Notebook Weekend Report: Preakness Stakes Edition
The second leg of the Triple Crown is the biggest event of the sports world, as the Preakness Stakes runs from Baltimore early Saturday evening (6:45 PM ET, NBC). Justify validated his standing as Kentucky Derby favorite and is an even more decisive 1-2 favorite at Pimlico tomorrow.
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The Preakness field is small for a race of this caliber—only eight horses are running compared to twenty at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. The field is split evenly between four who were a part of the Kentucky Derby and four who are “new shooters”, as horse betting aficionados like to call them.
Recent history suggests the winner will be one of the horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby. Over the last ten years, Preakness winners break down as follows…
*Eight ran in the Kentucky Derby
*One—Rachel Alexandra in 2009—was a filly and ran in the Kentucky Oaks, over Derby weekend and came into the Preakness as the favorite.
*One—Cloud Computing just last year, was a genuine new shooter.
So in spite of half the field being new, the last decade says there’s an 80-90 percent chance that Saturday’s victor will have run in the Kentucky Derby. Here’s the four horses that are back for their second Triple Crown race of 2018. Betting odds are in parentheses…
BACK FOR MORE
Justify (1-2): There is one thing Justify has not done in his career yet, and that’s lose. Four trips to the post, four wins. That includes the prestigious Santa Anita Derby that paved the way for his Run For the Roses two weeks ago.
Good Magic (3-1): I went out on a limb and picked Good Magic to win the Kentucky Derby at a 12-1 price. He made me proud, running neck-and-neck with Justify to the bitter end. The reasons I liked him—his jockey/trainer combo (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown), his victories at the Breeders Cup and in the Derby Prep season, and the fact his mother is named Glinda The Good are all still valid. But the betting value is gone. Good Magic isn’t a secret anymore.
Lone Sailor (15-1): A very consistent runner, whose pre-Derby career was marked by one win and seven in-the-money finishes in his eight runs. The 8th-place finish two weeks ago wasn’t bad and fit that general pattern of steady, but not spectacular. If you’re looking for a winner though, be aware that the last eight horses to win the Preakness after running the Derby finishes at least top six at Churchill Downs.
Bravazo (20-1): His young career has been marked by either big wins or poor finishes. The sixth-place finish at the Derby was out of character in that it was just solid, without going to either extreme. He was a Derby longshot at 50-1. Oddsmakers respect him a little more, but not as much as it may appear—the smaller Preakness field means no horse is going off higher than 30-1.
Here’s a look at the four horses stepping onto the Triple Crown stage for the first time…
Quip (12-1): He’s got some nice runs under his belt, with a win in the Tampa Derby and a second-place finish at the Arkansas Derby, a big race in the run-up to the Triple Crown. And 12-1 odds in the short field at the Preakness are nothing to scoff at.
Tenfold (20-1): His trainer, the great Steve Asmussen, hasn’t seen fit to take this horse out of the state of Arkansas until now. Tenfold’s first three races were all at Oaklawn. After a couple low-level win he took fifth at the Arkansas Derby.
Sporting Chance (30-1): One of two horses in the field trained by D. Wayne Lukas (Bravazo is the other, Sporting Chance ran a stakes race on the Derby undercard two weeks ago at Churchill Downs. He took fourth in that one. Last summer he won a stakes race in Saratoga, where there’s always good competition. The handful of other races have seen finishes of 3rd thru 5th.
Diamond King (30-1): This one is interesting. He’s got a fantastic jockey in Javier Castellano and a track record marked by four wins and another in-the-money finish in his five runs. The problem? The wins are at relatively minor tracks—Laurel Park, the sister track of Pimlico in Maryland and Parx in Philadelphia. Neither attract top talent. This is the equivalent of Central Florida getting its chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl.
AT THE BETTING WINDOW
My guess is that serious bettors aren’t going to bother challenging Justify at the top and will instead try to make money by pairing him with longshots on the exacta and trifecta. If I were at Pimlico on Saturday, I’d choose Quip and Diamond King to play in an exotic box along with Justify. That would give me a chance to win the exacta or tri on any combination of those horses. As I said before the Kentucky Derby—the exotic box is the more expensive way to bet, but the beauty of hypothetical gambling is that you can really roll the dice.
One of the things I find most frustrating about horse racing (besides constantly tearing up tickets in frustration on my occasional visits to the track) is that just when we’re getting to know these new horses, they’ll disappear from the scene. It makes no sense and I devoted a blog post to discussing ways that horse racing could maximize its potential among sports fans.
CONFERENCE FINALS ROLL ON
The NBA has Game 3s going in both the Boston-Cleveland and Houston-Golden State series this weekend. The Celtics have completely caught most of us off-guard with the way they’ve dismantled the Cavs in the first two games. Earlier this week, I took a closer look at how the C’s are doing it without their stars on the court. The Rockets winning a game over the Warriors derailed my pre-series prediction of a sweep, but unless Houston can get a game in the middle part of this series in Oakland, I’m not ready to declare “game-on.”
In the NHL, Tampa Bay and Washington have taken turns ruining home ice for the other and are tied at two games apiece. Vegas has a 2-1 series lead over Winnipeg in the West, but it seems like more than that. Winnipeg has played one good period of hockey in this series and that was the three-goal barrage that started Game 1. Since then Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been locked in. I picked Winnipeg to win this series and won’t back down here, but I can’t help but note that once Fleury dusted the rust off, the series has been all Vegas.
By the end of the weekend, both NBA series will be through three games and each NHL matchup will have five games complete. In the baseball world, I spent some time this week taking a closer look at American League playoff contenders, from the Angels to the Blue Jays. I also examined how and why the White Sox have fallen off the face of the earth and where the rebuilding process is at.
Everybody have good weekends and here’s the TV schedule of the major events…
PREAKNESS STAKES (6:45 PM ET, NBC)
Caps-Lightning (7:15 PM ET, NBC)
Celtics-Cavs (8:30 PM ET, ESPN)
Golden Knights-Jets (3, NBC)
Rockets-Warriors (8, TNT)