With a good chance that the top four Kentucky Derby finishers, as well as betting favorite Dialed In, will run on Saturday in the Preakness Stakes, there will be plenty of star power to watch for.
Moreover, a few newcomers seem to be game, and you could make a strong case for the majority of the field.
If you want to try and make some money with a trifecta wager, or are like me and just want to put a $2 show wager on some horse to cash a ticket after getting slammed at the window on Derby day, here are the five horses I feel are most likely to finish in the money.
That's not to say the other nine won't finish up near the top. These are just the five most likely selections:
Besides all the sentimental reasons to support King Congie, he actually may be a live play here. He's improved in every start and fell only a head shy of a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, running third in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He's finished in the money in four straight starts, and he beat Kentucky Derby seventh-place finisher Brilliant Speed two back in the Hallandale Beach Stakes despite drifting out in the stretch. I think King Congie is ready to step up. I'm not sure if he'll handle the dirt, but he'll get a nice price and there's a lot of horse here.
Churchill Downs' dirt track killed speed on Saturday, and being that I played a lot of speed horses and was already back home from the track by the time I realized just how poorly speed was doing, I got killed at the wagering window as well.
But despite the huge bias, Shackleford still was able to hold on for fourth at a distance that was too long for him against some good closers.
The shorter distance and a much more favorable track should work wonders for Shackleford.
Furthermore, there are no other horses that like the lead in this field. There are quite a few horses that like to be near the lead, but no one else who actually wants to be in front. Shackleford could dictate the tempo nicely.
Again, this race may be a little too long for Shackleford to win, but he's a game little thing and I wouldn't ignore him in any wager. A top-three finish is more than possible.
Here's a horse where you just need to ignore the last two starts.
He had a lot of trouble in the Rebel two back, and last start in the Arkansas Derby he went way too fast early on and had nothing left in the stretch.
He wants to be at the back of the pack, maybe not as far off the lead as Dialed In, but just about as far back. If he gets the placement he wants, he could come flying in the stretch.
I think he's a better horse than Dialed In anyway, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him step up and give the favorites a real challenge on Saturday.
As I already wrote, Mucho Macho Man caught a bit of trouble in the Kentucky Derby but still managed to get up for third.
The Preakness should set up nicely for him and there's no reason to think he can't run as well or better than he did in Louisville.
It's good for the sport if the top four Kentucky Derby horses run back in the Preakness, and if they remain the class, it's even better. Rivalries make the sport so much more interesting. Mucho Macho Man could be starting a nice rivalry with Animal Kingdom.
Was there any doubt the Kentucky Derby winner would be the number one choice here? I've been waxing lyrical about Animal Kingdom for the last nine days since he won the 137th Run for the Roses, and haven't been this excited for a Derby winner's Preakness chances since Smarty Jones in 2004.
The old adage, 'it's not the best horse but the luckiest horse who wins the Derby' was thoroughly broken this year. Nehro was the luckiest horse. Maybe even Shackleford. Animal Kingdom had, to steal Trevor Denman's explanation of Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup Classic win, “a lot, a lot of work to do.”
But like Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic, Animal Kingdom got it done and showed himself to be a super-horse. The ride John Velazquez gave Animal Kingdom was one of the greatest he's ever had and is a fine testament to his storied career.
Of course, so much can go wrong. There's no such thing as a guarantee in horse racing.
Even Man o' War lost once.
But if your life depended on picking one horse to finish in the top three, the Derby winner would be the safest bet.
He might just be the safest bet to become racing's 12th Triple Crown champion that we've had in some time.