2021 Preakness Stakes Day Preview: Best Bets and Breakdowns for Saturday’s Biggest Races
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There’s quite the buzz around Pimlico Race Course on Saturday. Not only is the course playing host to the 146th Preakness Stakes, but there are a handful of other world-class races going down in Baltimore on Saturday.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest races of the day and see if we can’t find a few winners at Pimlico on Saturday:
Post: 2:45 p.m. ET
The first race on my card is a non-graded stakes event for three year olds over the turf course at a distance of a mile.
The obvious choice is No. 2 Outadore (7-5) for trainer Wesley Ward. He is coming in off a win on the synthetic at Turfway, and while he has 2 wins and a third on the turf, that lone third was at the same distance he will try today. He has by far the best speed figures in the race so I wouldn’t be surprised if he won, but at the price I’m looking for more value.
No. 6 Arzak (6-1) was purchased for $575K as a 2-year-old in training last year and is bred up and down for the turf. While he has yet to live up to his purchase price, his only win over the turf course came at Tampa, which play similar to this Pimlico turf, and he had Daniel Centeno in the irons.
He will be back aboard for the mount today and at the price, I’ll take a chance against the big favorite.
Race 8 Bets:
- Win: 6
- Exacta box: 2,6
Post: 3:25 p.m. ET
Race 9 is a non graded stakes race for fillies and mares three years old and up, run on the main track at six furlongs.
My top pick is No. 8 French Empire (3-1), who is making her first start for trainer Brad Cox. She’s coming in off four consecutive victories dating back to December. French Empire has also shown steady improvement in her speed figures in each of her last four races. She also has three wins from four starts at the distance. Her outside post should allow her to work out an ideal trip and Cox is winning at a 26% clip when a horse is making its first start in his barn and at 25% in stakes races.
The other horse that caught my eye was No. 2 Casual (9-2) for trainer Steve Asmussen. She’s faced some stiff competition throughout her career and has held her own. Casual will need to improve from a speed figures perspective, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
It’s tough to close in a sprint race on the dirt, but the team of Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr are some of the best at doing exactly that.
No. 5 Chub Wagon (8-5) is the morning-line favorite, and while she has done absolutely nothing wrong as she’s a perfect 5-for-5, this is the toughest field she’s faced in her career.
While I never like betting against jockey Irad Oritz Jr. he always get overbet and I assume Chub Wagon will go off below her morning-line odds, making her far too short for me to take.
Race 9 Bets:
- Win: 8
- Exacta key box: 8/2,5
- Pick 5: 2,5,8/4,13/1,5,8/5/2,3,4,5,9,10
Post: 4:05 p.m. ET
The 10th race is another non-graded stakes event going five furlongs on the turf for three year olds and up.
The morning line favorite is No. 4 The Critical Way (5-2). He’s coming in off a distant third-place finish in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland. Trainer Jorge Delago wins at 21% in turf sprints and is 2-for-5 in stakes races this year. In his last six turf starts The Critical Way has traded wins with seconds or thirds and if you want to believe in that pattern it would mean he will win here. At a short price, he’s not my top pick and I won’t bet him to win, but he is one I’ll include in all other wagers.
No. 13 Completed Pass (7-2) is a local horse who has two wins and one second over the Pimlico turf course and four wins, three seconds and two thirds from 12 career turf starts. In his last five turf starts, he’s won three and the other two lost by a neck each time.
Completed Pass will need to work out a trip from the outside post, but has shown the versatility needed. He’s my top pick.
Race 10 Bets:
- Win: 13
Post: 4:41 p.m. ET
Next we have the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint for three year olds and up, which will be run over the main track at six furlongs.
The lukewarm morning-line favorite is No. 5 Strike Power (7-2). The Steve Asmussen trainee comes in off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Count Fleet. He hasn’t finished in the money in a graded stakes event since June of 2019, but with his early running style you can’t count him out. He only has one win and one second from six starts going the distance. I’m looking elsewhere.
My top pick is No. 8 Special Reserve (9-2) for trainer Mike Maker. Last time out he finished second to Flagstaff in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland. Flagstaff came back to win on Derby Day and the cut back in distance from seven to six furlongs should prove to help Special Reserve. His tactical speed will allow him to work out a trip.
In addition, he also gets a huge jockey upgrade to Irad Oritz Jr., who wins at a 25% rate when teamed up with Maker over the last year.
The other horse that garnered my interest was No. 1 Laki (6-1). He’s the only horse in the race who has won, and multiple times at that, over this track. He’s a local horse and for whatever reason the local horses always seem to do well on Pimlico weekend.
Laki is coming in off a win right here at Pimlico and trainer Damon Dilodovico is 26% second off the claim, but only 11% with last out winners.
Race 11 Bets:
- Win: 8
- Exacta box: 1,5,8
- Pick 3: 1,5,8/5/2,3,4,5,9,10
Post: 5:38 p.m. ET
The Grade 2 Dinner Party is for three year olds and up, run at a mile over the turf course.
No. 5 Sacred Life (7-5) is my best bet of the day. He finished third last time out in the Grade 1 Makers Mark Mile over a good turf course at Keeneland, where he didn’t switch leads. He will get a firm turf course and trainer Chad Brown is an incredible 32% second off the layoff.
No. 1 Somelikeithotbrown (4-1) will be his target in here and I would have been more worried about Somelikeithotbrown going gate to wire if they hadn’t moved the rail out from 5 feet to 10 feet on Friday. Sacred Life has two wins and three seconds from five starts going the mile distance over the turf course and has six wins, six seconds and one third from 17 starts overall on the turf.
She’s not only my best bet of the day, but one to single in all multi-race wagers.
Race 12 Bets:
- Win: 5
Race 13: The Preakness Stakes
Post: 6:47 p.m. ET
For my full breakdown of the 2021 Preakness Stakes, click here.
No. 10 Concert Tour (5-2), the other Bob Baffert horse, would have rivaled Essential Quality for favoritism in the Kentucky Derby before he ran a disappointing third in the Arkansas Derby. He was then held out of the Kentucky Derby and pointed toward this race.
Prior to that lackluster effort, No. 10 Concert Tour was undefeated and won the Grade 2 Rebel geared down in an impressive victory. He looks to be faster, but it will be interesting to see which Baffert charge has the lead out of the gate.
Concert Tour gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons and his outside post should allow him to get the positioning he would like.
As for my favorite longshot in this field, I landed on 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 that winner four years ago coming into that race and the past performances from Crowded Trade, there’s not much difference.
Crowded Trade, also trained by Brown, and earned a third-place finish last time out 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 long shot that’s a must use underneath in your vertical wagers.
Preakness Stakes Bets:
- Win: 10
- Trifecta: 4,5,9,10/2,3,4,5,7,9,10/2,3,4,5,7,9,10