by Chris, the Impaler - 05/17/2005
Washington Senator's first baseman Mickey Vernon once said, "Yesterday I asked a player how he did at the track. He said 'my horse won.' I said, 'how much did it pay?' The player said, 'no, coach, I didn't bet on the horse, I own it.'"
Whether you play at your local OTB parlor, online, or actually get off your ass and make it to Pimlico (United State's second oldest thoroughbred track next to Saratoga) on Saturday for the 130th running of the Preakness Stakes, from a gambler's perspective, the Preakness offers the casual player the best chance to win based on available information.
While it is unrealistic to expect us to go out and buy a race horse for next year's Preakness Stakes (which actually sounds more like a French mail order horse meat distributor rather than the second leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown) we can do the next best thing: cash a winning Preakness Stakes ticket. Betting the Preakness and correctly handicapping the race, believe it or not, is the easiest of the big three blood sport races.
The Preakness is a gambler's race because it is the second major of the season and also because of home cookin', a limited field, the Kentucky Derby two weeks previous, workout performances in the "off" week between races, and the distance of the race (at a 1 3/16 it is the shortest race in the Triple Crown).
Much like your mail order T-Bone steak, it is hard to miss a banal morsel that seems required in every Triple Crown article this year; six of the last eight horses that won the Kentucky Derby have also won the Preakness.
Is betting the Preakness this easy?
Use the winner of the Kentucky Derby and get what, 8-1 on my money! 8-1, I'm going to be solid bling baby! Better up the bet and make that a dime on, well no, if that would get me 8k then I can roll that into, ok got it, make it five dimes. Yah you heard me. No I don't got a tip, but.
Over the past three years experienced bettors have cleaned up on the Preakness if they had bet the winner of the Kentucky Derby. In fact, those paying attention hit 75 percent on their Preakness bets alone over the course of eight years (got it in!) - an unreal percentage at the track but an unparalleled success if that has been your PBS - Preakness Betting System.
As the public ingests this rather clear trend in wagering on the Preakness (and if they haven't, wait for the coverage and you can be sure that either Hammerin' Hank or Bob Neumeier will bring that to our attention) this week, we anticipate the public blindly betting down Giacomo (second greatest long shot winner of the Kentucky Derby if you hadn't heard) from his 8-1 line as the public has never faced a Derby winner, nor a tear jerking triumph over adversity story, or a favorite they did not like (cough. Afleet Alex. cough).
As "the public" we should duly look at the Kentucky Derby, but for a different reason, aside from the winner of the Kentucky-Derby-wins-the-Preakness-theory, the horse that wins the Preakness has generally also raced in the Kentucky Derby-not necessarily won it but ran it. I say usually - except when I bet the system.
Here's what happened. In 2000 Red Bullet was held out of the Kentucky Derby in favor of the Preakness and won by upsetting favorite Fusaichi Pegasus (a horse that had beaten him at the Wood Memorial a few months earlier). So this rule is not steadfast, but keep in mind when you are handicapping Scrappy T (third at the Wood Memorial, a mere 18 ¼ lengths behind Bellamy Road) and discard him immediately because he did not run in the Derby (He won the Withers).
Since 1970, 13 morning line favorites have won the Preakness. Using a stat we are more familiar with, in the past eight years at the Preakness only three horses have been the morning line favorite. Out of the six times the same horse won the Kentucky Derby and was also the favorite at the Preakness were Smarty Jones in 2004, War Emblem in 2002 and Point Given in 2001. Morning Line Favorites at the Preakness were a mere 30 percent over the past eight years! This year Afleet Alex (third at Kentucky and winner of the Arkansas Derby) will most likely enjoy the sobriquet of morning line favorite.
There is a good probability that the Preakness Stakes will have a full compliment of stars and shooters -- fourteen exactly. The number of entrants will depend. Now Nick Zito, who has already committed two of his five horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby; Sun King and Noble Causeway, has High Fly as a good possibility. However, even at max capacity at post time, fourteen is six less than at Churchill Downs. The Preakness definitely favors horses like High Limit who got clipped at the start of the race and finished dead last.
Be careful of home cookin' longshots, in Maryland I guess it is King Crab, but at Pimlico it is the local flavor as Maryland bred horses have traditionally done well at the Preakness. This year don't get drunk on Malibu Moonshine hoping for the Giacomo effect. One plus for him is that he has already won two of four races at Pimlico.
But a Maryland bred horse might become a thing of the past as horse racing revenue has been directly tied to slot machines. More gaming revenue equals larger purses; larger purses lure the trainers, stables and owners. Recently many horse owners and trainers have moved their barns to nearby Delaware and Pennsylvania due to the increased purse sizes that slot machines at the racetracks generate. Most recently there is talk of Magna selling the Preakness Stakes to the highest bidder and moving it from venerable Pimlico Park.
You want to make sure that the horse you like has had experience! You don't want to really consider any horse that has not been money in graded stakes races. An important staple on the Preakness handicapping diet should include monitoring workouts (preferably at Pimlico) and when the horses actually arrive at the Preakness barn. It's all about acclimation for the horses. Rarely do unsettled horses win races. They, like their human counterparts, crave stability. Nothing says stability like having the Preakness barn all to yourself before the shooters arrive.
Membership indeed does have its privileges and Afleet Alex checked in before anyone else. He has enjoyed relative solitude at Pimlico since he had a few days to train and workout alone. He was transported to Pimlico shortly after the Kentucky Derby and only this week has the featured stable become more populated. But once Giacomo arrived this week all hell broke lose and, as horse's say one to another, "there goes the neigh-borhood."
Use the wealth of available knowledge about past performances and workout times. Gone are the days when you had to look OSDRF (over the shoulder daily racing form) since all your moss was strapped out on a last ditch daily double. For me, a key indicator of performance is how a horse has worked out over five furlongs in their last workout or two before the Preakness. When I bet, I look for the fastest time on a horse in similar conditions of the race over five furlongs. If those match I generally find a winner on the short-ish distance at Pimlico.
One of the immortal truths of pari-mutuel wagering is that there's more satisfaction sitting in the owners box collecting checks for selling horse semen (stud fees) than leaning on the rail ripping up a pari-mutuel ticket because your 3 to 1 horse faded in the stretch.
Anyone can bet two bucks on a long shot and if it comes in at 30-1 you win, what, sixty bucks? It takes some balls to put your last nickel on the long shot and now we can talk. They say the thrill is just the same but it is not. At this year's 130th running of the Preakness Stakes make sure you bet over your head, not with it. When betting the Preakness make like Bukowski and bet to win.