The majority of the time the winner of the Kentucky Derby goes on to be the favorite in the Preakness – and typically a popular one at that. Sometimes, though, another horse gets more betting attention than the one that wore the roses two weeks earlier. It could be another horse that ran in the Derby and came up short, or a new horse joining the Triple Crown trail halfway through. Because it isn’t the most common occurrence, though, bettors need to consider what it means, why it has happened, and what impact it should have on the handicapping of the race. Here are five factors to consider when doing so:
Was the Derby win a fluke? – The public usually falls in love with the Derby winner. They will be less likely to do so, though, if the winner clearly wasn’t the best horse on the day – but was just the luckiest. In a race as big and crazy as the Derby, there are often opportunities for one horse to get a perfect trip while the rest of the field gets a poor one. If that is the case and it is obvious – like if the horse was a longshot that didn’t particularly win in dominant fashion – then the public isn’t likely to be fooled, and won’t make him the favorite next time out. The trick, of course, is for bettors to determine whether the result really was a fluke, or whether the horse has more going for him – and deserves more respect – than the public thinks. If the latter is the case then there can be attractive value.
Who is the favorite? – If the Derby winner isn’t favored then you need to look closely at the horse that is – or at the horses that are at lower odds than the Derby winner if there are more than one. Is the horse coming out of the Derby as well? If so does he have a legitimate excuse that explains why he didn’t win? Is the horse likely to perform better this time around? Does he clearly seem to be a better horse with a better chance of winning than the Derby winner? Sometimes the Preakness favorite will be a horse that came out of the Derby that still has hype and respect, but if you don’t believe in the horse as much as the public does you could find nice value. If the horse that is favored didn’t run in the Derby then you need to be particularly cautious. Horses that didn’t win in the Derby rarely win the Preakness, and those that do are mostly excellent horses that clearly belonged among the elite of their class – like Rachel Alexandra or Bernardini. You need to be reasonably certain that a new invader is of this caliber before he can be justified as the favorite in the Preakness. It’s rare that an owner of a horse that good wouldn’t try to win the Derby since that race is so much more prestigious than the Preakness, so it’s quite possible that the horse isn’t as good as he is perceived to be.
How close are the prices? – You need to look at the difference in odds between the Derby winner and the favorite. If one horse was at 2/1 and the other at 5/2, for example, then it wouldn’t really be significant since the prices are so close, and there is a chance that the favorite could shift by post time. When the favorite is at a drastically lower price than the Derby favorite, you need to take a closer look to understand what is really going on and what the right move is.
Why doesn’t the public like the Derby winner? – The public is fickle, so there are sometimes clear reasons that the public doesn’t like the horse – reasons that don’t always have a lot to do with how well he might fare in the Preakness. For example, the horse might not be popular if he has a trainer who isn’t likeable or successful, if the horse comes from an obscure racing circuit, if the owner is well known but not well liked, or if he is bred poorly or in a non-traditional breeding state. If you can find a situation in which the public is likely not respecting the Derby favorite enough then you can potentially find an overlay – always an attractive betting possibility in any race, and especially in a race as heavily bet as the Preakness.
Do the odds provide value? – Ultimately it really doesn’t matter which horse is favored. If you like the Derby winner then you should be happy that horse isn’t favored because the price will be better. Instead of worrying too much about things like favoritism, you should focus on the only thing that matters in sports betting – where is the value, and what is the best way to maximize that value.