The $1.5 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico follows (in a normal year) the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby as the second leg of the Triple Crown series- taking place just two weeks after the fabled first jewel of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs.
But handicappers (should) know that they need a different approach to this race, just fourteen days removed from the Run For The Roses.
The Kentucky Derby is typically dissected from every angle, inside and out, with bettors poring over lots of historical data to identify the most likely Winner.
In contrast, the Preakness receives considerably less attention from a trends and angles perspective, with the historical data instead overshadowed by a single burning question: will the Kentucky Derby Winner come back to Win the Preakness, setting up a shot at the Triple Crown?
But this doesn’t mean historical data is irrelevant in the Preakness. To the contrary, reviewing the recent history of the Preakness reveals several important trends — including a couple of newly developing ones — that can help identify the most likely Winner.
That said, here’s five tips and trends to aid in the handicapping of the 2023 Preakness Stakes:
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 PHARAOH and JUSTIFY. Nine others were within four lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile.
By contrast, only two horses in the last 15 years have rallied from the back half of the Preakness field to reach the Winner’s Circle.
Those horses were ROMBAUER (2021) and EXAGGERATOR (2016), and it’s notable that the mud-loving EXAGGERATOR caught a deceptively hot pace over a slow, sloppy track he relished.
The Kentucky Derby Is No Longer The Dominant Preakness Prep Race. For decades, the Preakness was dominated by horses exiting the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby two weeks prior.
But this trend has been shattered in recent years. CLOUD COMPUTING (2017) and EARLY VOTING (2022) exited the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes, SWISS SKYDIVER (2020) came out of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, and ROMBAUER (2021) prepped in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes.
Specifically, four of the last six Preakness Winners skipped the Kentucky Derby.
While Derby alumni warrant respect at Pimlico, the past half-dozen years suggest horses who skipped the Derby have a better chance for success in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Be Wary Betting Kentucky Derby Winners. Expanding on the above, betting Kentucky Derby Winners in the Preakness has been risky business lately.
Only five of the last 18 editions of the Preakness were Won by the Kentucky Derby Champion, even though 15 of those Derby Winners started in the Preakness.
Betting $2 to Win on every Kentucky Derby Winner would have cost $30 for a return of just $20.40.
Which is not to say you should never bet on a Kentucky Derby Winner in the Preakness; standout Derby Winners like BIG BROWN and AMERICAN PHAROAH have made quick work of the Preakness at short prices.
But Derby Winners aren’t nearly as unbeatable in the Preakness as their short odds seem to suggest.
Double-Digit Longshot Winners Are Increasingly Commonplace. Throughout its history, the Preakness has been kind to favorites and short-priced runners.
The race has been contested 147 times, but only four Winners have ever started at higher than 15-1, with MASTER DERBY a 23-1 surprise in 1975 standing as the record for the biggest longshot Winner.
Does this mean you should avoid betting all longshots in the Preakness? Of course not.
Since 2006, there’s been a steadily strengthening trend of horses in the low double-digit odds range snatching surprise Victories in the Preakness.
Indeed, over the past 17 years, horses in the double-digit odds range such as BERNARDINI (13-1), SHACKLEFORD (13-1), OXBOW (15-1), CLOUD COMPUTING (13-1), SWISS SKYDIVER (12-1), and ROMBAUR (12-1) have Won more editions of the Preakness (6) than favorites (5).
Result being- don’t be afraid to bet longshots in the Preakness. It’s increasingly the way to play.
Support Proven Graded Stakes Winners. It’s rare for horses unproven against Graded Stakes company to Win the Preakness.
In fact, 23 of the last 26 Preakness Winners had previously Won a Graded Stakes race, 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 finished 2nd at the Graded Stakes level.
The Preakness Stakes is Saturday, May 20th.