Saturday, May 21st sees the 147th running of “The Run For The Black-Eyed Susan’s”.
Just like the Kentucky Derby is known as “The Run For The Roses”, the Preakness Stakes is also named after a state flower.
The Preakness is the second jewel in the Triple Crown series, unfortunately, we won’t be seeing the Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike going for glory, however, we still have nine contenders set to go to post at 7.01 PM EST on Saturday.
The race certainly looks to revolve around the Steve Asmussen trained Epicenter who was a gallant second in The Kentucky Derby and the cut back in distance for this son of Not This Time is sure to suit.
So let’s take a look at the contenders for this year’s race and pinpoint the chances of each runner.
What Horses Are Running in the Preakness Stakes?
The field has already been whittled down to a single-figure field, and as we write this we have 9 runners set to go to post on Saturday 21st May.
So let’s take a look at all of them and rate their chances.
Epicenter +100 – Gate 8 – J: Joel Rosario T: Steve Assmussen
This race revolves around Epicenter. He won the Run Happy Stakes as a two-year-old and then the Risen Star Stakes back in February proving himself one of the leading three-year-olds. With the Preakness being a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby, this cutback is sure to suit.
He has drawn the 8 gate on Saturday which makes things tougher, but he has so much speed that we can see him dropping in and stalking Early Voting and Simplification before launching his bid for victory at the top of the lane.
Secret Oath +350 – Gate 4 – J: Luis Saez T: D Wayne Lukas
The only filly in the field and what an impressive winner of the Kentucky Oaks and most likely the one to put it up to the chalk Epicenter.
Trainer D Wayne Lukas last won the Preakness Stakes back in 2013 with Oxbow and after not having a runner in the Kentucky Derby, the veteran trainer would love to win another Triple Crown race.
Secret Oath rallied to finish third on debut on the slop but made no mistake to break the maiden next time when all wrapped up to win by 5 lengths. She kicked off her three-year-old career by winning the Martha Washington Stakes and of course won the Kentucky Oaks easily last time.
Secret Oath +350
Early Voting +400 – Gate 5 – J: Jose Ortiz T: Chad Brown
As a pure speed horse, Early Voting has to be rated a danger to the top two in the morning line odds. The Chad Brown barn inmate has drawn gate 5 and looks sure to try and break early and try and go gate to wire.
He tried to go gate to wire in the Wood Memorial on only his third career start but was caught on the wire in deep stretch by the Kentucky Derby fifth Mo Donegal. That was a career-best effort from Chad Brown’s colt and Jose Ortiz is a serious jockey booking for the son of Gun Runner. Can beat Epicenter.
Early Voting +400
Simplification +900 – Gate 1 – J: John Velazquez T: Antonio Sano
One of the highest-rated runners if we take a look at Beyer speed figures and his fourth spot in the Kentucky Derby was another top-notch classy performance. He was inconsistent as a two-year-old, either winning like a superstar or emptying quickly at the top of the stretch.
There is no doubt he is a serious horse that can really put a stretch sprint together as proven by his double-digit victory earlier in the season.
However, there have to be concerns that he can back up his Kentucky Derby run after just a three-week layoff and we are not so sweet on his chances of doing that.
Creative Minister +1100 – Gate 2 – J: Brain Hernandez Jr. T: Kenny McPeek
Won an allowance in the style of a classy horse the same day as the Kentucky Derby, but the big question is will he be good enough and will he be streetwise enough against these proven stakes rivals.
The owners have pitched up $150,000 to supplement him for this race, but you have to worry about his slow starts from the gate, and with Early Voting, Epicenter and Simplification forcing the speed, he could find himself far back early. He has drawn well in gate 2 but it remains to be seen if this 2-3 winner has the class.
Creative Minister +1100
Skippylongstocking +1600 – Gate 9 – J: Junior Alvorado T: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Skippylongstocking who won just one of his first six starts has been well beaten by Simplification already and just plainly does not look good enough against these foes.
Drawn in gate 9 makes it really tough. He likes to be prominent in his races but will find it tough to find anything other than a wide pitch and will likely find himself in the 4 lane down the backstretch.
We’ll pass on these big longshot chances here.
Armagnac +2500 – Gate 7 – J: Irad Ortiz Jr. T: Tim Yakteen
A very late entry here from trainer Tim Yakteen who only confirmed on Monday and he has drawn gate 7 sandwiched in between both Early Voting and Epicenter.
Inside he has Happy Jack in 6 who is probably the slowest from the gates, so he should get a nice clear run to the clubhouse turn. He’ll need to take up a stalking position behind the pace. He won his maiden impressively on race number two but was well seen off in the San Felipe Stakes and the Run Happy Stakes when far back.
Happy Jack has already beaten him twice so the Tim Yakteen runner who has Irad Ortiz doing the steering, looks set to struggle in this classy edition of the Preakness Stakes.
Happy Jack +3300 – Gate 6 – J: Tyler Gaffalione T: Doug O’Neill
Happy Jack has really hindered his chances by being slow from the gate nearly every race and has found himself far back on many occasions. His gate draw in 6 may not be a bad thing as he can angle in straight after the start and take a stalking position at the rail.
It looks like he will be far back early chasing what is sure to be some very fast splits at the quarter and half-mile posts. However, this may not be a bad thing as he is undoubtedly a strong closer once reaching the far turn.
If he can be 6-8 lengths off the pace at the top of the turn then he will close and rally all the way to the wire and looks the value as an “across the board” play and surely one to add to your exotics (Exacta’s, Trifecta’s and Superfecta’s).
They are sure to go very quickly and he’ll maybe pick up some place or show money.
Happy Jack +3300
Fenwick +5000 – Gate 3 – J: Florent Geroux T: Kevin McKathan
Are we looking at another Rich Strike scenario here?
Fenwick was a late addition to the race on Monday morning and at 50/1 he looks to hold very little chance.
He was a very promising second on debut but totally blew out on his next two runs before winning at odds of 21/1 when going gate to wire on Tampa Bay Derby Day winning by nearly ten lengths.
There is no doubt the ability is there, but he ran very poorly last time when struggling to take the step up the class ladder and has it all to do against these classy rivals.
Our Top 3 Preakness Stakes Picks
It looks near impossible for Epicenter not to be in the top three, but we are not sure how much that very fast Kentucky Derby has taken out of him. All being said, if he turns up in the same form, he’ll surely have too much in the locker class and speed-wise for this group.
Although inconsistent, Simplification’s form stands up to some of the best in the three-year-old division. He is either going to blow them away in the stretch or falter. We have to have him in our top three and should be included in your exotics.
Getting the fillies’ weight allowance means it will be tough to keep Secret Oath off the board and her relaxed stalking style of racing should see her make a move off the far turn. She has shown good tactical speed so can angle into the rail or make a move out wide. She should serve it up to Epicenter on the stretch run to the wire.
Our Top Preakness Stakes Long Shot
Happy Jack is “the horse” that could hit the board at very big odds. After running in all of the big 3-year-old races, including when rallying to finish third in the San Felipe, he has to be on any horseplayers shortlist.
Also third in the Run Happy Stakes behind Taiba and Messier. He lost his race when bobbling out of the gate and dropped back to near last down the backstretch. However, he rallied from the top of the stretch to finish third and even though he may not have the class for the win, he is chalked up at huge odds and will be rallying and closing very late. Looks like a value play here.
*Odds correct at time of writing.
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Image By: Molly Riley