The story for the 142nd Preakness Stakes remains the same — Derby favorite delivers dominating performance in Louisville — heads to Baltimore a massive favorite. For many years being the favorite at the Kentucky Derby was a kiss of death. From 1980 to 1999 — TWO FULL DECADES — no Derby favorite emerged victorious. During the first decade of this century, that changed with four favorites wearing the roses. However, during this decade the trend has emerged even stronger with the last four favorites prior to this year (Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist) all winning at Churchill. Always Dreaming ran that streak to 5 two weeks ago. This creates a twofold situation: on one hand a Derby favorite winning is great for public interest because it increases buzz of a possible Triple Crown winner. On the other hand, it isn’t fun for bettors seeking a big price; who enjoys betting on a 4-5 horse?
All analysis provided by: @KyDerbyJay
Such is the situation this year with Always Dreaming heading to Baltimore a strong and deserving short-priced favorite. He was the best horse in the Derby, and a similar effort would seem to make him unbeatable at Pimlico. But there’s a reason they run the race…
Looking for more? listen to Bet The Board Podcast this week with special guest Parlay Queen of Covers.com to hear her tips on betting the 142nd Peakness Stakes.
Here’s my take on the 2017 Preakness field:
1 – Multiplier – Modestly bred colt that didn’t race as a two-year-old, then took three tries to break his maiden in New Orleans over the winter. Shipped to Chicago for the Illinois Derby and was an upset winner for trainer Brendan Walsh, doing so in a pretty swift fashion. Certainly looks like an improving sort and will be doing his best running late. However, seems a bit outclassed by some of the top choices. Still, not going to be surprised to see him grab a bottom part of the exotics at an advantageous price. One of four horses in the field who didn’t run in the Derby.
2 – Cloud Computing – Another new shooter, and frankly, he’s a real mystery to me. Had the points to be eligible for the Derby but passed on that race to prepare for the Preakness. Looked good running second in the Gotham, but a poor break cost him in the Wood Memorial and wound up third while being repeatedly whipped down the stretch. Personally, the breeding screams that he isn’t going to like the extra distance. That said, if he gets a nice stalking trip, he could be dangerous and he might be sitting on a nice race. Still, I’m inclined to let him beat me.
3 – Hence – He was my top pick in Louisville two weeks ago and was a massive disappointment. However, two of my top four choices comprised a very nice exacta, so overall I was pleased with my handicapping which created a profitable Derby for us. I digress; what are Hence’s chances in Baltimore? He never had a chance with a poor trip and mud kicked in his face the entire Derby run, leaving himself too much work to do. I was pleasantly surprised when Asmussen decided to run him right back in the Preakness, and with a better trip I think he’s in the thick of things this Saturday. I’m not anointing him my top choice this time around, but I’m not going to be surprised if he wins either.
4 – Always Dreaming – Ah, what to do, what to do? As stated above, he was clearly the best horse in Kentucky even with everything going his way — he’s a deserving favorite. The pace scenario is strongly in his favor, as well. Honestly, is there anything *not* in Always Dreaming’s favor? Well, there’s an anti-Pletcher angle to possibly look at Saturday. Pletcher has started more Derby horses than any other over the past decade, yet amazingly, this will only be the fourth Derby runner he’s brought to Baltimore. Since 2013, Pletcher has sent out winning horses off a rest of 14 days or less just 16 times. In those 16 starts, just 2 came home winners! Running on short rest isn’t Pletcher’s style and it must be factored into your horse handicapping. Still, A.D. may just be a freak talent that can repeat his Derby success.
5 – Classic Empire – I pooh-poohed his chances in Louisville, but he ran a very strong 4th despite what may have been the worst trip of any horse. By all measures, he was probably the second-best horse in the race and it would’ve been interesting had he not been bumped at the start and interfered with later on. He now has two good races under his belt after the layoff and could be sitting on a very big start in Baltimore. There’s no doubt he will get a better trip this time around and Leperoux should be able to sit in a perfect stalking position; ready to pounce once they turn for home. Always Dreaming could certainly pull away from them all in the stretch, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thinks that way. But go watch a video of Classic Empire’s win in the Arkansas Derby, I suspect the Preakness Stakes is going to unfold similarly.
6 – Gunnevera – I liked his chances in Kentucky a good bit but I’m not sure I’m on board with the decision to start him here. For one, I think he might be the type that peaked a bit early in the year and could use a bit of freshening. Additionally, I don’t think he’s going to get a very favorable pace scenario. He’s obviously talented, and hitting the board wouldn’t be a total shock but I’m leaning against.
7 – Term Of Art – Doug O’ Neill, I love you brother, you know I do, but what in the world is this guy doing in the field? He was overmatched finishing 7th in a weak Santa Anita Derby. His style is of a deep closing variety, and unless there is a total pace collapse Term Of Art will not sniff a top 5 finish.
8 – Senior Investment – Coming in off a pretty nice win at Keeneland in the Lexington Stakes, which has sometimes been a key Preakness prep over the years. However, this year’s field in that race was particularly weak and the Kenny McPeek-trainee hasn’t shown he can offer that kind of winning effort on a consistent basis. He’s finished off the board in half his career starts, and I think that’s a likely result at Pimlico. If you want to go deep in exotics, he does occasionally offer a nice late kick, but he is a complete toss for me.
9 – Lookin At Lee – Loved his chances in Louisville and he juiced up a nice exacta that I hope you had a piece of. Corey Lanerie gave him a strong rail trip reminiscent of those that made Calvin Borel famous. Other than the winner, he easily had the best trip and took advantage of favorable conditions on the inside to finish second. He was really the only horse who was passing other ones in the lane. All that said, I don’t care for his chances here. His type, the one-run stone-cold closers haven’t fared particularly well here. While he should still get a good trip, he isn’t going to benefit from others getting horrific ones like he did two weeks ago. Finally, his second-place Derby finish will ensure deflated odds; every sign points to playing against.
10 – Conquest Mo Money – Of the four Preakness starters who didn’t run in Louisville, this guy comes in as the most heralded after a strong effort running behind Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. Unlike most of the horses in the field, this guy wants the lead and will likely have it for at least the first 3/4 mile. Can he take them all the way around? I doubt it. If he sets too blazing a pace, he’s going to cook himself setting the race up for the wide array of closers that are present. If he tries to lull them to sleep — the most likely scenario — I think that he’s going to force John Velazquez’s hand with Always Dreaming. Johnny V (nice initials by the way) is no dummy and he’s not about to let Conquest walk home a winner. Is it possible those two could slow the pace down to a point where they just run away from the field in the stretch? Maybe, but I expect Always Dreaming to force a more robust pace and I don’t see this guy around at the finish.
You can get a gist of how I see the race unfolding from the above comments. I think Conquest Mo Money leads for the first 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile in modest fractions, is attacked by Always Dreaming in the late backstretch, and Classic Empire pounces at the top of the stretch. Always Dreaming runs on strong, but Classic Empire gets him at the wire. Hence and Multiplier pick up the pieces.
1) Classic Empire
2) Always Dreaming
Match-ups I personally recommend:
(3710) Hence +135 over Cloud Computing
(3715) Hence +100 over Gunnevera
(3707) Multiplier -125 over Senior Investment