Every year we think this might be the year for a Triple Crown, but maybe this is finally the year it happens. American Pharoah was the favorite coming into the Kentucky Derby and he triumphed. But that’s what makes the Preakness exciting. We always have hope that the Derby winner goes onto bigger and better things and that happens quite often. American Pharoah will look to become the tenth horse in the last 28 years to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. While that’s going on, Armin van Buuren will be firing up a crowd in the Pimlico Racetrack infield. That’s as good as the Preakness can get.
There’s a chance we get some rain on Saturday and American Pharoah is the only horse of the favorites that has won in the slop. (Cue Kramer from Seinfeld with the joke about his mother being a mudder.) That may not matter given how dominant Pharoah has looked throughout the season. The way the race shapes up seems pretty easy to predict. Dortmund will shoot to the lead early and Pharoah and Firing Line will be on his hip. It’ll be like the Derby all over again. But it’s possible that one of the new shooters, specifically Bodhisattva and Divining Rod, will be right up there with the leaders.
Two weeks ago I had the Kentucky Derby pegged as well as I ever had. Once El Kabeir scratched, things lined up pretty well for the favorites. You just had to know where they’d fall and I had it pegged 1-2-3. The Preakness is usually an easier race to predict. Here’s a look at all 8 horses running on Saturday:
1 – American Pharoah – 4/5
The case against Pharoah is that the Derby took a lot out of him. He had to run more lengths keeping on the outside and jockey Victor Espinoza went to the whip a lot during the home stretch. The argument for is that he showed he was the best horse, he runs near the front, the fractions likely won’t be that fast, and this all sets up for him to run the same race with less trouble. The key factors are that Firing Line has come up short way too often and Dortmund had no excuses last time and still lost. It’s Pharoah’s to lose.
2 – Dortmund – 7/2
What more can Dortmund want? He had the lead in the Derby and he came up lame down the stretch. His own trainer Bob Baffert even said that if a horse runs well in the Derby, there’s very little reason he shouldn’t run well in the Preakness. He was talking about Pharoah in that statement, so how does that apply to Dortmund, who clearly didn’t run that well. Dortmund put up his worst speed figure since last November at the Derby. He’ll get beaten again and has the chance to get flushed on short rest.
3 – Mr. Z – 20/1
He’s in the race because his owners are rich. There’s no reason he should be here after only winning one race in his 15 lifetime starts. He was absolutely nowhere to be found in the Derby.
4 – Danzig Moon – 15/1
Danzig Moon ran a game fifth in the Derby after generally hanging near the front the whole race. He just didn’t show enough there and won’t this Saturday. His only win came in a Maiden race, which is much different than a Grade I stakes race.
5 – Tale of Verve – 30/1
Remember what I just said about Maiden races. That’s what Tale of Verve just won last time out. Maidens are for horses who have never won before. It’s quite the jump to go from that to the Preakness. We’ll pass on this too.
6 – Bodhisattva – 20/1
Bodhisattva is a well-seasoned horse having run in 11 races. He’s only won three, but he’s been solid in his last five. Two wins and a second are solid results and his worst finish was fourth. He won the Federico Tesio last time out, but the fractions were very slow. The pace might be too hot for him in the Preakness. He’ll be near the lead, but the question remains as to whether or not he can get in the picture.
7 – Divining Rod – 12/1
He looked really good in winning the Lexington Stakes a month ago. He waited until the top of the stretch and then jockey Javier Castellano let him loose. He barely needed to use the whip. The question is whether or not he’s primed to bounce after a career best effort last time out. If he’s worth a damn, he’ll get third place on Saturday.
8 – Firing Line – 4/1
I loved his resilience leading up to the Derby and that’s why I pegged him second ahead of Dortmund. He just lacks that killer instinct against good horses. He really hung in there against American Pharoah, but came up short. It’s likely he’ll be right there again and the shorter race might give him the edge vs. American Pharoah. It’s just hard to choose him knowing how many times he’s finished second.
1st – American Pharoah
2nd – Firing Line
3rd – Diving Rod
4th – Dortmund
How to Bet the Race:
I love drawing the line in the sand with a good horse in the Preakness. Put American Pharoah up top of all your exactas and trifectas. Don’t box him. Key him on top and wheel some other choices behind him. Bet heavy cause these exactas and trifectas won’t pay much, but at least you can hammer them at the window. Choosing something like Pharoah on top of Firing Line and Diving Rod on top of those two again with Dortmund and Bodhisattva is likely to pay out.