Bettors don't have a lot of options on Saturday in Baltimore at the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes.
The spectacle at Pimlico Race Course offers just 10 competitors. Some are obvious favorites but so much so that a bet simply doesn't pay off enough to justify the risk. Others are long shots that seem to be card-fillers more than anything, as the event has to happen one way or another.
Here's a look at how Las Vegas feels about the proceedings, followed by the best and worst tandems to bet. Just understand that fewer horses than the Kentucky Derby means a better chance to win, but like the event at Churchill Downs, anything can happen once the gates open.
139th Preakness Stakes
When: Saturday, May 17 (Post time is 6:18 p.m. ET)
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
TV: NBC (Broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Sports
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Odds to Win|
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||12-1|
|2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||15-1|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||20-1|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30-1|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||20-1|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||5-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||20-1|
|10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||10-1|
Odds via Preakness.com.
Odds via the Preakness Stakes.
Best: California Chrome and Victor Espinoza
When odds get as drastic as 3-5, it's time to take serious notice and also gauge whether or not the risk is worth the reward.
With California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza, it most certainly is on Saturday.
Yes, the payoff isn't that great. But in a straight-up bet to pick the outright winner, California Chrome is by far the best in comparison to a field that touts plenty of noteworthy names but few that have come close to matching the rags-to-riches story.
There are negatives. The quick turnaround after the Derby may be an issue. A precautionary vet check due to coughing is something to keep a slight eye on as the week goes on, but as Sherman Racing's Alexis Garske detailed, via Alicia Wincze Hughes of Kentucky.com, "precautionary" is the key word:
The horse is fine, it’s not like he’s coughing a lot and that is because it itches him. The thing with Chrome is he actually coughs every morning a couple of times. The only reason (for the vet check) was because (the coughs) were closer together so they figured lets get the vet over here just to be sure especially with the temperature (weather) change. But he actually coughs quite often.
It's also worth noting that the No. 3 post position has not seen a winner in more than a decade.
But the sport itself has also seen nothing like California Chrome in perhaps that same time frame or more. There has been no competition as of late, as California Chrome has won five races in a row by jarring distances and blew away the field at Churchill Downs before relaxing near the end.
At Pimlico with seasoned jockey and past Preakness winner Espinoza on hand, California Chrome is the safest bet of all despite the odds, especially on a shorter track with less traffic.
Worst: Pablo Del Monte and Jeffrey Sanchez
It is difficult to nail down a proper horse-jockey combo to avoid on Saturday in such a small field, but Pablo Del Monte should raise a few eyebrows in that regard.
Pablo Del Monte has finished no better than third during the 2014 campaign and was a scratch at the Kentucky Derby. The decision to run at all on Saturday has been hit with criticism from some, such as handicapper Keeneland Dan:
Pablo Del Monte connections wasting time and money, so many strange decisions w good 3 yr olds— Keeneland Dan (@fatbaldguyracin) May 11, 2014
It makes sense. Pablo Del Monte sits in post No. 9 and will have to break from the outside rather quickly to stand a chance, which isn't all that likely. Feel free to add in the fact he has never won on dirt to form what looks like quite the risky package.
What about Jeffrey Sanchez? He's seasoned but ranks outside of the top 200 earning jockeys in 2014 and has just 15 first-place finishes this year in 110 starts.
All things considered, there are horses with better speed or jockeys or some combination of factors that are more noteworthy than Pablo Del Monte on Saturday. The payoff would be nice, but the odds are constructed as so for good reason.