Whether you’re going to the track, lounging at an off-track betting parlor, or kicking back at home watching NBC Sports’ stellar live coverage, it’s nice to have a couple picks in mind to make the race that much more exciting and compelling.
Thoroughbred horse racing is still looking for its 12th Triple Crown Winner. A 34-year drought may lead fans and spectators to believe that things have truly changed over the decades in horse racing and that winning three Grade I Stakes races in five weeks is just something beyond the reach of any one horse in an industry with just too much parity.
Many owners, trainers, and jockeys would be pleased with just one Grade 1 Stakes win among the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, and certainly the huge purse available for each race is enough incentive to hold entries back and pick the correct spot for a particular horse. All this makes it all the more trying and difficult for one horse to come off the winner in all three races.
Winning three Grade 1 Stakes races, though, is as much art and luck as science. Post position, size of field, weather conditions, first-half-mile time of the speed horses determining the pace for the whole field (remember 50-to-1 Giacomo’s unprecedentedly fast pace out of the gate in 2005?), how the horse and his (no fillies today) jockey feel at post time, can the wannabees bottle up the favorite long enough in traffic before the top of the stretch: These are factors that arise just before and during the very exciting two minutes, plus change, of race time.
These are reasons why the race is run in real time rather than phoned-in.
With that in mind, I’m recommending a “one-four exacta box” for today’s Preakness race. Horse number one, of course, is Orb, the strong-finishing winner of the Kentucky Derby: sitting at even money on Friday (today). The number four horse is Departing, the winner of the Illinois Derby, withheld from the Kentucky Derby so that he could perhaps snatch the winner’s portion of the million-dollar purse in Baltimore tomorrow. He’s betting currently at six-to-one odds.
Preakness returns at the betting window are never as astronomical as Kentucky Derby or Breeder’s Cup returns, mainly because of a smaller field but also because a true favorite from the earlier Kentucky Derby is atop the racing field, sucking up much of the oxygen from the recreational bettors.
But every entry in a Grade Stakes 1 race must earn their way into consideration and pay stiff entry fees, most of which are non-refundable. An artfully handled race by a jockey in good form, sitting atop a qualified dark-horse who’s feeling his oats that day, can easily create a 15-to-1 or 30-to-1 upset.
Anything can happen at race time, but I think a “one-four; four-one” win-place finish is a great bet considering this Preakness field.
Enjoy your Black-Eyed Susans while watching what should be a truly great race.
Thoroughbred horse racing is good for America, and its preservation should be part of America’s future game plan.
Postscript: Here are this year’s results.
David S. McCalmont lives in Santa Barbara, and a couple of people always ask his opinion on the big races.