Just hours remain before bettors must somehow come to a conclusion on how to play the 10-horse field at the 2014 iteration of the Preakness Stakes.
At first glance, none of the odds are horrible provided there are fewer contestants than the first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs.
If only it were that easy.
In reality, the end result on Saturday is a toss up. Las Vegas has decided how each horse fares in the odds department, but oddsmakers themselves also have to be a bit miffed at how to play the field. Let's project the final order and attempt to nail down a few safe bets.
|Projected Finish||Post||Horse||Jockey||Odds to Win|
|1||3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|2||10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||10-1|
|3||6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30-1|
|5||1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||12-1|
|6||2||General A Rod||Javier Castellano||15-1|
|7||8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||5-1|
|8||4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||20-1|
|9||7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||20-1|
|10||9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||20-1|
Odds via Preakness.com
The Surefire Winner: California Chrome
Just like that, fans around the globe have a serious chance at seeing a Triple Crown winner.
California Chrome started as an underdog. There is no millionaire owner. No legendary jockey and trainer or massive financial investment that got it all started. There is, however, one rags-to-riches story told nicely by the ever-changing Triple Crown odds for California Chrome, as recorded by Dan Zucker of The Wall Street Journal:
9/1/2013 Wynn Future Book Derby Odds: 300-1
11/30/13 Derby Future Pool 1 (mutuel field): 4-5
1/3/14 Wynn Future Book Derby Odds: 275-1
2/8/14 Derby Future Pool 2: 30-1
3/1/14 Derby Future Pool 3: 32-1
3/29/14 Derby Future Pool 4: 9-1
5/4/14 Kentucky Derby: 5-2
Now California Chrome enters Saturday as a 3-5 favorite, earning bettors less than even money if he and jockey Victor Espinoza emerge victorious.
It's still the top bet to take.
Or, at a minimum, parlay. As Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden muses, any other bet is a major risk:
To pick against Chrome in the Preakness is to make one of two significant leaps of faith: Presume either that one of the other nine horses will run the race of his life, or that Chrome will regress badly from his Derby. Neither appears likely (although there's that cough). The pace will be quick, but not too quick for Chrome. He will inhale the speed on the turn, as usual, and roll down the lane to victory. Ride On Curlin will close for second and Kid Cruz will get up for third. The speed horses will all fade. And then it's on to Belmont, where California Chrome will have chance to end a historic drought.
Make it six wins in a row for California Chrome. The perfect crescendo of events won't align to knock the sport's most dominant participant from the top any time soon.
Underdog Worth a Hefty Bet: Bayern
Those in search of a relative underdog to bet and actually gain a significant amount of income on Saturday can look no further than Bayern.
For one, the horse is trained by legend Bob Baffert. Two, Rosie Napravnik is quietly one of the sport's best jockeys and is returning home in a race that she says is arguably more important than any other, as captured by Anne Lang of The New Orleans Advocate:
Personally, if the Preakness is not above the Kentucky Derby at the top of my list of races I’d like to win, it’s right there with it. If I were to win the Derby, it would mean so much to so many people but if I were to win the Preakness, it would probably mean even more to me — being in the place where I came up, where all of my family and friends are, and having so many people cheering us on. To win it would really be incredible, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.
Now for the perfect storm—Baffert and Napravnik make for quite the elite tandem, as ESPN's Jeannine Edwards explains:
Bayern is by no means a bad horse, but this goes to show just how much both Baffert and Napravnik excel on an individual level—not to mention what they are capable of together.
On Saturday, Napravnik has what it takes to get the most out of Bayern, who is trained by a legend. It is a much safer bet than the odds indicate when one does some leg work.