Kentucky Derby runner-up and beaten favorite Epicenter was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite by Pimlico oddsmaker Keith Feustle, which is a solid projection of how the public will bet. But Wood Memorial runner-up Early Voting has been aimed at this spot for six weeks, while Kentucky Oaks heroine Secret Oath will be tenacious in her finish.
From a historical trends perspective, Early Voting may be the one. Epicenter will try to become only the second Kentucky Derby runner-up since 1993 to one-up his Preakness finish, and Secret Oath will try to join Rachel Alexandra (2009) as the only fillies to win both the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness. Early Voting needs only to look to 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing (from the same connections and same prep) to have success at Old Hilltop. Of the last five Preakness winners, three of them — including Rombauer a year ago — did not race in the Kentucky Derby. That’s a major shift toward the new shooters that once were considered Preakness paupers.
I expect Early Voting to take the early lead in the Preakness and be all-out to hold off Epicenter’s first charge and Secret Oath’s final surge. Look for them to finish in that order on the merry-go-round.
For those betting Pimlico this week, the Betmix database offers several handicapping pointers, gathered over Preakness May weekends from 2016-present:
Percentage of winning favorites: 40.3%
Average win odds: 3.70-1
Top jockeys: Ricardo Santana Jr. (29%), Jose Ortiz (24%), Javier Castellano (23%)
Top trainers: Mike Maker (44%), Graham Motion (24%), Brad Cox (23%), Steve Asmussen (20%)
Win percentage by last track: Santa Anita (25%), Churchill (22%), Oaklawn (17%), Parx (17%), Gulfstream (16%), Keeneland (14%), Belmont (14%), Aqueduct (9%), Laurel (3%)
What to Watch for This Week
Beginning Wednesday, download the FREE 1/ST BET Preakness Wager Guide for in-depth analysis of the contenders, stats histories, artificial intelligence and more from respected national handicappers. Visit www.1st.com/guide for your copy ... Special wagers on Preakness weekend include a Friday-Saturday daily double matching the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes to the Preakness Stakes … Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca headlines Friday’s Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico … Canterbury Park in Minnesota opened this week for its spring-summer season, featuring an outstanding grass course for turf handicappers.
Friday Weekend Firestarter
Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico features the fillies’ version of the Preakness on a 14-race card that boasts six stakes races. The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes has a bulky and deep field of 13, led by Las Virgenes winner and narrow Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Adare Manor. Both Adare Manor and Favor, Todd Pletcher’s Fair Grounds Oaks third-place finisher, will start from difficult posts (10 and 12). Brad Cox’s likely money-magnet Interstatedaydream, third in the Ashland, doesn’t draw much better in the 9-hole and will be part of what looks to be a hot pace. Give a long look to late runners Distinctlypossible and Radio Days at what should be mid-range prices.
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:
— Penn National: 50%
— Will Rogers Downs: 40%
— Finger Lakes: 40%
— Evangeline Downs: 38%
— Indianapolis: 35%
Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)
— Belterra Park: 66%
— Prairie Meadows: 57%
— Finger Lakes: 54%
— Evangeline Downs: 51%
— Indianapolis: 50%
— Charles Town: 50%
— Will Rogers Downs: 50%
Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher)
— Woodbine: 6
— Lone Star: 5
— Hawthorne: 5
— Golden Gate Fields: 4
America’s hot jockeys last week
— Tyler Gaffalione (11-28, 39%), Churchill
— Manny Franco (7-18, 39%), Belmont
— Tim Thornton (9-24, 38%), Hawthorne
— Carlos Lozada (7-20, 35%), Louisiana Downs
— Emisael Jaramillo (8-25, 32%), Gulfstream
America’s hot trainers last week
— Tim Grams (4-5, 80%), Charles Town
— Greg Tracy (5-7, 71%), Louisiana Downs
— Graham Motion (4-7, 57%), Pimlico, Belmont
— Jorge Delgado (4-7, 57%), Gulfstream
— Brad Cox (6-12, 50%), Belmont, Churchill, Indianapolis
Contest Scene Surrounds Preakness
Handicapping contest players at Xpressbet.com can take part in a pair of qualifiers for Saturday’s $1,500 Preakness Challenge with Thursday and Friday $80 feeder tournaments. Saturday’s main event includes seats for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, National Handicapping Championship and Pegasus World Cup Betting Challenge. For details, visit www.xpressbet.com/tournaments.
Statistics courtesy Betmix.com