The fast-paced middle leg of the Triple Crown shouldn't be as messy as the first at Churchill Downs.
Always Dreaming pattered through the mud to spark the Triple Crown conversation anew at the Kentucky Derby. Entertaining as it was, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore should be sunny and dry when the 10 contestants fire out of the posts Saturday at 6:48 p.m. ET.
Oddsmakers out of Las Vegas have adjusted the lines to match the forecast, which will feature a test of stamina and jockey strategy as opposed to who can keep solid footing on a muddy surface. Even after the adjustments, the usual suspects reside as the favorites:
|Cloud Computing (3)||14-1|
|Always Dreaming (1)||4-5|
|Classic Empire (2)||3-1|
|Term of Art (6)||33-1|
|Senior Investment (9)||33-1|
|Lookin At Lee (4)||10-1|
|Conquest Mo Money (10)||18-1|
|OddsShark. () = author's predicted finish.|
According to Accuweather.com's Kevin Byrne, who spoke with meteorologist Tyler Roys, Saturday's forecast boasts a high in the low 70s.
"It will also end up being less humid, making for comfortable conditions for the big event," Roys said.
Accuweather's Twitter account provided the spot-on forecast time for when the opening gun fires:
Bettors and those with a general vested interest in the race can expect the normal major storyline to unfold without the threat of weather.
Simply, the Preakness Stakes is a sprint from start to finish, checking in at all of 9.5 furlongs, shorter than both the Kentucky Derby and the much longer Belmont Stakes later. Positioning and rest tend to decide the outcome.
Todd A. Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming remains the favorite regardless after a strong performance at the Kentucky Derby. With a trainer like that, four wins in a row and two-time Eclipse Award winner John Velazquez up top, it's not hard to see why.
But Always Dreaming being the favorite isn't as simple as it used to be. The normal hurdles for the Triple Crown contender in Baltimore still exist—this is a short two-week turnaround, and well-rested colts who skipped the event at Churchill Downs are ready to go.
But an added wrinkle is a colt by the name of Classic Empire, who looked like a major favorite at the Kentucky Derby before some unfortunate messy contact right out of the posts derailed the entire effort.
The Mark E. Casse-trained colt has five wins dating back to last May, and those studying the performance from Churchill Downs came away impressed.
"But that race left me very impressed on where he is in his psychological growth. He showed how much mental growth he made in how he handled all the chaos—and that’s all you can call it—of the Derby," Kerry Thomas of THT Bloodstock said, according to John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times.
Triple Crown hopes dashed, it says a lot when the people around the colt are happy with how it handled adversity and decided to undergo the two-week turnaround anyway.
Elsewhere, Lookin At Lee is another name to know after the surprising second-place finish at Churchill Downs for the Steven M. Asmussen-trained contender. The surprise finish has oddmakers pegging Lookin At Lee with a nice payout bettors will want to consider.
Rounding out the notables department in a small 10-colt field is Cloud Computing. Trained by Chad C. Brown with Javier Castellano—who has won four Eclipse Awards in a row—up top, it's clear Cloud Computing is the underdog to bet as a shocking winner if this race will have one at all.
But it's not likely. While blunt, the Preakness Stakes always arrives with a stark sense of predictability, as noted by the New York Times' Joe Drape.
"The second jewel in the Triple Crown, the Preakness has also proved the most predictable for bettors and the least profitable of the three races. In the last 20 years, favorites captured the race nine times. When they did not win, a short price horse often did. The average Preakness payoff for a $2 bet over that span was $10.62 vs. $28.55 in the Kentucky Derby and $32.80 in the Belmont Stakes," Drape wrote.
Predictable or not, the Preakness Stakes won't lack for entertainment. The short nature of the track creates a chaotic environment in which no contestant holds back.
So while the usual suspects figure to come out ahead, the short-burst action put on by some of the best colts in the country in the age bracket will make for one of the weekend's most entertaining sporting events.