Preakness Stakes Betting Tips
by Trevor Whenham - 05/08/2009
The Triple Crown is captivating and seductive for so many reasons. One of those is the distinct and unique challenge presented by each race. Each race presents a different challenge - different distance, field size, track layout, and so on. The characteristics of the field for each race are also very different. That means that handicappers cannot be successful in the three races by treating them all the same. To succeed with betting on the Preakness you either need to be lucky or you need to have a strategy. As you try to establish one that will work for you, here are three points you will want to consider:
Give the Derby winner respect - It's pretty easy this year to dismiss Mine That Bird as a total fluke of a Kentucky Derby winner that stands little chance of winning the Preakness. That's not a good idea. I'm not saying that he is going to win, or even that I will necessarily bet on him. It's certainly possible, though. He ran one heck of a race on Derby day, and his last half mile was impressive not just for the move he had but for the time he ran it in after already having run six furlongs.
On a more general level, the Derby winner has proven to be tough to beat in recent years in the Preakness - seven of the last 12 Derby winners have won in Baltimore two weeks later. To win the Derby a horse has to be in top physical form. That form can easily hold for two more weeks. The form that was good enough to beat 20 horses in Kentucky can reasonably be assumed to often be good enough to beat 14 or fewer the next time.
Consider fresh horses with caution - In recent years about half of the Preakness field has previously run in the Derby, and the other half hasn't. Of the new horses, the large majority have had a longer rest than the two weeks that the Derby horses have had. On the surface it can seem logical to assume that those fresh horses will have an advantage over the horses that have already had to endure the toughest challenge there is for three year olds. That doesn't hold up in practice, though.
In the last 25 years, only two Preakness winners have not first run in the Derby. Both those winners were impressive horses as well. 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet was a very good horse with three wins and a second to Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus as a three year old. In 2006, Bernardini was a super horse that unfortunately benefited from the breakdown of Barbaro. It stands to reason, then, that you would have to have a very good reason to consider a fresh invader unless that horse was very impressive in their own right. With the possible exception of Rachel Alexandra if she is entered, that's not the case with any of this year's invaders.
Try to explain a bad Derby performance - It's not uncommon for a very good horse to have a very bad day in the Derby. This year's Derby favorite, Friesan Fire, for example, finished 18th in the Derby. A bad performance in Louisville certainly doesn't mean that the horse has no chance in the Preakness. Point Given was a very disappointing fifth as the favorite in the 2001 Derby, but he went on to win the Preakness handily then run the fastest Belmont in history. It was obvious that he was a better horse than he appeared in the Derby, and he proved it. Afleet Alex was well regarded heading into the 2005 Derby after an eight-length win in the Arkansas Derby. Jockey Jeremy Rose gave him a truly terrible ride in the Derby and he wound up third. He bounced back to win the Preakness and the Belmont.
There are many more examples as well - Louis Quatorze was 16th in the 1996 Derby before winning the Preakness, Pine Bluff won the Preakness after finishing fifth in the 1992 Derby, Hansel went from 10th in the 1991 Derby to first in the Preakness, and so on. In each of those cases there were several reasons to account for the uncharacteristically poor performances in the Derby. You need to look at every horse entered in the Preakness following the Derby to determine if they ran as well as you expected them to in the Derby. If they didn't then you need to look at the Derby to see if you can figure why he didn't have a good day. If the reason is clear and the excuse solid then you can essentially throw out the Derby in your handicapping.
If Friesan Fire is entered in the Preakness this year then he would be a very good example. He had a very bad start out of the gate and was obviously uncomfortable from the start. His performance in the Derby has nothing to do with his real ability, and it would give no indication of his ability to compete and win in the Preakness.