The 147th running of the Preakness Stakes is this Saturday, which means we have another opportunity to win some money. Two weeks ago, things didn’t go as planned with longshot Rich Strike shocking the world to win the Kentucky Derby. However, Rich Strike’s connections opted to skip the Preakness and angle the horse toward the Belmont Stakes. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is a wide-open field, as we have a clear favorite in Epicenter. So let’s take a look at what history tells us about the Preakness and put a betting slip together. 

 

Speed tends to dominate the Preakness

While there isn’t a proven process for the Preakness like the one I use for the Kentucky Derby, we can still look to history to handicap the field. The first thing we need to know about this race is that it tends to favor speed and pacesetters. This isn’t the type of race where we should look to closers as our top choices to win. However, we also can’t completely rule them out, as last year’s winner Rombauer was a closer. Here’s how the field sets up in terms of running style:

1 Simplification (6-1) – Stalker 
2 Creative Minister (10-1) – Closer
3 Fenwick (50-1) – Pacesetter 
4 Secret Oath (9-2) – Stalker
5 Early Voting (7-2) – Pacesetter 
6 Happy Jack (30-1) – Closer 
7 Armagnac (12-1) – Pacesetter
8 Epicenter (6-5) – Stalker/Pacesetter 
9 Skippylongstocking (20-1) – Stalker 

We have a mix of pacesetters and stalkers among the top four horses in terms of the morning line odds. The favorite, Epicenter, can run in either style and could easily wire the field. Epicenter has posted back-to-back 100-plus Beyer speed figures and is the lone horse in the field with that sort of form.

Of course, betting on Epicenter to win isn’t going to give you a good price at all. He could go off at 1-1 or worse, so we’ll want to find a horse to beat him. That horse could be Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath. The Lone filly in the field has the speed to hang in a race that has be the most favorable of the three triple crown races for fillies. Simplification is another interesting horse after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. One of the most consistent horses in the field, Simplification has topped a 90 Beyer in each of its last five races. 

Experience (and Wins) Matter

To win the Preakness, horses typically not only need experience in graded stakes races, but they also need to have won. Only three of the last 20 Preakness winners have not won a graded stakes race. Of the field, Simplification, Secret Oath, Early Voting and Epicenter have all won a graded stakes event. 

Creative Minister is the lone horse in the field that has not run in a graded stakes heading into the Preakness. Skippylongstocking has not won a graded stakes but is coming off a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial. Fenwick last ran in the Blue Grass Stakes and finished a tired 11-place. Happy Jack has run in graded stakes in each of its last four races but is coming off a disappointing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Armagnac only has one graded stakes under its belt, finishing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.

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Fade the Longshots 

Every year a horse or two is simply overmatched in this race. Often this is a local horse who is based at Pimlico. While these horses may have interesting stories, betting on them to win is a waste of your money. In 145 years of the Preakness, only four winners have come in at over 15-1 odds with Master Derby being the longest odds we’ve seen at 23-1 in 1975.

If you had any temptation to wager on Fenwick or Happy Jack to win, this should hopefully dissuade you. Fenwick has failed to top a 50 Beyer speed figure in two of its last three races. Happy Jack has managed better numbers there, but the horse has a career-best of just 83. 

However, it should be noted that four of the last 11 winners have been between 10-1 and 15-1: Rombauer last year at 11-1, Cloud Computing in 2017 at 13-1, Oxbow in 2013 at 15-1, and Shackleford in 2011 at 12-1. The most likely candidates in this range will be the lightly raced Creative Minister and Armagnac.

2022 Preakness Stakes Best Bets

How to Bet the Race

Given the historic trends, things set up very well for Epicenter. That said, the top horse coming out of the Derby tends to draw a lot of money from the betting public. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see this horse go off at 1-1 or worse. Betting on horses with such short odds is a negative-EV strategy over the long term. We can and will put Epicenter on top of exotic wagers, but this isn’t the horse for your win bets. 

Instead, we need to look for a better price. Early Voting will give more favorable odds, but only barely. Expect something in the range of 3-1 for the Chad Brown horse. Given Baffert’s history, this is a pass. Secret Oath is strong filly, but it could also come in at close to 3-1. 

So that brings us to Simplification. This horse is coming off a solid fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and hit the board in its three previous graded stakes races. Simplification’s stalking style could have it positioned well for a sneaky win. Jockey John Velazquez has three wins at the Kentucky Derby and two at the Belmont but has never won the Preakness. That said, he has finished as the runner up three times. If you want a good price on a horse with a shot to win, Simplification is your best bet.

At the same time, we also have to note the weather. No, it won’t be a race in the slop, but the temperature figures to be well over 90 degrees when this race goes to post. Hot weather races can create strange outcomes. A horse like Armagnac could get out on the lead and never give it up. We could also see a surprise from Skippylongstocking. Both are worth small win bets.

 

If you don’t want to bet exotics and prefer to stick to win, place, and show bets, here’s how we could approach this race on a small budget and a larger budget:

$20 Budget

$10 win and place bets on 1

$100 Budget

$25 win, place and show bets on 1
$15 win bets on 7
$10 win bets on 9

In terms of the exotics, we don’t simply want to box up the favorites and call it a day. The top two betting favorites haven’t finished in those spots at the Preakness in nearly 40 years. We did see the reverse in 2012 with the second favorite winning the race and the favorite finishing second, but it’s rare for the favorites to come in at the top of the board. We almost always see horses with slightly longer odds hitting the board. Preakness exactas have had at least one horse at 10-1 or greater in nine of the last 10 races.

We need to look to some of the longer odds for our exotics. Here’s where those closers come into play. Creative Minister is in play to hit the board. If you want to play a simple exacta that fades the top three favorites, we’d be looking at something like 1 with 2-7-9. A $2 exacta would cost you $6 for this bet and the payout would likely be quite hefty. Of course, this isn’t the most probable outcome, so it’s a good idea to play multiple exotics. Here are some sample wagers based on my handicapping:

$4 exacta: 8 with 1-2-4-5-7-9 ($24 total bet)
$4 exacta: 1-2-4-5-7-9 with 8 ($24 total bet)
$2 exacta: 1 with all ($16 total bet)
$1 exacta: 7 with all ($9 total bet)
$1 exacta: 9 with all ($9 total bet)
$1 trifecta: 8 with 1-2-4-5-7-9 with 1-2-4-5-7-9 ($30 total bet)
$1 trifecta: 1-2-4-5-7-9 with 8 with 1-2-4-5-7-9 ($30 total bet)
$1 trifecta: 1-2-4-5-7-9 with 1-2-4-5-7-9 with 8 ($30 total bet)

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