The 146th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore returns to its usual spot as the second race of the Triple Crown on Saturday. It's been nearly two weeks since trainer Bob Baffert's Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby, but it's not like much has happened since then, right?
I'm obviously "horsing around," as there has been quite a bit of controversy after Medina Spirit's post-race drug test turned up illegal, elevated steroid levels. Despite being suspended from Churchill Downs, Baffert's camp is disputing the charges, and any disqualification from Pimlico is still pending. At this point, Baffert will get a shot at his eighth Preakness win, which would be an all-time record.
Medina Spirit is currently the favorite. That's worth noting because three heavy favorites have won the Preakness over the last 10 years. Two of those winners went on to win the Belmont and end up capturing the elusive Triple Crown. Both of them, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018 were Baffert-trained. However, it is also worth noting that over the past 10 years of the Preakness Stakes, we have also seen four big upset winners with double-digit odds. So based upon recent history, every possibility is on the table.
If you can't get to the track to make a bet, however, you can always enter FanDuel's FREE contest with $25K up for grabs, including $5K to the winner who can best predict the entire field's finish.
So let's answer a few questions to see if we can figure out which horse will be wearing the black-eyed Susans in the winner's circle come late Saturday.
2021 Preakness Stakes Preview and Picks
Q: Are there any horses we can immediately cross off our list?
A: If you are looking only for the winner? Yes. But in a 10-horse field like this one, even the 10th-best horse has a decent statistical chance to finish as the fourth leg in a Superfecta bet. But before we get into that, here's the basic info:
Ricardo Santana Jr.
D. Wayne Lukas
Irad Ortiz Jr.
France Go de Ina
But you know who I'm fading to win actually? Medina Spirit. It just feels like karma is gonna knock that lucky horseshoe out of Baffert's grasp and he will come up short one way or another. If you're looking for something a little more concrete, however, know that Medina Spirit got exactly what it needed from the opening of the gates for the Kentucky Derby. Some of the faster horses got caught in the pack, forcing them outside, and they were therefore unable to set the pace. With only 10 horses in this field and with the change in distance, Medina Spirit will not be so lucky.
I think there is still a high chance the Derby winner finishes in the money, but I just don't see him crossing the line first.
Q: So who do you like to win the Preakness?
A: I honestly could give you a reason why I like each and every horse in this field! I think the smart bettor has to give Baffert's other horse, Concert Tour, serious consideration. Concert Tour was a preseason favorite to be a strong Triple Crown contender but disappointed in the Arkansas Derby and was pulled out of the Kentucky Derby. He's also ridden by Mike Smith, whom I discussed in my Derby preview as one of my favorite jockeys.
Concert Tour is one of the fastest horses in the race, but what are the odds of Baffert's two horses pushing one another and potentially wearing each other out? Moreover, every time I visualize different scenarios for this race, one horse pops nearly every time: Midnight Bourbon.
Those holding Midnight Bourbon tickets for the Kentucky Derby were disappointed as he finished clearly out of the money in sixth place. However, he raced far better than a sixth-place finish might indicate. Remember when I talked about Medina Spirit getting the necessary luck out of the gate? Midnight Bourbon was one of those horses forced out wide but showed extreme competitiveness and rallied from midpack.
Midnight Bourbon has enough speed to stay close to Medina Spirit and Concert Tour early, giving him a good shot to grab the lead as the field rounds the far turn. The son of fabled Tiznow (remember Tiz the Law last year?) has the breeding but also has a great jockey in Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz is the proud owner of three consecutive Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey, but he is absolutely dominating in 2021 and leads all riders in wins this year by a wide margin. At just 28, Ortiz already has 11 wins at the Breeders' Cup and a Belmont Stakes victory (Creator, 2016). I really like him to add a Preakness victory to his already impressive resume.
Q: Got it. However, with a smaller field, the payouts are always smaller, but are there any long shots you like that might appear at the bottom of the ticket?
A: Absolutely. I think you need to include at least one of the Baffert horses in your trifectas, but at least one horse I will be including in nearly any Superfecta bets is Unbridled Honor. He will be ridden by Luis Saez, who just happened to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Despite turning 29 four days after the Preakness, Saez has already won more than 2,600 races, including more than 120 victories in graded stakes races. Unbridled Honor has both won and placed already this year; I would not be surprised if he adds a third or fourth place to his record this year.
Another jockey you can never overlook at Pimlico is Javier Castellano. He's already won the Preakness twice, first onboard Bernardini in 2006 and more recently on Cloud Computing in 2017. Should Crowded Trade's odds elongate between now and post time, I would absolutely consider him as well.
Q: So, can we take a peek at your FanDuel entry?
A: No. The less duplication of my entry the better! But I will tell you that I have Ram at the bottom. You can probably figure out that I have Midnight Bourbon to win. And there is at least one Baffert horse in my top four slots too. I also like all three 15-1 shots better than Rombauer. You can figure out the rest.
Good luck in whatever bets you make!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.