Submitted by Noel Michaels on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM
This year's running of the Preakness Stakes is wide-open and lacks a clear-cut favorite. It might not be flashy, but it will be a great betting race on a great betting card at Pimlico. The 2019 Preakness should feature an evenly-matched 12-horse field that will not include either the actual Kentucky Derby winner, Maximum Security, or the DQ beneficiary who inherited the victory, Country House. The race seems primed for a better-priced winner this year, and should offer good value in the exotics if you can come up with the right horse.
Many of the horses in contention to win this year's Preakness will be hailing from barns that most handicappers do not usually associate with Triple Crown races. In many cases that means that many overlays and much good value should be available for handicappers to take advantage of at the mutuel windows.
The Preakness Stakes has mostly been a chalk-players' haven in recent years, and Justify continued that trend last season with his half-length win at 2-5 odds. Other big recent favorites have included American Pharaoh in 2015 and California Chrome in 2014, plus so many others. Even though the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico has not been a haven for longshots in recent years, the 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing proved a horse can still win the Preakness at a price. He went off at 13-1 and paid $28.80 to win. And that was for trainer Chad Brown! The exacta that year with second-choice Classic Empire paid $98.40. If you go back a few more years, the 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow also posted a Preakness upset and paid $32.80 to win.
Much of the 2019 Preakness field will be made-up of new shooters with very few also-rans from the Kentucky Derby taking another shot at at Pimlico. From the Derby, only Improbable (4th), War of Will (7th), Win Win Win (9th), and perhaps Bodexpress (13th) will be in the starting gate for the Preakness.
Of the group of Kentucky Derby grads, the best choice in Baltimore looks like War of Will, who looked good in Fair Grounds wins this winter in the Lecomte and Risen Star stakes at Fair Grounds for high-profile trainer Mark Casse and then drew the death rail post position in the Kentucky Derby. He was in contention after being bothered a little bit turning for home, but then flattened-out badly in deep stretch at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs. The slightly-shorter Preakness 1 3/16-mile distance, however, should help his chances. Getting off the rail wouldn't hurt either.
Besides War of Will, the other most likely Preakness favorite will be Improbable, in part based on his decent fifth-place finish (fourth via DQ), and in part based on the fact he's trained by Bob Baffert, the country's most famous trainer of multiple Preakness winners and two Triple Crown winners. Judging the horse on his own merits, however, he certainly looks like no standout and a horse that can be beaten at underlay odds at Pimlico.
The rest of the Preakness field will be new shooters, and this new shooter group seems like the best place for handicappers to put their support in 2019. After all, no horses from the original Kentucky Derby superfecta will run in the Preakness, and there rarely has ever been a better chance for a new shooter to shine than in this year's Preakness.
The eight probable Preakness new shooters are led by Maryland monster Alwaysmining, plus a solid line-up of others including Anothertwistafate, Laughing Fox, Owendale, Bourbon War, Warrior's Charge, Market King, and Signalman.
Horseplayers gravitating to other household names might also land on the horses trained by other trainers than Baffert and Casse. There are three other winning trainers of Triple Crown races in the 2019 Preakness field. This group includes Signalman trained by Ken McPeek (won the Belmont with Sarava), Laughing Fox trained by Steve Asmussen (won two Preaknesses with Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009), and the living legend D. Wayne Lukas also will have a Preakness starter with Market King. Lukas has won the Preakness six times, including as recently as Oxbow in 2013, and just missed an upset last year with Bravazo.
Signalman has yet to get back into his best form as a 3-year-old. Market King on his best was third in a division of the Rebel. Laughing Fox is a contender based on his fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby behind the likes of Omaha Beach, Improbable, and Country House.
Nevertheless, the real strength in the 2019 Preakness could in fact be with horses trained by lower-profile trainers on the national stage who could have the right horse at the right time in a turbulent year for the Preakness with no Kentucky Derby top finisher and no obvious deserving favorite entered in the race.
Not only could this be the year for a new shooter to shine in the Preakness, but it could also be a prime year for a new trainer to break through onto the Triple Crown stage for the first time with a win. These trainers include Kelly Rubley (Alwaysmining), Blaine Wright (Anothertwistofate), Gustavo Delgado (Bodexpress), Mark Hennig (Bourbon War), Brad Cox (Owendale and Warrior's Charge) and Michael Trombetta (Win Win Win).
The list of new shooters from these lower-profile trainers have legitimate merits in this year's Preakness. There is a good chance the winner of the race will come from this group.
The highest-profile horse of the lower-profile barn new shooters will be Alwaysmining, the horse that swept the Laurel winter/spring series for 3-year-olds with victories in the Miracle Wood in February, the Private Terms in March and the Federico Tesio in April for trainer Kelly Rubley. The latter win was at 1 1/8 miles and Alwaysmining represents the best chance in many, many years for a locally-based horse to take the Preakness.
Along with the Federico Tesio, some other races have recently become unofficial Preakness prep races, including the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. The top two finishers from that race this year, Owendale trained by Brad Cox (also trains April 12 Oaklawn allowance winner Warrior's Charge) and Anothertwistofate, trained by Blane Wright, who earlier had won the Sunland Park Derby, have the credentials to be serious contenders versus this year's Preakness field. The aforementioned Laughing Fox, trained by Asmussen, was the winner of the brand new Oaklawn invitational – a race that was designed to be a Preakness prep all along.
The final promising Preakness contender is Bourbon War, who lands at Pimlico after falling short on the number of points needed to get into this year's Kentucky Derby. Bourbon War was a pace-compromised fourth in the Florida Derby, and a solid second behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth. He was flattered with Code of Honor ran third (second via DQ) in the Kentucky Derby, and will have a chance to give veteran trainer Mark Hennig his first Preakness winner.
Enjoy the 2019 Preakness Stakes. Just because the race lacks the Derby winner and much other star power does not mean it will not be a high-quality betting race from which a legitimate star horse could emerge onward to the Belmont Stakes and the rest of the season.
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*I don't know about you, but when I saw that the Top 4 Finishers from the Derby WERE SITTING OUT THE PREAKNESS
*When I saw some of the Hidden Form and Emerging Talen from THE NEWCOMERS WHO ARE ENTERING THE PREAKNESS
*I Saw Everything I needed to see in order to put together THE ULTIMATE WIN-EXACTA-TRIFECTA-SUPERFECTA COMBINATION for Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
- I Know Which Colts That Ran In The Derby And Are Returning For The Preakness Will Progress And Which Will Regress.
- I Know Whether Improbable will finally breakthrough for team Baffert, whether War of Will is going to show show his true ability following his rough Derby trip or whether Win Win Win and Bodexpress are up to the task.
- And I Know Whether Any of the New Shooters Are Up To The Task.
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