2011 Preakness Stakes: Last Minute Tips Before You Place Your Bet

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIMay 21, 2011

2011 Preakness Stakes: Last Minute Tips Before You Place Your Bet

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    BALTIMORE - MAY 15:  First Dude, ridden by Ramon Dominguez #11 leads Super Saver, ridden by Calvin Borel #6, Caracortado, ridden by Paul Atkinson #9, and Jackson Bend , ridden by Mike Smith #8 on the font strech during the 135th running of the Preakness S
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    If Animal Kingdom leaves Baltimore victorious today, he will become the 12th horse since Affirmed won horse racing’s last Triple Crown in 1978, to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

    Over the course of horse racing history, 11 prized thoroughbreds have completed the three-race sweep to win the Sport of Kings toughest prize.

    Not since Big Brown in 2008, has a horse won the first two legs with a shot to win the crown.

    Eight horses since 1997 have had the privilege of heading to Belmont Park with a chance at becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner—all have failed.

    Some in agonizing and heart breaking fashion.

    Forty-five horses have won two of the three Triple Crown races throughout the history of the Triple Crown.

    Of those 45, 21 have won the Derby and Preakness, but failed to go on and win the Belmont.

    While the Preakness Stakes is not as grand and event as the Kentucky Derby, it is more important.

    Simply put, the Preakness determines whether there can be a Triple Crown winner. If Animal Kingdom wins, then the hype and hysteria will build for the next three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

    If he loses, then most of those drawn to the horse racing world this time of year will disappear.

    The following is a list that everybody can use when determine which horse will, or will not win the Preakness stakes.

    Let’s face it, everybody becomes a handicapper this time of the year. How important are the odds, the jockey, post position, pedigree and the trainers?

    With just a few hours to go, check out the following slides before placing your final bet for this years Preakness. 

The Odds: Throw 'Em out in Kentucky, Keep an Eye on Them in Baltimore

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    The Kentucky Derby is by far the hardest of the three Triple Crown races to handicap when searching for a winner. Money can be made if you get lucky on that first Saturday in May.

    The Preakness usually goes true to form and almost exactly as the odds say it will.

    The Derby can have 20 horses while the Preakness has a maximum field allowed of just 14. That narrows the betting choice by a third right from the start.

    It is no coincidences that since 1979, only five Derby favorites—Big Brown, Street Sense, Smarty Jones, Fusaichi Pegasus and Spectacular Bid—actually won the Kentucky Derby.

    Over the same stretch, 13 favorites have coasted to victory at Pimlico. However, only three of those horses—Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones and Big Brown—captured the Derby before heading to Baltimore.

    None completed the Triple Crown sweep. Affirmed was the last horse to do so in 1978. 

    Since 2001, seven favorites have won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Five favorites in a row crossed the finish first from 01-to-05.

    Since the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, 13 horses have won the Kentucky Derby with odds greater than 10-1 at post time.

    Six of those 13 had post time odds of 20-1 or greater, two (Mine That Bird in 2009 and Giacomo in 2005) were at least 50-1 when they broke from the gate.

    This simply does not happen at the Preakness. That is not to say that it cannot be done, but it is hard not to consider the following:

    Only six horses since 1962 have won the second leg of the Triple Crown with odds higher than 10-1 at post time.

    The longest shot to ever win the Preakness was Master Derby in 1975. At 23-1, he paid just $48.05 on a two-dollar bet. Giacomo in 2005 paid $102.60 to win in Kentucky. In 2009, Mine That Bird paid a slightly better 103.20 in his victory at the Derby.

    Animal Kingdom was considered a long shot in Louisville at 30-1.  

    Five of the most recent long shots in Louisville, Mine That Bird, Giacamo, War Emblem, Charasamatic and Thunder Gulch had an average finish of second in Baltimore. Derby winners since 1997 have an average finish of 2.7 at Pimlico.

    Second place finishers in Kentucky do not do well in Baltimore. Is it a coincidence that Nehro, who finished two weeks ago, is absent?

    However, third place Derby finishers have a decent shot in Baltimore given the fact that the race is shorter. Many horses fade in the last 50 yards of the KY Derby, as the race is slightly a mile and a quarter compared to a mile and three-sixteenths.

