Sporting Chance Odds to Win the 2018 Preakness Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Let's pretend that Sporting Chance is well named and that he does indeed have a sporting chance of winning the Preakness. He is a Grade 1 winner with nice breeding and a trainer who has won this race as much as anyone alive. But his last race was putrid, his best races came as a two-year-old and before an injury, and at his best he just doesn't seem to be good enough. We'll look at the colt from a variety of angles, but at the risking of spoiling the read I'll admit that I won't be betting on him.
Last race: Having not earned enough points to make the Kentucky Derby, the colt headed to Churchill Downs anyway and entered the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard. He got off to an uncharacteristically slow start in the race and then ran into traffic issues and had to check with about three furlongs left. Despite the issue, and being forced very wide on the final turn, he mounted a bit of a rally and wound up in fourth place at the end. I'm mostly willing to throw the race out, though. The top three finishers were long shots, and the race was just a mess from start to finish. So, the race wasn't ideal for this colt, but it wasn't ideal for anyone else, either.
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Prior experience: The colt made his debut way back in June at Churchill Downs, finishing second after leading most of the way. He came back in July at Saratoga, tried to lead again, and this time held on to the wire, beating possible Preakness entrant Givemeaminit by almost three lengths. From there he took a jump all the way up to Grade 1 company in the Hopeful, and he won. He pressed the pace, took the lead on the final turn, and then held on against Derby also-ran Free Drop Billy. He had some issues running a straight line in the stretch or he would have run by more. That was a heck of a way to end his two-year-old season - an injury kept him out of the Breeders' Cup - and at three he has never been able to recapture that magic. He was third in the Southwest in his three-year-old debut. Then he was a totally non-threatening fifth in the Rebel. He was sent to the Blue Grass for his final Derby prep and his last chance at Derby points. He was third from start to finish, but he against ducked out badly in the stretch and was disqualified and placed fourth. That was the end of the Derby dreams. It stands out when you look at the past performances that he had his best success at two while setting or pressing the pace, but as a three-year-old he has been further off the pace and has struggled. It would seem he'd be better off moving forward early, but pressing the pace is a rough place to be racing against Justify. Tough spot for the colt.
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas, who also has Bravazo in this race, is tied with Bob Baffert for the lead among active trainers with six Preakness wins - just one short of the record, set way back in 1888 when the game was a little different. The last win here came in 2013 with Oxbow, and the first was way back in 1980 with Codex. Lukas is obviously a training legend. He's in his 80s, and his stable is a shadow of what it was at the peak, but he still has the fire and won't shy away from any race. Besides still being a competitive trainer himself, his former assistants are among the best in the sport, with Todd Pletcher leading the way.
Jockey: No jockey has been named at this time. Luis Contreras rode the horse last time out, but he also rode Bravazo in the Derby on the same day, so he likely won't be available. The change isn't a concern, though - Sporting Chance has had four different riders in seven starts, and a different jockey in each of his last three, so he's used to working with whoever is holding the reins on that day. On the other hand, though, it's probably not a great sign that he keeps facing changes - guys fight to stay in a saddle worth staying in.
Breeding: Sporting Chance is sired by Tiznow, the two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner who obviously had no issues with the Preakness distance. As a sire, his notable offspring have included Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed and shocking Belmont winner Da' Tara. Sporting Chance's damsire is Candy Ride, a lightning-fast horse who started in Argentina but came to the U.S. and ran the highest Beyer Speed Figure of the year in 2003 - a stunning 123. As a sire Candy Ride has been just as good. His two most notable sons have been Shared Belief, the freakish champion who died before we saw all he could do, and Gun Runner, the reigning Horse of the Year and Breeders' Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup winner. Both of those horses would have scoffed at the Preakness distance, so Sporting Chance gets good blood from this side as well. There are concerns for this colt in this race, but his breeding sure isn't one of them.
Odds: Bovada has Sporting Chance at +2200 to win the Preakness, which has him behind seven different potential starters and in a different stratosphere than heavy favorite Justify at -250.
Can Sporting Chance Win the 2018 Preakness Stakes?: No, probably not. He hasn't been at all sharp as a three-year-old, and his best racing style would put him on a collision course with a much better horse. He's here because Lukas was coming anyway with Bravazo, and two is better than one. He might be able to grab a piece, but I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep if I tossed him.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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