In our 2019 Kentucky Derby guide, we tipped Maximum Security as the most likely winner. He duly obliged only to become the first horse in the race’s history to be disqualified for an on-track incident. Ultimately, 65/1 outsider Country House was awarded the victory in a time of 2:03:93, with Code of Honor in second place and Tacitus in third.
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Judges at the Derby decreed Maximum Security impacted the paths of numerous horses in the race, but the horse’s owners have filed a protest. They are considering legal proceedings to prove their horse should never have been disqualified.
Their initial appeal was rejected but they are keen to press on, and it will be interesting to see if the decision is overturned. The team has since taken another hit with Maximum Security jockey Luis Saez being given a 15-day racing suspension for “failure to control his mount,” leading to disruptions for several of the other runners.
In any case, the 2019 Preakness Stakes is the second instalment of the Triple Crown and takes place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday, May 18. It is a Grade 1 event that takes place over a distance of 1m 3/16 f on a left-handed track. Fillies carry 121 pounds while colts and geldings carry 127 pounds, and the race is only open to 3yos.
The Preakness Stakes is sometimes called “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” because the winner is decorated with a blanket of the state’s flower. In terms of attendance, only the Kentucky Derby ranks higher in North American horse racing. In this guide, we look at the contenders but first, let’s look at the history of this great race.
A Brief History of the Preakness Stakes
The Preakness Stakes actually predates the Kentucky Derby by two years. It was introduced as part of Pimlico’s first spring race meeting in 1873. The race was named after a colt called Preakness (who won a major race on the track the day it first opened in 1870), and it initially took place over a distance of 1.5 miles.
The first race attracted seven runners and was won by Survivor who crushed the rest of the field by 10 lengths. No horse won by a greater distance until Smarty Jones obliterated the rest by 11.5 lengths in 2004. There was a three-year period in the 1890s where there was no Preakness Stakes race, and the event was moved to New York from 1894 to 1908.
When the Magna Entertainment Corp., the entity that owns the Pimlico racecourse, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, there was a real danger that the Preakness would be forced to move once again. Fortunately, the state’s legislature, knowing how much the race means to Maryland, approved a plan to buy the course if Magna was not able to find a buyer.
The existing Triple Crown order has been in place since 1932 with the Belmont Stakes taking place last. It is normal for the Kentucky Derby winner to enter this race in a bid to win the Triple Crown, but Country Horse will not be racing this year.
The existing race distance has been used since 1925, and the event is limited to a maximum of 14 runners. You won’t be surprised to learn that Secretariat holds the record for the faster ever time with 1:53 during his Triple Crown winning 1973 season. Eddie Arcaro is the most successful jockey with six winners from 1941 to 1957.
Bob Baffert shares the trainer’s record with 19th century legend, R. Wyndham Walden; both men have seven wins under their belt. Baffert enjoyed his first success in 1997, and his most recent win came last year when Justify triumphed in a time of 1:55:93. He is involved again this year with Improbable. For the record, only five fillies have ever won the race; Rachel Alexandra was the most recent in 2009. The previous filly winner was Nellie Morse way back in 1924.
The Preakness Stakes is known for its party atmosphere, and Pimlico had to end its “bring your own booze” policy in 2009 after footage emerged of intoxicated attendees running along the tops of portable toilets while beer cans were tossed at them.
While horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby based on points, it is a little different when it comes to the Preakness Stakes. At the beginning of the calendar year, trainers must decide whether to enter their 3yo horse in the Triple Crown series, and there are usually over 300 entries.
After the Derby, the winner normally starts in the Preakness (not this year) along with a few horses that ran well in Kentucky and are well rested. Other high-quality horses that could have qualified for the Derby skip that race and focus on the Preakness instead. This is because the Preakness is slightly shorter and Pimlico has relatively sharp turns whereas Churchill Downs is a course for speed.
If more than 14 horses are entered for the Preakness, the field is decided based on lifetime earnings.
Useful Preakness Stakes Trends
The Preakness traditionally has far fewer runners than the Kentucky Derby, but that doesn’t mean the race is easier to analyze. At the time of writing, there are 13 confirmed runners with Win Win Win a possible late entry. Improbable is the early 5-2 favorite followed by War of Will at 4-1 and Anothertwistafate at 6-1. The biggest outsiders are Everfast at 50-1 followed by Market King and Signalman at 30-1 apiece.
At one time, the Kentucky Derby winner always entered the Preakness Stakes, but in recent times, trainers of top-notch horses have skipped Pimlico and focused on the Belmont instead. Remember, all three races take place in the space of five weeks; one of the many reasons why it is so hard for a horse to win the Triple Crown.
Is Kentucky Derby Performance Important?
