The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes are the first two legs of the Triple Crown, so people might assume that they are similar races. From a betting perspective, though, they really aren’t. Here’s a look at four differences that have an impact on how you should handicap this race and some tips on how to bet the Preakness Stakes:
Distance - The Derby is run at 1 ¼ miles, while the Preakness is 1 3/16. That might not seem like a big difference, but it really is. It takes a horse about 12 seconds to run a furlong, so 1/16 of a mile is about six seconds of running time. The Derby distance is at the edge of capabilities for a lot of North American horses because they are bred for speed over stamina. Many horses prove in the race that they just can’t handle it at all.
The distance obviously takes the biggest toll at the end of the race -- the horses are physically spent, and mentally unprepared to push through that barrier. Since the Preakness is shorter the distance isn’t quite as much of a concern. In the Derby you can easily discount horses because they aren’t going to be able to be moving forward at the end. In the Preakness you can’t discount horses nearly as easily based on stamina concerns.
Preakness Stakes field size - The Kentucky Derby field is capped at 20 horses while the Preakness has just 14. The field is still bigger than most races in the Preakness, but the six fewer horses is significant. It means that the outside horses don’t have to start nearly as far from the rail, and that there are fewer horses looking for each piece of real estate around the track.
In the Derby traffic and troubled trips are virtually guaranteed, so you have to really think about what kind of trip a horse will be trying to run, and whether he is going to be able to run it. In the Preakness that is far less of a concern.
Rest - Thoroughbreds are treated very gently these days, so they almost never run back just two weeks after a race. That’s just what they have to do for the Preakness if they ran in the Derby, though. Some horses can handle short rest and others can’t.
You need to really consider how much the Derby took out of them, and how they have trained since that race. In the Derby every horse is well rested, so that’s not a factor.
Derby favorite - The favorite in the Kentucky Derby can draw a lot of betting action, but the bulk of the public betting money is often split between a few top contenders. Often there will be a story -- like female jockey Rosie Napravnik on Pants on Fire this year -- that captures the public imagination and draws a lot of money. That means that the public money is spread out, and value can often be found on very nice horses.
In the Preakness, though, the public money is squarely and enthusiastically pointed at just one horse -- the Derby winner. He’ll be bet down way below a reasonable level. That means you need to be very careful how you use him because value will be in short supply. The good news, of course, is that most of the rest of the field will likely be at or above where they should be.
Doc’s Sports will have Preakness Stakes Picks for the 2011 Run for the Black-Eyed Susans on Saturday, May21. Doc has been studying the Preakness Stakes field since the Derby and we expect to bring in some very nice profits as the Preakness odds will yield great value. Preakness picks are only $20 and if you don’t show a profit Belmont Stakes picks are free!