Justify Odds to Win the 2018 Preakness Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Do you have one of those friends who says the most stupidly obvious things all the time but says them as if he believes they are profound. Sure you do - we all do. If that person was writing this horse preview for the Preakness then this is the place where he would talk about how he had broken down the Preakness, handicapped it from every angle, and come to the conclusion that Justify was the best horse and was well positioned to win. That friend would sound like an idiot. A blind guy who has never seen a horse in his life could clearly see how good Justify is and how the Preakness is his to lose if he shows up and is right. Anything can happen, but if something doesn't stop him then he'll just keep running.
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Last race: By now we have covered that Derby from every angle, but I still am far from sick of it. Heck, I will never get sick of it. It was just so very impressive. He broke clean, got into second where he wanted to be early on, and looked like he wasn't working too hard despite running the third fastest half mile ever through the wettest track that the race has ever seen. When the time came for Promises Fulfilled to fall back and Justify to take the lead, he did it without hesitation. Around the turn he was threatened - most notably by Good Magic - but he was unbothered by it. He just dug in and kept running. It would have been an impressive stretch run if he had run the first half mile in 48 seconds. That he had run it in less than 46 seconds made it almost impossible to believe. Wow, what a race.
Prior experience: There were only three races before the Derby, but they certainly were impressive. He grabbed the imagination of obsessive race fans right out of the gate when he broke his maiden by almost 10 lengths at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. Three weeks later he proved it was no fluke by winning an allowance race by 6.5 lengths. That was on a muddy track, so his love of the off track at the Derby was no surprise. Next up was his stakes debut, and he jumped right into the deep end in the Santa Anita Derby. He sure looked like he belonged despite his rocket ride up through the ranks. He led throughout, and then he outdueled and outclassed the very solid Bolt d'Oro in the stretch to win by three. Since 2000 there hasn't been a horse that has been as impressive by speed figures in his first three starts. The horse is the real deal. If you want a reason for mild concern it's that he is not running for his second time in two weeks at the Preakness but instead for his fifth time in three months. It's a grueling stretch, and he'll need a rest at some point, but hopefully for the sake of the sport that won't be until after two more successful races.
Trainer: There is no guy you would rather have training a horse in this spot than Bob Baffert. He had won the Kentucky Derby four times before this year, and he has won the Preakness with each of those horses. He also won this race two other times, including with Point Given, who went on to win the Belmont. Baffert's six Preakness wins are one short of the all-time record - a record set 130 years ago. Baffert is simply the best on this stage, and with the run the last few years with American Pharoah leading to Arrogate and now Justify, he's certainly not going to be intimidated dealing with this kind of talent in a colt.
Jockey: Like Baffert, there is no other guy I would want in this spot than Mike Smith. On a random Wednesday in a claiming race I'd probably pick another rider at this point because Smith just doesn't ride that much anymore. But on the biggest days there is no guy who wants to win more, who judges a pace better, or who connects more strongly with a horse than Smith does. He hasn't won this race since his first win in a Triple Crown race in 1993, but his record 26 Breeders' Cup wins show that he can perform under a bright spotlight - not to mention that Derby win last week, and his other three Triple Crown race wins.
Breeding: The breeding was good. Now it's better. Scat Daddy was a good horse who had been a good sire before a premature death. Now he is a sire who has sired a truly remarkable Derby winner. That certainly won't hurt his reputation. It's just a shame that we won't see any more of his offspring. And Justify's damsire is Ghostzapper - a Breeders' Cup Classic winner who was sired by a Breeders' Cup Classic winner. Neither class nor stamina is a concern in Justify's pedigree - obviously.
Odds: To the surprise of no one, this horse is going to go off at microscopic odds in the Preakness. As a preview of that, he is currently at -250 to win at Bovada . It's a stone-cold lock that he will be at less than even money at post time, and I would be reasonably surprised if he was paying more than $3 when they open the gates.
Can Justify Win the 2018 Preakness Stakes?: Absolutely. Obviously. In fact, while we have to be very aware that anything at all can happen in a horse race, it would be much more surprising at this point if he didn't win than if he did. He's a freak in a manageable race. The potential payoff is going to be very low for a reason.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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