The Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes takes place at Pimlico racecourse this Saturday (6 p.m., NBC), and with both disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security and promoted winner Country House bypassing the race, this renewal of the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” seems as wide-open as any in recent memory. MetroBet will discuss some of the top contenders in this field of 13 and lay out a wagering strategy below. The 144th Preakness Stakes goes as Race 13 on a 14-race program.
#2 BOURBON WAR (12-1) is one of several new faces on the Triple Crown trail that are trying their luck in the Preakness Stakes. He was last seen running a disappointing fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. However, BOURBON WAR had little pace to work with as Maximum Security went gate-to-wire. That shouldn’t be the case in the Preakness with ALWAYSMINING and ANOTHERTWISTAFATE being present.
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BOURBON WAR hinted at ability when he broke his maiden on debut at Aqueduct last November before checking in fourth with a wide trip in the Remsen Stakes. After a brief freshening, he burst through to win an allowance at Gulfstream over Kentucky Derby runner Cutting Humor. BOURBON WAR was sent off at 4-1 in his next start, the Fountain of Youth, and was a fast-closing second behind Code of Honor, who would return to run third (placed second) in the Kentucky Derby. BOURBON WAR will have Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons and has a solid pedigree for the 1 3/16th-mile distance.
#9 BODEXPRESS (20-1) has yet to break his maiden (6-0-3-0 career record) but intrigues at longshot odds. He drew into the Kentucky Derby as an also-eligible but was one of several who were affected by an errant Maximum Security on the far turn. Once he lost his momentum, he and jockey Chris Landeros never really got it back as they faded to 14th (placed 13th after the DQ). The wet track in the “Run for the Roses” didn’t help BODEXPRESS either, as his only other race on an “off track” was a dismal fourth-place effort at Gulfstream back in January. Prior to the Derby debacle, BODEXPRESS was a respectable second behind Maximum Security in the Florida Derby.
BODEXPRESS is capable of performing well in the Preakness based on pedigree, as he’s by Bodemeister, who was second in the first two jewels of the Triple Crown to I’ll Have Another in 2012. A win in the Preakness would be a crowning achievement for trainer Gustavo Delgado, who has just one previous Grade I win (Paola Queen, 2016 Test Stakes). Hall-of-Fame rider John Velazquez takes over on BODEXPRESS, and while he’s never won the Preakness, he’s finished second twice (2011and 2013). BODEXPRESS should be just behind an honest pace in the Preakness and could get first run on the tiring leaders.
#11 LAUGHING FOX (20-1) earned an automatic Preakness berth by rallying for the victory in the inaugural Oaklawn Invitational at Oaklawn Park on Derby day. He went four-wide turning for home but still managed to catch the leaders and win by a neck under Ramon Vasquez. The Oaklawn Invitational was a needed drop in class for LAUGHING FOX, as he offered little in the Rebel Stakes two starts back and finished a distant fourth in the Arkansas Derby a month later. His pedigree is strong (by 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags) and he has potent connections in trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr, who teamed up to take three Grade Is at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend.
#4 IMPROBABLE (5-2, morning-line favorite) will try to give trainer Bob Baffert a record-breaking eighth victory in the Preakness Stakes. He essentially ran in place as the 4-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby, never improving on his fifth-place running position at the first call. IMPROBABLE had never missed hitting the exacta prior to that effort two weeks ago.
It seems as though this colt by City Zip has peaked while others continue to improve with seasoning. Mike Smith won this race for Baffert last year atop Justify and gets the leg-up here, but others appeal more.
The play: $3 exacta key box 2/9,10, $2 exacta key box 9/2,10 ($20)