The Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, will be run Saturday, May 19 — in its usual spot two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. With the Derby winner and runner-up heading to Baltimore for the Preakness, plus a total of 14 other stakes races to be run at Pimlico on Friday and Saturday, including five graded stakes, this is the perfect time for handicappers to turn their attention to Pimlico.
The 2018 Preakness could feature a 10-horse field led by undefeated Kentucky Derby winner Justify. This running of the Preakness is stacking-up as very unusual, in that most of the field will be made up of new shooters with very few also-rans from the Kentucky Derby taking another shot at Justify. From the Derby, Justify’s only repeat challengers will be runner-up Good Magic, sixth-place finisher Bravazo and eighth-place finisher Lone Sailor.
The rest of the Preakness field will be made up of non-Derby entrants, including Federico Tesio-winning local hope Diamond King, trained by John Servis, as well as Lexington Stakes third-place finisher Pony Up, trained by Todd Pletcher. Pat Day Mile fourth-place finisher Sporting Chance, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, and Arkansas Derby second- and fifth-place finishers Quip and Tenfold, trained by Rodolphe Brisset and Steve Asmussen, respectively, round out the field.
The Preakness Day card — with a total of 14 races beginning at 10:30 a.m. including a multitude of undercard stakes races — is annually one of the year’s best race cards. So, many horseplayers will be betting on Pimlico during the Preakness Friday-Saturday weekend, which contains all of the stakes races to be run during the entirety of the Pimlico meet. Friday, May 18 is Black-Eyed Susan/Pimlico Special Day with 14 races, including seven stakes, starting at 11:30 am eastern time.
Preakness Day will be a day of four graded stakes races, including undercard events, the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3), the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap (G3), and the $250,000 Dixie Stakes (G2) on the turf. Four more ungraded stakes will also be on the card, including the Chick Lang Stakes, The Very One Stakes, the James W. Murphy Stakes and the Sir Barton.
Horseplayers will definitely have their eyes on a bunch of big pick-4s and pick-5s on the Preakness card, including a $250,000-guaranteed pool early pick-5 on races 2-6, a $500,000 pick-4 on races 6-9 and then, of course, the $1 million all-stakes pick-5 and $2 million-guaranteed late pick-4, both ending with the Preakness. Pimlico’s pick-5s feature a low 12% takeout.
With everything going on at Pimlico for two big days Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, it is the Preakness Stakes that still is the focus of attention. Can Justify remain undefeated or will the race feature a major upset? No doubt Justify will be heavily favored to add the second jewel of the Triple Crown to his trophy case. After all, most of the main challengers are opting to bypass the Preakness and instead point for the Belmont Stakes, where their chances of turning the tables on Justify will be greater.
If you are looking to take a shot against the favorite at low odds, however, keep in mind that all challengers in the Preakness field will be going off at value odds on the tote board. Thankfully, the Preakness did get a shot in the arm with the announcement that Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic will take another shot at Pimlico for trainer Chad Brown, who is the defending champion trainer in the Preakness thanks to his 2017 winner, Cloud Computing. Good Magic should be able to make a race out of it, after all. He won last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has improved strongly in all of his races so far this year, including a win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Justify and his frontrunning style might have been aided by the muddy track in the Kentucky Derby, and given fast conditions for the Preakness at Pimlico, Good Magic will have a legitimate chance of coming out on top. (Editor’s note: It appears likely that the Preakness Stakes will also feature a wet track.)
Looking at the list of other Preakness challengers, besides Justify and Good Magic, the level of contention and competitiveness drops off pretty fast. The third favorite could turn out to be Quip, a solid but unspectacular runner who won the Tampa Bay Derby and finished second to Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby. He bypassed the Derby in order to point for the Preakness, but his stock has soon gone down since Magnum Moon’s disappointing Derby finish, and the fact that he shares ownership (WinStar) with Justify.
Diamond King won a free Preakness berth on the strength of his victory in Laurel’s Tesio Stakes and picked up Javier Castellano to ride for prior Preakness-winning trainer John Servis (Smarty Jones). Diamond King will need to improve dramatically, however, to run any better than third or fourth in the Preakness. D. Wayne Lukas has trained six Preakness winners, including, most recently, Oxbow in 2013. He will have outside chances this year with Bravazo, who won this winter’s Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and then was sixth in the Kentucky Derby, and Sporting Chance, who has yet to return to form as a sophomore after winning the Grade 1 Hopeful last summer at Saratoga.
In the end, it should come down to a battle between Justify and Good Magic — and, hopefully, it will be a classic.
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.