    Mucho Macho Man was third two weeks ago in Louisville and on the fast surface at Pimlico good be a horse to watch.

    Sixteen percent of the past 50 Preakness winners took third-place two weeks prior, including two of the past six winners (Afleet Alex and Curlin).

    What about the nine horses that did not race two weeks in the Derby, what shot do they have you ask? Well, eight of these same past 50 winners skipped the Derby altogether.

    The last to do it, was the first filly in 89 years to win the Preakness. Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness in 2009 after racing in the Kentucky Oaks instead of the Derby.

    The moral here is do not throw out the nine horses that were absent at the Derby two weeks ago and even if you think they cannot win, they could be huge for an exacta or triple bet.

    So which horses benefit from all of this?  Well, Animal Kingdom and Mucho Macho Man of course but look for Astrology to be a surprise.

    In some of the next few slides, I will make quite a case for Astrology but in the end, never forget what history tells you about the numbers. Here, history says the favorites should prevail.

Post Position: How Much Does It Matter in the Preakness

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    There was a time when you could spend the day at Pimlico and play one, two, three and leave a winner on the day.

    Not so much in the Preakness Stakes, and if you're a fan of Astrology (No.1), Norman Asbornson (No.2) or King Congie (No.3), then you may want to listen up for the next few sentences.

    Post positions are not that important for the Preakness Stakes unless you like a horse starting from the No.1, 2 or 3-post.

    The last Preakness Stakes winner to start from one of the first three positions was Tabasco Cat 17 years ago in 1994.

    Since 1994, 14 of the 16 winners have started in post No's 6-12.

    If you are looking for the hottest post positions in recent years, they are posts four, seven and eight. Each has won twice since 2000.

    The other five post positions to have a win over that same span are posts six, nine, 11, 12 and 13.

    Post No.'s 6 and 7 have won a combined 12 times since 1982.

    Animal Kingdom will start from the 11 post. Since 1950, only one other horse has won from that post and it occurred back in 2001 when Point Given ridden by Jerry Bailey pulled the feat.

    So given this bit of history, which horses have a shot based on post positions?

    The horses starting from these posts are Flashpoint (No.4), Sway Away (No.6), Midnight Interlude (No.7) and Dance City (No.8).

    Flashpoint is considered the early speed in the race, but given the shorter distance, he could surprise to hold on. 

    Please enjoy the above video of the 1969 Preakness Stakes between Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters.

The Jockeys

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    As we witnessed two weeks ago, jockeys can be quite the story of the race themselves.

    Riding Animal Kingdom, jockey John Velazquez won his first Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

    Having won just about everything else that matters in horse racing, Velazquez will also be looking for his first Preakness on Saturday.

    Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey, was supposed to ride Uncle Mo, the horse that was everyone's favorite just three weeks ago.

    However, Uncle Mo was scratched from the Derby due to stomach problems leaving Velazquez without a ride and a possible big payday.

    Then, due to an injury to Robby Albarado, Animal Kingdom's regular rider, Velazquez took up the reins and rode Animal Kingdom like he had ridden him from day one in winning the first leg of the Triple Crown

    How important are the jockeys? Well, let us just say that say many a horseman will either bet a horse or stay away from it depending on the jockey.

    My grandfather once told me that jockeys are important because you cannot curse out the horses.

    So which jockeys should you "sway away" from on Saturday for the Preakness? Here are a few:

    Edgar Prado cut his teeth in Maryland as Pennsylvania. Eventually moving onto bigger purses in New York, Prado became one of 16 jockeys to win 6,000 races back in 2008.

    Prado was aboard Barbaro when he suffered the injury in the Preakness that eventually proved to be fatal.

    Prado is also credited with stopping two straight Triple Crown attempts. In 2002, he rode Sarava to victory, thwarting War Emblem's attempt.

    Two years later aboard Nick Zito-trained Birdstone, he rallied late to catch heavy favorite Smarty Jones in the final one-sixteenth to halt the Pennsylvania-bred's hopes.

    He isn't exactly on the perfect horse for a first time Preakness win. Prado rides Isn't He Perfect, a 30-1 long shot.

