How to Bet the Preakness Stakes 2013
by Trevor Whenham - 5/8/2013
Part of what makes the Triple Crown so fascinating as a betting challenge is how different each race is. The Preakness Stakes comes just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, but it couldn’t be more different for bettors — even though it features many of the same horses. If you approach the two races in the same way, you are going to be in trouble in at least one of them. Here are four adjustments to keep in mind as you try to figure out how to bet the Preakness this year:
On the surface, the difference in the length of these races doesn’t seem that significant. The Derby is run over a mile and a quarter, while the Preakness is a sixteenth of a mile shorter. That doesn’t seem like very much difference. It takes a horse about 12 seconds to run a furlong (an eighth of a mile) typically, and a little longer than that by the end of the race. That means that horses have to run about six fewer seconds here than they did two weeks earlier. For horses that are at the very edges of their stamina capabilities, that can make a massive difference.
You still need to look at stamina factors when handicapping the horses in the Preakness, but it isn’t nearly as easy to discount horses in this race as it is in the Derby.
The Kentucky Derby is capped at 20 runners. In recent years that many horses have been entered most years, and we’ve seen at least 19 horses after scratches most years. The Preakness caps the field at 14 runners, and it typically doesn’t get to that.
A smaller field has several different effects. In the starting gate the outside horses aren’t nearly as far from the inside rail and don’t have to travel nearly as far to get into an ideal position. Fewer horses means that the closers have fewer obstacles to move through when trying to get to the lead down the stretch.
In the Derby you have to be very concerned about the trip a horse could reasonably be expected to have and the impact that is likely to have. Often that trip can have a huge, negative impact. It’s possible to have a bad trip in the Preakness as well — you can have a bad trip in a three-horse race — but it isn’t nearly as likely, and therefore doesn’t have to be as much of a concern to handicappers.
In the Derby most horses are coming into the race off of adequate rest. Most of them haven’t run for three weeks before the Derby, and some have been off much longer than that.
The time between the Derby and Preakness is just two weeks. That’s a short period of rest for thoroughbreds, and especially so now as trainers have started runner their top-level horses less often.
It’s hard to know how a horse that ran in the Derby will handle the short rest, but it needs to be considered. You can perhaps find clues in how they work.
There is another rest factor as well. The horses that continue from the Derby to the Preakness are usually joined by a handful of fresh faces on the Triple Crown trail. Those horses are often much better rested than the Derby entrants. It can be easy to overvalue these horses, though. Sometimes you’ll get an exceptional new, fresh horse — like Bernardini. More often, though, there is a good reason why they didn’t run in the Derby, and the extra rest isn’t enough to overcome their other issues.
The Derby favorite
In the Derby there are plenty of storylines that will capture the attention of bettors. This year, for example, bettors were intrigued by things like Todd Pletcher and his five starters, Normandy Invasion and the World War II veterans who were actively supporting him, Rosie Napravnik’s quest to be the first woman to win the race aboard Mylute, Derby savant Calvin Borel on a horse that suited his aggressive style perfectly, and Kevin Krigger on Goldencents looking to break a very long drought for African American winners in the race. All of those storylines drew plenty of money and made it reasonably easy to find value in the race.
In the Preakness, though, there is only one storyline that the betting public cares about most years — whether the Derby winner can head to the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown. That means that the betting action is usually heavily focused on that one horse.
In this race, then, you have to decide whether you are going to back the favorite or look to beat him. If you back him then you probably can’t afford to back other horses other than exotics. If you don’t like the favorite, then you can usually go a little deeper.
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