At this year’s Preakness, only one of the horses that ran well in the Derby are entered, and that is the favorite Improbable who was fourth at Churchill Downs. War of Will finished seventh in Kentucky and is the second favorite at Pimlico; Win Win Win was ninth in Kentucky and Bodexpress was thirteenth in the Derby and is a 20-1 outsider for this race.
Since 1997, 12 of the 22 Preakness winners also won the Kentucky Derby, four had skipped the Derby, and three hit the board at Churchill Downs. Improbable finished in the top four in the Derby which means he just about makes this trend.
Does the Betting Market Give You a Better Insight?
The Preakness Stakes is traditionally easier to call than the Derby. Since 2001, only four horses have won at odds of 8-1 or longer. The betting favorite has won 14 of the last 33 years but 73 times in 143 total races in the Preakness. Cloud Computing was a shock winner at odds of over 27-1 in 2017.
Perhaps the most salient trend is that only four horses have won the Preakness since 1983 after NOT entering the Kentucky Derby. This is one of the reasons why Improbable and War of Will are in the top two in the betting market.
Oddly enough, there have been a few examples of long-shot runners up in the race. Cherry Wine was 16-1 in 2016, Tale of Verve was 27-1 in 2015 while Macho Again was 38-1 in 2008, and Bravazo was 15-1 last year when he finished behind Justify.
One important aspect of the race is the stall draw and not for the reasons you might think. Pimlico is noted for being a track with sharp bends, and the talk is always about avoiding the outside rail. In reality, you want your selection to avoid the inside rail. It is only in recent times that horses have won a race after being drawn at rail 1.
It has happened just three times in 57 years; Justify in 2018 and American Pharaoh in 2015 bucked the trend of rail #1 being a disaster by winning the race. However, these were two exceptional horses who went on to win the Triple Crown; there is no such horse in this year’s race. Indeed, only four horses have even hit the board from the inside rail draw since 2008.
This information is bad news for War of Will backers as the second favorite is drawn in stall #1. The favorite, Improbable, has a reasonable draw from stall #4.
Preakness Stakes Betting Odds
The on-track oddsmakers published the 2019 Preakness Stakes morning line odds Wednesday afternoon as a preview of how they expect the betting action to go. Keep in mind the morning line odds are subject to change once money starts coming in from online and in-person sources.
Anyone located outside the US and placing futures bets may place fixed-odds wagers to guarantee their payout, but all US readers will be betting in the parimutuel format. This means the odds can and will change depending on how much money is wagered on each horse.
The following Preakness Stakes odds come courtesy of US-based betting site BetAmerica.com.
|Horse||Post Position||Morning Line Odds|
|War of Will||1||4-1|
|Win Win Win||13||15-1|
Who Will Win The 2019 Preakness Stakes?
Unlike the Kentucky Derby, which is extremely open and hard to call, the Preakness Stakes tends to be won by one of the market leaders. Only five horses have won the race at odds of 10-1 or higher since 1976. However, three of these winners have come since 2006, yet none of them were at 14-1 or higher. If we look at this evidence, it eliminates Laughing Fox, Bodexpress, Market King, Everfast, Win Win Win and Signalman.
Alwaysmining is attracting attention at 7-1 as he is on a six-race winning streak. However, the level of competition in each of those races was nothing like what he will face at Pimlico, and he has never raced over the Preakness distance so stamina could be a problem. Owendale is 11-1 and won a Grade 3 in Lexington but was eighth in the previous race where War of Will and Country House were in the first two places.
Anothertwistoffate is also 8-1 and could be a worthy inclusion in an exacta. He was beaten by Owendale at Lexington but was a convincing winner in the El Camino Real Derby, a preparation race for the Kentucky Derby. Bourbon War is 12-1 but was behind Maximum Security and Bodexpress in the Florida Derby where he finished fourth and will have to find a lot more to win here.
Warrior’s Charge has won his last two races but neither of those victories will prepare him for what is a massive jump in class. He is nonetheless an interesting contender because he could be an early pace setter which could cause tactical issues for some of the other horses.
That leaves us with the two main contenders (assuming Win Win Win does not enter). War of Will has been unplaced in his last two races and needs to be better to succeed at Preakness. The fact he is drawn in the dreaded stall #1 only hinders his chances further.
In our Kentucky Derby guide, we noted Improbable had a chance but was better suited to this race. He went on to finish fourth and had actually beaten Country House in the previous race when finishing second behind Omaha Beach. He is trained by the incomparable Bob Baffert who has an exceptional record in this race. We know backing the favorite isn’t the boldest of predictions, but in this race, we believe Improbable has the best shot at winning the 2019 Preakness Stakes.