There is no way around the fact that this has been a wild two weeks in the horse racing world since the Kentucky Derby (G1) ended. The disqualification of Maximum Security has flipped this sport upside down. Now, it’s on to Baltimore for the 144th Preakness Stakes, which will hopefully return us to normalcy where the horses decide the outcome. A nice field of 13 is set to do battle on Saturday, and though none of the first four horses to cross the wire in Kentucky made the trip to Pimlico, it doesn’t mean that this won’t be a tremendous, very competitive race. The Preakness Stakes will go off as race 13 on Saturday, with a local post time of 6:48 PM ET.
Leading the charge is Improbable, who ultimately finished fourth in Derby as the favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert entered three horses there, but Improbable is the only one making the trip to Baltimore. He has yet to win this season, with second-place efforts in both the Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park before his most recent effort. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will have the mount for the first time.
Other than Maximum Security and Country House, the horse making the biggest headlines post-Kentucky Derby is War of Will, the one affected the most by the far turn interference. Early in the year, this horse dominated the LeComte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes (G2), before two off-the-board efforts. He’ll once again be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, who will be hoping for a cleaner trip this time around.
Alwaysmining enters as the local favorite after winning six straight at Laurel Park coming into this event. In his last start, he crushed his rivals in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes to earn an automatic berth into this event. It would be quite the story if this Maryland-bred was able to win the Preakness, especially after having targeted it for several months. Regular rider Daniel Centeno will retain the mount.
The full field from the rail out: War of Will, Bourbon War, Warrior’s Charge, Improbable, Owendale, Market King, Alwaysmining, Signalman, Bodexpress, Everfast, Laughing Fox, Anothertwistafate, and Win Win Win.
#7 Alwaysmining – We’ll see if this Maryland-bred can give us the type of feel-good story that this Triple Crown series needs. Obviously, the Preakness will be a big class test for a horse that has never won outside of Laurel Park in his 12-race career. He has been dominating his rivals, though, while running speed figures that are very competitive with this field. He has been targeting the Preakness for months and is in with a big shot as long as he continues his upward trend.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#5 Owendale – Trainer Brad Cox holds a strong hand in this race with two colts that are blossoming at the right time. The first is Owendale, who turned heads with a massive win last time out in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. That race’s fast speed figure indicates that his lightbulb turned on. His inconsistency is a major question mark, as he does have some poor efforts on his past performances, but Cox looks to have him figured out.
#4 Improbable – It makes sense for this horse to be the favorite. Baffert speaks for himself, and the horse gets Smith aboard for the first time. It also makes sense to try and beat him as the favorite, as he has not won all year long. After two close losses in Arkansas, he looked to have a major chance when turning for home in the Kentucky Derby (G1), only to run flat down the lane. A dry track could help, but he has major distance questions. You’d be wise to use him in exotics, as he is consistent, but he might not be one you bet much to win.
#1 War of Will – He is likely to get plenty of attention after many believe that he lost all chance of winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) because of the infamous interference at the top of the stretch. However, that could make him a bit over-bet, which might mean that you can play against him slightly here. You can’t leave him off of all of your tickets, as he does have a lot of talent, but after being banged around in the Derby, this will be a tall task on just two weeks’ rest. He’s in with a shot, yet there a lot of question marks surrounding him; too many to bet if his price gets too short.
#3 Warrior’s Charge – I’ve been high on this horse for months. His connections had to put up $150,000 just for him to run in this spot because the late-developing colt was not nominated to the Triple Crown. The fact that they did should tell you what they think of him, especially since Cox already has Owendale entered. His biggest question mark is the major jump up in class, but his price is right to take a swing.
#2 Bourbon War – There is plenty to like about Bourbon War, who was ranked highly as a Kentucky Derby prospect throughout the year. He nearly won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) before a lack of pace in the Florida Derby (G1) caused him to finish fourth. Both times, he was narrowly defeated by Code of Honor, who came back to run second two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby (G1). This horse is one that you have to play heavily underneath, but feel free to play a few tickets with him on top as well.
#13 Win Win Win – We’ve liked him in his last three starts, only to see him let us down. There comes a point when you have to turn the page on a horse, even if you still sort of believe in him. Yes, he can make an impact in this race, but it is probably just going to be in the underneath positions. He’ll likely drop to the back and make one big run, trying to pick off tired horses late.
#12 Anothertwistafate – There was a time when this colt was high on everybody’s Kentucky Derby list. However, a pair of runner-up efforts in the Sunland Derby (G3) and the Lexington Stakes (G3) cooled the hype. You will get a decent price on him here, though, which makes him interesting again. He could run well in this spot, especially if he can sit just off of what should be a hot pace. If so, he can turn for home with first run on the leaders, which could give him an advantage. He’s a logical longshot.
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#11 Laughing Fox – Trainer Steve Asmussen has been high on this horse all year long. He earned his way here after winning the inaugural Oaklawn Invitational Stakes, which gave him an automatic bid. This colt is progressing well, but on just two weeks’ rest, it’s hard to see him making the improvements necessary to make much impact here.
#9 Bodexpress – The maiden will try to rebound from a poor trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He may have gotten the worst of the interference in the Derby, which likely cost him several positions. It didn’t look like he was going to make a huge impact in the race, though, and the pace of this race is not going to be in his favor. There is a chance that he can make a small impact here, but he probably needs a little softer spot to build some confidence.
#8 Signalman – At this point, he has some proving to do before you can back him in a race of this magnitude. He was pretty much a no-show in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) to kick off his year, then ran a non-threatening third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). He was better in his second start, but that was not a strong race overall. It’s likely that he’s a cut below the best horses in this race.
#6 Market King – It’s always great to have D. Wayne Lukas in the race, even though he looks to be totally overmatched in this spot. This colt has early speed, but he faded badly in his last start, finishing well-beaten in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). The Coach has pulled off upsets in the past, including a few in this race, but it’s not likely to happen this year.
#10 Everfast – This late addition doesn’t have much going for him. He has won just once in 10 starts and only hit the board once this year, in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2). The odds look stacked against him here.