The 2015 Triple Crown horse racing season for the top three-year-old thoroughbreds in the nation resumes this Saturday with the running of the Grade 1 $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
While bettors will be dialed into American Pharoah's bid to win the second leg of this series after his thrilling win in the Kentucky Derby on May 2 at Churchill Downs, there are a few golden opportunities to try and cash in on the special props and futures that some of the top sportsbooks have released in conjunction with Saturday's race.
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The following are my top three plays in these prop bet odds for this year's Preakness Stakes.
2015 Preakness Stakes: Margin of Victory
American Pharoah has been listed by Sportsbook.ag as a heavy -130 favorite to win this race with Firing Line second at +400 followed by Dortmund at +500. This was the exact order of finish for the top three horses in the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah used a late burst of speed to best Firing Line by a length, while Dortmund faded a full three lengths back in third.
The best odds on the board for the margin of victory in the Preakness are set at +200 for a distance of 1 to 2 ¾ lengths. The odds that the distance expands to 3 to 5 ¾ lengths are the second-best on the board at +300, but I am going in the other direction in effort to squeeze some more value out of this prop.
It's rare that the top three finishers in a Kentucky Derby all go at one another again in the Preakness. In fact, this year's field for the Preakness is small by nature with just eight confirmed horses, but it includes four of the top five horses from the Derby, so I am expecting another highly-competitive race over a slightly shorter distance of 1 3/16 mile.
The odds that a horse wins by a neck or a head are set at +800, but that is a bit too close. I am settling in with the +400 odds that the margin of victory in this race is between ½ length and ¾ length in what should be one of the most thrilling Preakness runs in recent memory.
2015 Preakness Stakes: Head-to-Head Matchups
Sportsbook.ag has also released some prop bet odds for head-to-head matchups in this year's Preakness, but the one that jumped out at me was Firing Line (-115) vs. Dortmund (-105).
Going back to the Kentucky Derby, Firing Line's odds to win were set at 12/1 along with Materiality as fourth-favorites on the 18-horse list. Dortmund went off as a solid 3/1 second-favorite in that race.
Turning to the field for the Preakness, I would not bet against American Pharoah to win this race. However I would be more than comfortable using Dortmund as my second choice in a much smaller field. I actually have Danzig Moon at +1400 odds as my third choice in this race with Firing Line next in fourth.
Both Dortmund and Firing Line ran a great race in the Kentucky Derby, but Dortmund clearly has the better overall record as a three-year old. He has the same trainer as American Pharoah in Bob Baffert, and with Martin Garcia as his jockey Dortmund completed an incredible prep season run at Santa Anita Park with three graded stakes wins. This run included a relatively easy victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 4. The third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby actually ended a streak of six consecutive victories dating back to a very successful campaign as a juvenile.
2015 Triple Crown Props
Bovada's horse racing props page has the odds that American Pharoah wins the Preakness set at -150 and at +110 he does not. Assuming he does come through with the victory as everyone expects, this would set up a run at an elusive Triple Crown title with the Belmont Stakes on tap next in early June. The betting odds that he goes on to win all three races are set at +200 for "yes" and -300 for "no".
The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978, but going back to 2002, there have been a total of six horses that have won the first two jewels in this crown, including California Chrome, who made his bid for a Triple Crown last season before finishing fourth in the Belmont.
The big difference in this year's crop of three year olds is that the best of the bunch are all running in the Preakness as opposed to lying in wait to take down the Kentucky Derby champ in the longer and more grueling 1 ½ distance of the Belmont Stakes. It may be a case of wishful thinking, but I am going to roll the dice that this is the year the Triple Crown drought comes to an end with American Pharoah finishing first in all three races.
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