Preakness Trends

The $1.5 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course is the second leg of U.S Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, taking place just two weeks after the fabled Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

But what a difference two weeks makes in how horseplayers approach handicapping the two races.

The Preakness in contrast to the Derby receives considerably less attention from a trends and angles perspective, with the historical data being overshadowed by whether or not the Derby Winner will come back to Win the Preakness, setting up a shot at the Triple Crown?

Well that talking point is off the table this year, so historical data in regard to the Preakness is even more relevant.

The 1 3/16-mile race tends to produce similar results year after year, and reviewing the recent history of the Preakness can help toward finding the logical contenders.

RESPECT PACESETTERS & SPEED HORSES: As a general rule, it’s wise to bet on horses with tactical speed. Four of the last 15 Preakness Winners prevailed in gate-to-wire fashion, including Triple Crown Winners AMERICAN PHAROAH and JUSTIFY.

Six others were racing within 3 1/2 lengths of the lead after the opening half mile.

In contrast, only three horses in the last 15 years have rallied from the back half of the Preakness field to reach the Winner’s Circle.

Those three horses were ROMBAUER (2021), EXAGGERATOR (2016), and CURLIN (2007), and it’s worth noting CURLIN benefited from chasing the fastest Preakness pace in 15 years while the slop-loving EXAGGERATOR caught a deceptively hot pace over a slow, muddy track he relished.

FAVOR HORSES EXITING THE KENTUCKY DERBY & KENTUCKY OAKS: Over the last 20 years, horses exiting the Kentucky Derby have dominated the Preakness, visiting the Winner’s Circle 15 times.

Two others (the fillies RACHEL ALEXANDRA and SWISS SKYDIVER) used the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks as their springboard to Preakness glory.

Only three of the last 20 Preakness Winners failed to prep in the Derby or Oaks. BERNARDINI (2006) entered off a Victory in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, CLOUD COMPUTING (2017) exited a 3rd-place finish in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes, and ROMBAUER (2021) prepped with a 3rd-place effort in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes.

DOUBLE-DIGIT LONGSHOT WINNERS ARE GETTING MORE COMMON: Throughout its history, the Preakness has been kind to favorites and short-priced runners.

The race has been contested 146 times, but only four Winners have ever started at higher than 15-1 odds, with MASTER DERBY at 23-1 in 1975 standing as the record for a longshot Winner.

But does this mean you should avoid betting all longshots in the Preakness? Not at all. Since 2006, there has been a steadily strengthening trend of horses in the low double-digit odds range snatching surprise Victories in the Preakness.

Over the past 16 years, horses in the double-digit odds range such as BERNARDINI (12-1), SHACKLEFORD (12-1), OXBOW (15-1), CLOUD COMPUTING (13-1), SWISS SKYDIVER (11-1), and ROMBAUER (11-1) have Won more editions of the Preakness than favorites.

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to bet longshots in the Preakness. Find some Value.

SUPPORT PROVEN GRADED STAKES WINNERS: It’s rare for horses unproven against graded stakes company to Win the Preakness.

In fact, 22 of the last 25 Preakness Winners had previously Won a Graded Stakes, with 17 proving their worth at the Grade 1 level prior to prevailing at Pimlico.

The lone exceptions to the Graded Stakes trend were SHACKLEFORD (2011), CLOUD COMPUTING (2017), and ROMBAUER (2021), though all had placed 2nd at the Graded Stakes level.

The Preakness is this Saturday, May 21st.

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