Preakness Handicapping Systems
by Greg Melikov - 05/13/2008
I recall what one handicapping expert said: "There's no single successful horse racing wagering strategy, and that's a good thing."
His reasoning: "This means that even for beginning and novice bettors, you can still (fare) well with your selections as long as you find a strategy that works for you."
What works for you might not work for me. Strategy, at least for me, changes depending on the type of race, connections, track conditions, etc.
The Preakness, however, has at least one pattern that has held true more than 50 percent of the time in the past dozen years - six winners of the Kentucky Derby since 1997 captured the Preakness. This is key for Preakness handicapping systems and determining how to play exotics.
All six -- Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones -- flirted with immortality before failing to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and the first since Affirmed in '78.
>From '01 through last year, five Preakness favorites scored. If you go back to '87, there have been nine post-time choices that visited the winner's circle. During that same period, only four Kentucky Derby favorites won - all since '00.
Preakness fields are considerably smaller than the Derby. Since '92 when favored Pine Bluff rebounded from defeat at Churchill Downs to win the Preakness against 13 challengers, there has been only one full field of 14. That was in '99 when favored Charismatic triumphed. During those 16 years, only the '97 Derby captured by Silver Charm had fewer than 14 starters - 13.
One myth perpetuated over the years lists Pimlico as a speed-favoring surface with sharp turns that favor front-running horses. Actually, the turns are almost identical to Churchill Downs.
Four Preakness winners were second after six furlongs since '96 when Louis Quartorze posted the last wire-to-wire victory.
Generally, any handicapping system should include form, class, race conditions and connections. First and foremost, any horse in the Preakness should exhibit form, plus necessary morning workouts since the last outing.
For example, 3-year-olds that haven't raced in more than 30 days should show a work at Pimlico and ample evidence they have a history of performing well off long or short layoffs.
Class is important, but a tricky part of the handicapping puzzle. I believe runners that performed well against first-rate foes in past recent races merit consideration. However, those that benefited from easy pace figures against lesser rivals should send up a red flag.
Race conditions include surfaces and distances. There's an old saying about the latter: Never bet on a horse trying a distance for the first time.
Obviously, none of the Preakness runners have raced 1-3/16 miles. However, I wouldn't want to key a horse on top that hadn't traveled at least 1-1/8 miles. If the horse has been competitive in stakes at routes and the pedigree fits, inclusion in exotic bets shouldn't be out of the question.
It's a good idea to visualize how the Preakness will be run: who the front-runners will be, what contenders will be stalking and which runners have the best chance of closing.
There's another element involved in racing that crops up: luck. We all need a bit of that on any wagering occasion. Hunch bets do pay off sometimes.
But Lady L isn't a reliable compatriot. So let your handicapping skills be your guide. In the long run, they will reward you more often - in the Preakness or in other races.