by Trevor Whenham - 05/09/2006
When it comes time to make your picks for the Preakness, you have a couple of choices. You can stare at the racing form until your eyes bleed and read the thousands of words that will be generated by experts in the next two weeks, or you can just be lazy, have faith that history will continue to repeat itself, and rely on the betting angles that have performed well in past versions of the race. The second choice will be much simpler, and it will leave you way more time to relax and dream about how you are going to spend the fortune you make betting on the Preakness. Here are nine angles that I dug up using a spreadsheet and the mighty Internet. Some are easier to believe than others, but all of them are true and have been profitable over the years:
1) Bet the Derby winner to win the Preakness - Since 1979 the Derby winner has only missed the Preakness three times. In those 24 races, the Derby winner has won the Preakness 10 times. If you were to bet $20 to win on each Derby winner, you would have bet a total of $480, but you would have collected $792. That's a profit of $312, or a return on investment (ROI) of 65 percent. The Bet: Barbaro.
2) Bet the Derby exacta straight up - In the last 20 years the Preakness exacta has been the same as the Derby exacta four times. That means that you would win by betting the same exacta 20 percent of the time. Pretty easy to make a profit on that. In fact, the last time it happened - in 1999 when Charismatic bested Menifee twice in a row - the payout for the Preakness was $47.60, more than enough to make you profitable on all 20 bets. The other three wins are pure profit. The Bet: Barbaro over Bluegrass Cat (if the Cat comes back for the Preakness, that is).
3) Bet the Derby favorite to win the Preakness - Since 1980, the Derby favorite has run in the Preakness 14 times. It has been the winner on six occasions. If you had bet $20 to win each time you would have spent $280, but been returned $496. That's a profit of $216 and a ROI of 77 percent. The Bet: Sweetnorthernsaint.
4) Use the Derby favorite in your exotics - Of the 14 times that the Derby favorite has run back in the Preakness since 1980, it has been the winner six times, been second three times and third three times. Only Harlan's Holiday, which finished fourth, and Excellent Meeting which broke down, haven't hit the board in the Preakness. That means that the Derby favorite has been part of the exacta nine out of 14 times, and part of the trifecta an amazing 12 out of 14 times. The Bet: Stick Sweetnorthernsaint in your exotics.
5) Love the one word names - Since Swale won the Derby in 1984 seven horses with one word names have won the Derby and gone on to race in the Preakness. Alysheba and Charismatic carried their space-free names right into the winner's circle, and Ferdinand and Unbridled both finished second. Both a win bet and a place bet on each single-named Derby winner would have been profitable. The Bet: I don't see any spaces in Barbaro, so a win and a place bet are called for.
6) Chestnuts have more fun - In the last ten years there have been 111 starters in the Preakness. Thirty four of them, or 30.6 percent, have been chestnuts. Chestnuts have won five of the last 10 editions of the Preakness. That's 50 percent. In other words, chestnuts are performing disproportionately well. On the other hand, bays and dark brown horses have made up 59.5 percent of the field, but have only won four of the races, or 40 percent. Gray horses have performed about as expected - 11 percent of the runners and about 9 percent of the wins. The message is clear - look for the chestnuts. The Bet: Of the Derby runners headed to Pimlico, only Lawyer Ron is a chestnut.
7) Blame the President - Of the last 10 horses that have won the Derby and the Preakness, six of them managed the feat under a Republican President. That bodes well for Barbaro thanks to Mr. Bush. The Prez could prove to be bad news for Barbaro if he wins the Preakness, though. Of the 11 Triple Crown winners, nine of them won while a Democrat was in office. The Bet: Barbaro.
8) Jump on the undefeated Derby winner - The last three undefeated Derby winners - Majestic Prince, Seattle Slew and Smarty Jones - have all won the Preakness. A $20 bet on each would have made you a $34 profit, or a ROI of 170 percent. Barbaro hasn't lost yet. He hasn't even come close. The Bet: Barbaro.
9) Bet the favorite - If the rest of these angles seem too complicated, just wait until Preakness post time and bet on the favorite. That plan hasn't failed in the last five years. $20 bets would add up to $100, but have returned a healthy profit of $220. The Bet: It would take a miracle for Barbaro not to be the favorite.