I have to admit that I am finding it harder to get excited for this edition of the Preakness than I do most years. I think it has to do with the field, mostly. Aside from Exaggerator, the top threats avoided clashing with Nyquist again so soon, so we are left with a fairly-large but mostly-uninspiring group.
To pretend that more than a small handful of these horses have a real shot in this race requires a serious suspension of logic. When the intrigue is this low the race really struggles to captivate. The important thing, though, is to focus not necessarily on which horses will win - or at least not just on that - but to also look at which horses could finish second or third at a big price.
If Nyquist does indeed do what is expected then the best chance for a respectable payout is if a long shot or two completes the trifecta or superfecta. With that in mind, here are three Preakness live long shots that are worth a look:
Fellowship (30/1): This horse has some reasonable talent - he was third in all three of the major Derby preps in Florida. He wasn't good enough to be better, but he was good enough to be a part of the action each time. He didn't have enough points to make the Derby, so instead he ran in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard. It went poorly - he made a premature move and wound up fading badly down the stretch to finish fourth. Far from ideal.
What I like about this horse, though, is his trainer. I have tremendous respect for Mark Casse. He has dominated in Canada for years and is making serious inroads across the border. He only took over the training of this horse after the Florida Derby. With a bit more time and a race under his belt he knows the horse better now and should be able to get more out of him. The added distance should help him out as well. He was third in fields that were no weaker than this one - at least in terms of depth - so he could be a factor here.
Uncle Lino (20/1): Like Fellowship in Florida, Uncle Lino ran in three major prep races in California and fared reasonably well. He was second in the Robert B. Lewis, fourth in the San Felipe, and third in the Santa Anita. The downside is that in each race he ran behind the best horses in the race - some combination of Exaggerator, Mor Spirit and Danzig Candy. He was clearly not as good as Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby, so it could be a challenge to believe that he can be good enough here.
There are a few reasons to have some optimism, though. For starters, his breeding is solid for this task - he's a son of Uncle Mo like Nyquist, and we know how that worked out. After the California Derby preps he headed to the California Chrome at Los Alamitos. The win doesn't mean a ton because it wasn't a graded stakes, but what was eye-opening was that he broke the track record in winning - a record set two years ago by Dortmund. He's got plenty of talent and is improving. He could be a factor here.
Finally, he has raced on an off track twice and has been in the top three both times. With a weather forecast that isn't ideal, that's a big factor to consider.
Abiding Star (30/1): Like Uncle Lino and Nyquist - not to mention maiden entrant Laoban - Abiding Star is a son of Uncle Mo, so we might as well ride the hot hand. After all, an Uncle Mo offspring has won every Triple Crown race since the stud was old enough to have three year olds. Of course, that's only this year's Derby, but it's still impressive.
Aside from that, there are some things to like about this horse. Now, he's taking a massive step up in class - he's never run in graded company and has run at second-tier tracks for much of his career. He has won five in a row, though, so he knows how to win. He also likes to lead, which isn't necessarily the worst place to be in this field.
Finally, he has won two of this three outings on off tracks, so the likely rain on Preakness day could work for him as well. At the price he could be useful - and his post time odds are very likely to be much higher than this morning line.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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