Interested in betting a few bucks on the Preakness Stakes, but not really sharp as a horse racing handicapper? Here are a few shortcuts you can use to point yourself towards some likely winning bets and away from some horses with little chance of pulling off the win:
Ignore the longshots – The Kentucky Derby is a race that is often won by longshots. Between 1999 and 2009, there were three horses that paid off at higher than 30/1 to win, and over that time frame you could actually have made an overall profit by betting on every single horse that went off at 20/1 or higher. The story is very different in the Preakness. The highest paying winner ever in the Preakness was Master Derby in 1975, and he only went off at 23/1. For a number of reasons the Preakness race isn’t nearly as friendly to longshots and surprises as the Derby is. The low priced horse trend has been even more pronounced in recent times. Between 2000 and 2010 there was only one horse that paid better than 3/1 to win. That one exception was Bernardini and he only went off at 13/1, and even that was slightly skewed because Barbaro sucked up every cent of the public action that year so the other prices were higher than they would otherwise have been. The lesson here is simple. In the Derby it makes good sense to gamble with a couple of logical longshots, but in the Preakness the smart money sticks with the better horses in the field.
Run away from front runners – If there is a thoroughbred in the field that you like as a handicapper who favors taking the lead out of the gate and trying to go wire-to-wire you might want to think seriously about looking elsewhere. For a number of reasons this race has not been kind to front runners at all. From 1960 to 2010, just five horses wired the field. It got even worse in recent times. From 1996 to 2010, Rachel Alexandra was the only winner of the race who was also on the lead after a half mile. It’s obviously not impossible for a front running horse to win, but if you are going to bet that one will you will want to be sure that you are very sure of your opinion, and that the price is a little bit higher than you would accept in a typical race for a similar horse.
Stick to the horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby – From 1986 to 2010, 22 of 25 winners of the Preakness had previously run in the Kentucky Derby, and Rachel Alexandra ran in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. Bernardini and Red Bullet are the only exceptions. The most logical reason for this is that the owners and trainers of the best horses in the country are all desperate to win the Derby, so they aren’t going to skip that race if they are any good. There are obviously situations where a good horse can skip the Derby, but if you are in doubt and just looking for a horse to like then your odds are significantly better by taking one who ran at Churchill two week earlier.
Forget the hometown kids – Every year there is a Maryland bred horse or two that is entered in the field to carry the hometown thoroughbred colors. They are often a good story, and sometimes they might be intriguing. The thing you have to remember, though, is that Maryland isn’t exactly the hotbed of thoroughbred breeding these days. The last Maryland-bred to win the Preakness was Deputed Testamony, and that was way back in 1983. Just don’t get sucked in by the home track angle.
Family matters – The best way to tell that a horse is capable of winning a race like the Preakness is if he is the son of a horse who won the Preakness. Up until 2010 there had been nine sons of Preakness winners who had gone on to win the race themselves. That’s an incredibly high number. If you are desperate for an angle to pick a winner in your handicapping then start looking at the pedigrees.