2021 Preakness Stakes Odds & Preview: Best Bets, Longshots to Use in Exotics & More
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The second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown figures to be full of drama.
The 2021 Preakness Stakes will take place at 6:47 p.m. ET on Saturday and features 10 3-year-old horses running 1 3/16 miles over the iconic main track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The race will air live on NBC.
Below I’ve rated every horse in the field from contenders to potential sleepers to horses you should throw out. This way you will get a good idea not only of the horses I think are good bets to win, but also the longshots I’ll be using in exotics and why I like them.
But before we get into that, check out a quick refresher on the basics of betting the ponies:
New to Horse Racing?
For those of you that might be new to horse racing, the wagering pools are pari-mutuel, which means that, unlike in sports betting, you aren’t trying to beat the house but rather the public at large. The key to long-term success in betting the ponies is being disciplined in identifying value in the pools.
Speed Ratings and Beyer Speed Figures
Speed ratings are relative performance indicators that allow us to compare performances across tracks where not all factors are even. Some tracks might be naturally faster like Gulfstream or Santa Anita, where the surfaces are harder, compared to a track like Belmont or Aqueduct, where the surfaces are generally a bit deeper.
They also account for the condition of the track as most horses will travel slower over softer ground. This means that simply comparing times is ineffective as they need some kind of leveling factor.
That’s what is built into speed ratings and they give a nice, although imperfect indicator of relative performance and ability.
A relative strength index for the field of a specific race. This gives you an idea of the level of the competition the horse was facing, as it can vary wildly from track to track even with the same win conditions.
How often do favorites win in horse racing?
Generally speaking, the favorite in horse racing wins at about a 35% rate but that number varies depending on the number of horses in the field. Armed with that knowledge you might want to just pick the favorites, frequently known as the chalk, but a closer look at the implied odds shows that you’d need average odds of 2-1 or better to break even on “win” bets.
So, in order to profit horseplayers must pick and choose the horses that they feel have a better chance to win than their implied odds, which is known as positive expected value (+EV). Expected value is not unique to horse racing and something that all bettors should get familiar with if they want to succeed.
The Vulnerable Favorite
No. 3 Medina Spirit (9-5)
Everyone has heard about the controversy around No. 3 Medina Spirit and Bob Baffert this week, but we are here to handicap the horse race, so we’ll leave that stuff aside and just focus on the race.
Medina Spirit is the morning-line favorite (9-5) and is coming in off a huge effort to win the Kentucky Derby. He was able to put away Mandaloun, Hot Road Charlie and Essential Quality in the stretch. Medina Spirit won the break and never looked back in the Derby, but I don’t think that will be the case here.
At best, Medina Spirit is one to use underneath in your exotics, but at such a short price I’ll look elsewhere for my win bets.
No. 10 Concert Tour (5-2)
The other Baffert horse in here is No. 10 Concert Tour (5-2). Concert Tour looked like he was going to be the favorite for the Kentucky Derby until he ran a disappointing third in the Arkansas Derby. He was then scratched from the Kentucky Derby field and pointed towards this race.
Prior to that he was undefeated and won the Grade 2 Rebel geared down. He looks to be faster, but it will be interesting to see which Baffert horse gets sent out of the gate. Concert Tour gets hall-of-famer Mike Smith in the irons here and his outside post should allow him to get the positioning he would like.
No. 5 Midnight Bourbon (5-1)
Midnight Bourbon (5-1) is the wise guy horse for this year’s Preakness. He ran a solid sixth in the Derby but missed the board for the first time in his career. Trainer Steve Asmussen said he wasn’t happy with the ride at Churchill Downs, but that could be rectified on Saturday as Midnight Bourbon gets one of the best riders in the world in Irad Oritz in the irons.
Look for Irad to have Midnight Bourbon much closer in this spot with enough kick late to win this race at a nice price.
Horses to Use Underneath
No. 4 Crowded Trade (10-1)
Back in 2017, Cloud Computing won the Preakness for trainer Chad Brown. If you look at the past performances for Cloud Computing coming into that race and compare them to No. 4 Crowded Trade (10-1), there’s not much difference.
Crowded Trade is also trained by Chad Brown and is coming in off a third place finish in the Wood Memorial. He has a closing kick, but doesn’t have to be too far off. Crowded Trade will be able to sit back behind Medina Spirit, Concert Tour and Midnight Bourbon and pounce late.
He’s a longshot that’s a must-use underneath in your vertical wagers.
No. 9 Risk Taking (15-1)
The other Chad Brown horse is No. 9 Risk Taking (15-1). He was favored in the Wood Memorial and finished a disappointing seventh. From there he was pointed towards the Grade 2 Peter Pan last weekend at Belmont, but they scratched him in that spot to race here.
Similar to his stablemate, he will be coming from off the pace. In both of his wins he had great late pace figures and, as mentioned with Crowded Trade, Medina Spirit, Concert Tour and Midnight Bourbon could set a contentious pace up front for Risk Taking to run into.
He’s another one to use underneath.
Longshots to Play in Exotics
No. 2 Keepmeinmind (15-1) was a toss for me in the Derby, but after going back and rewatching, he had a wall of horses in front of him at the top of the stretch. He then swung about eight wide to get into the clear and found his best stride.
He won’t have as many horses to navigate in here, but he will need to deal with the other closers in Crowded Trade and Risk Taking. The good news for Keepmeinmind is he will get a ground-saving trip with his post position.
He’s not a win-contender, but is definitely one to use to add value to your trifectas and superfectas.
No. 7 France Go de Ina (20-1)
No. 7 France Go de Ina (20-1) is the biggest question mark in the field.
Last time out he finished sixth by 10 lengths in the UAE Derby, but prior to that had won two in a row in Japan. He gets a top jock in Joel Rosario and with so much unknown about him, I refuse to completely toss him.
At best he’s one to use in your tris and supers depending on your budget.
Horses to Toss
No. 6 Rombauer (12-1)
No. 6 Rombauer (12-1) is the hardest horse to toss as he ran a competitive third in the Grade 2 Bluegrass and second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah as a two-year-old. He has shown continued improvement as a three-year-old in terms of his Beyer speed figures, but what’s keeping me off is that he hasn’t ever won on the dirt and there are just others that interest me more.
No. 8 Unbridled Honor (15-1)
No. 8 Unbridled Honor (15-1) comes in off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Lexington where he never had a chance against the winner. The other issue with that race is it was in the slop and the only other time he’s finished in the money was his maiden-breaking score.
He is trained by hall-of-famer Todd Pletcher, who has never won this race, and is ridden by Luis Saez, who has seemed to cool off after a red hot Keeneland meet.
No. 1 Ram (30-1)
No. 1 Ram (30-1) is making a huge step up in class from the allowance ranks. In addition, it took him eight tries to break his maiden and when he finally did it was against maiden claimers.
Other than coming in off back-to-back wins, there’s nothing else I can say that’s positive about him.