    Garrett Gomez is a great jockey, and if you are betting the Breeders Cup, then bet on Gomez. In the Triple Crown, forget it, he is cursed.

    He has won an incredible 12 Breeders’ Cup races, but he has yet to win a single Triple Crown race. Part of his problem recently is that he is not landing on good horses, and he is not on much of one this year in Sway Away.

    I would sway clear of Garrett once again in this Triple Crown race.

    What about Robby Albarado, who says the injury was not a big deal, and he could have ridden Animal Kingdom in the Derby.

    Well, they say revenge is a dish bets served cold. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Albarado's horse is for the Preakness—cold.

    King Congie may not help Albarado dish out the revenge he was looking for.

    Even though Ramon Dominguez was the top money earner for jockeys in 2010, the horse he is riding at Pimlico in the Preakness, Dance City, is not.

    Dominguez is a great jockey—one of the best—but it is highly unlikely that both the Derby and Preakness will be won by jockeys riding their horse for the first time.

    So, if none of these great jockeys can win, then who is left, you ask.

    Do not count Mike Smith out. He rode one of the biggest long shots in Derby history to victory when Giacamo won back in 2005. Smith is hungry to win the Preakness again. He has not done so since 1993, aboard then favorite, Prairie Bayou.

    Today Smith is aboard Astrology, and even though he is breaking from the rail, he has the experience to overcome the one post.

    Winning aboard Animal Kingdom the first time in a race with the pressure of the Derby is a very impressive feat. Velazquez becomes the first to ride Animal Kingdom for two consecutive races.

    The edge clearly must go to Vaelazquez, and one can only imagine what he and Animal Kingdom will be able to do together for a second time in Baltimore today.

    The above video is from 1997 when Silver Charm and Captain Bodgit battled it out in one of the greatest back stretch duels in Preakness history.

Pedigree Matters: Does Your Horse Have a Champion in His Bloodline?

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    Where a horse comes from is very important in determining its performance now and into the future.

    Many horses entered in today's Preakness Stakes have great pedigrees that must be considered if pedigrees are your thing when betting.

    If your are getting close to picking your horse for today's race and need something to put you over the top, bloodlines are always a great fall back.

    Let us start with the Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. 

    According to And Down the Stretch they come, "Unlike a lot of recent Kentucky Derby winners, Animal Kingdom possesses a strong influence of stamina on the bottom half of his pedigree to go along with the speed/stamina mix on the top."

    Animal Kingdom's pedigree is full of turf horses. 

    Sired by Leroidesanimaux, who won the Eclipse Award as Champion Male Turf Horse in 2005, Animal Kingdom is not built for speed, but he is built to run a long time.

    Like he did at Churchill Downs, Animal Kingdomw will devour up a lot of ground with his big strides as the favorite at Pimlico today. He has the pedigree to keep winning.

    After the favorite, there are plenty of horses with some quality Triple Crown race winning bloodlines.

    Remember back in slide one I said to keep an eye on Astrology, well his bloodline says you should as well. Sired by A.P. Indy, who won the 1992 Belmont Stakes also he has both Secretariat and Seattle Slew as grandsires, so there's no doubt Astrology has the bloodlines to win the race.

    Talk about Triple Crown race winning bloodlines, Sway Away, the son of Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, is looking for his first career victory in the Preakness today.

    Although many will include him in a triple or an exacta bet, winning for the first time in a race like the Preakness would be a major upset.

    Norman Asbjornson also has great bloodlines. He is the son of 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet.

    Real Quiet has the dubious distinction of being the horse that came the closest to winning the Triple Crown. He lost the Belmont Stakes by a photo finish.

    Concealed Identity is the son of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stake’s winner, Smarty Jones.

    There are more than a few options available when considering Triple Crown race wining pedigree for today's Preakness.

    Of all the horses mentioned, I would keep a close watch on Astrology (out of the great AP Indy) and while I am not a big fan of Norman Asbjornson, watching him collect a lot of late money today would not surprise me.

    I decided to show the 2005 Preakness when the amazing Afleet Alex stumbled at the top of the stretch when Scrappy T blew the turn.

The Trainers: How Much Do They Matter?

