The Kentucky Derby is a horse race. So is the Preakness Stakes. And they have some of the same horses in them. From a betting perspective, though, that's pretty much where the similarities end. These are two massively different races for bettors, and you need to bet them very differently as a result if you want to have any hope of success.
The field is half as big, the odds on the favorites are typically much lower, the race is shorter, some horses are much fresher than others, and on and on. There is good news, though - the Preakness is a much easier race to bet than the Derby. Dramatically easier. You just need to keep a few important rules in place for how to bet the Preakness - four in this case - and you have a decent chance of success:
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With Always Dreaming or against him?: This is the first and most important question you have to ask every year. Are you going to bet on the Derby winner or look to beat him? He is almost certain to be the favorite, and most years he will be a very heavy favorite. That is the case here as it would be far from shocking to see Always Dreaming go off at less than even money. Actually, it's expected.
There are lots of reasons to like the horse. He was clearly the best in the Derby, and he didn't have to burn a lot of extra candles to win that race. He obviously has the breeding and class to handle this race, and he has looked good and comfortable on the track at Pimlico. He has an outstanding jockey and a top-rate trainer. He'll be ready. So I can't argue if you like him. If you do, though, then you can't afford to bet anyone but him to win. He is your pick. You can leverage him in exotics to try to get a better return, but with a likely win payoff so low you can't go deep or hedge your opinion. If you are with him then you are with him.
And if you are against him then you have to be against him. You can't just throw him in just in case - there is no room for that. And you could justify going against him - he had a perfect trip in Kentucky, he obviously liked an off track that others didn't, and his biggest challenger, Classic Empire, was knocked out of true contention early with a brutal collision. He's a very good horse, but is he good enough to win when things don't exactly go his way again?
Edit the list aggressively: There are races that are won by long shots and big prices. This is not one of them. Ten of the last 20 editions of the race have been won by the Derby winner. Most of the winners who weren't Derby winners were nonetheless deserving and fairly obvious - Exaggerator didn't win the Derby last year, for example, but no one was shocked that he beat Nyquist. This is not the race to take big gambles to win, so it should be fairly easy to edit the group of 10 horses down to a much shorter list of true win contenders. That doesn't mean that you need to ignore those other horses, though - long shots can get up into the lower part of exotics easily enough, and that can be very profitable.
Draw out the pace scenario: This is really advice for any race, but it is important here. You need to look at how the race is going to set up and what that means for different horses. This makes it easier to decide how to bet the race. In this race the pace should be fairly clear - or at least it looks like that on paper. We have Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money who will likely vie for the early lead, but neither needs the lead, so they aren't likely to run each other into the ground. Classic Empire and Cloud Computing should be in a group stalking the front two. And then you'll have a pack further back looking to close on the leaders - with Multiplier the most likely leader of that group. Now, there is nothing in that scenario that automatically eliminates any horse or gives them a huge chance of success. You just need to make sure that you are confident that your horse is going to be able to run the race they need to run based on how the race could look.
Look to the exotics: Always Dreaming will likely be even money or lower, and Classic Empire should be below 3/1. Those two horses combine to be the two most likely winners by a very wide margin. To get a big payday, then, you will have to look beyond win betting. Luckily, the field is small enough, and you can key one or both of those horses in some spots, so you can effectively tackle the trifecta and superfecta without a massive investment. This is a much more manageable race for exotic betting than the Derby is.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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