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    Say what you will about what the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes represent in terms of race prestige, but every trainer knows the importance of the Preakness.

    Every trainer knows that the best of the three-year-old crop usually wins the Preakness and history supports the claim.

    In fact, its last 10 winners went on to be named the three-year-old champion, and the filly Rachel Alexandra was crowned 2009’s Horse of the Year as well.

    According to Hall Of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, "It legitimizes a horse. The field size is manageable, so no one gets compromised by tough trips, and coming out of the Derby, you know who the real horses are. The best in the crop win this race.”

    So let us start right there with Bob Baffert.

    Today, Baffert seeks his sixth Preakness win as he looks to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown for the second consecutive year. Last year, Baffert saddled Lookin at Lucky for his fifth win.

    Today the great trainer brings the Derby's 16th place finisher in Midnight Interlude. The Santa Anita Derby champion is not considered a threat today in Baltimore, but Baffert does believe that Animal Kingdom is as good as advertised.

    "The way he ran in the Derby,” Baffert said of Animal Kingdom’s victory. “He got on the outside, and it looked like he was just getting going.

    "When they win like that, which means they can come back and they will repeat that, he’s peaking. He’s in the zone. Horses that win like that, you can keep them for two weeks like that."

    Baffert finished by saying, "This is the easiest of the three to win.”

    Graham Motion, who trains Derby winner Animal Kingdom, knows that many of the legendary trainers in the paddock this week still view his horse's win as a fluke, but he is confident and likes the odds winning the Derby represent in Baltimore.

    The Preakness is as close to a sure thing of the three Triple Crown races as 70 favorites have won in its 135-year history.

    Many of the trainers believe the early slow pace was the reason Animal Kingdom prevailed and the trainers of Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In, Nick Zito still thinks his horse the best.

    Zito, who has won the Preakness just once with Louis Quatorze in 1996 and was inducted into National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2005 said, “I still think and not because I have him, that he’s (Dialed In) still the best 3-year-old."

    The hottest trainer in Baltimore this week in terms of saddling up Preakness winners is Steve Asmussen.

    Asmussen has won two of the last five Preakness Stakes. He made history with the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009, when she became the first filly in 89 years to win the Preakness.

    His first Preakness win came in 07 with Curlin. Today, he brings the horse Astrology to Baltimore. Never worse than third in seven career starts, Astrology has finished second in his two races this year.

    The best feel good story of this year’s Triple Crown series belongs to the trainer of Mucho Macho Man. Back in 2008, Kathy Ritvo watched the Kentucky Derby on television with her cardiologist in the critical care unit of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

    Suffering from cardiomyopathy, or a severe deterioration of the heart muscle, Ritvo was in the first month of an interminable wait for a donor.

    She spent the next six months hooked up to an intravenous machine that provided medication to keep her heart functioning, uncertain whether she would live to see another Derby.

    Much of that time, she was confined to Jackson Memorial as the search for a donor continued.

    Finally, on Nov. 13, 2008, a donor was found. She underwent surgery for 17 hours to replace a heart that had been so damaged, her surgeon told her she might not have survived the week.

    “I’m as tough as they come,” said Ritvo, 41. “But I had suffered so much for so long, even I had gotten to the point where I was prepared to die."

    Ritvo believes her horse has a great chance in Baltimore today. 

    Ritvo says that Mucho Macho Man is a better horse than he was two weeks ago in Kentucky.

    “I think he’ll be sharper, more aggressive,” Ritvo said. “He seems to get along at any racetrack, any surface. Bring it on. He’s ready. Animal Kingdom’s a very nice horse. I like him, but I love the way my horse is training.”

    What does history say about trainers? It says that the great are always in attendance and you can never count them or their horses out in big races. However, history does say that If Animal Kingdom is going to be beaten, it will be by one of his rivals from Churchill Downs.

    In the past 20 years, only three horses that did not run in the Derby showed up at Pimlico and defeated the Derby champion.

    I will end the video selection with the 1978 Preakness when Affirmed beat Alydar.

Who Wins

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    My prediction for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is:

    1. Animal Kingdom

    2. Mucho Macho Man

    3. Shackleford

    Looking for a long shot? Then do not forget about Astrology.

    Good Luck!