Preakness 2019 Horses: Last-Minute Insight and Final Pre-Race Odds

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2019

Market King heads back to the barn after a light workout as the field is prepared for the running of the 144th Preakness horse race at Pimlico race track in Baltimore, Md., Saturday, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber/Associated Press

Improbable remains the favorite ahead of Saturday's 2019 Preakness Stakes, but he faces a tough challenge holding off Bourbon War and Alwaysmining.

Both are fancied at 5-1, with each horse drawing more and more buzz before post time at Pimlico, which is 6:48 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, previous second favorite War Of Will has seen his odds drift to 7-1.

Here are the final pre-race odds, per Associated Press reporter Stephen Whyno:

Stephen Whyno @SWhynoHorses

Up-to-the-minute #Preakness odds https://t.co/0Hl5D4sKYh

Stephen Whyno @SWhynoHorses

M/L/now WoW 4-1/7-1 Bourbon War 12-1/5-1 Warrior's Charge 12-1/16-1 Improbable 5-2/3-1 Owendale 10-1/9-1 Market King 30-1/25-1 Alwaysmining 8-1/5-1 Signalman 30-1/19-1 Bodexpress 20-1/15-1 Everfast 50-1/25-1 Laughing Fox 20-1 Anothertwistafate 6-1/11-1 Win Win Win 15-1/12-1 https://t.co/BBjOSwIye7


Alwaysmining Has a Strong Case for Upsetting the Favorite

There's a reason Alwaysmining has crept up from 8-1 to 5-1. A winning streak spanning his last six races is just one reason to love this colt's chances of upsetting Improbable.

Jim Dunleavy @DRFDunleavy

Alwaysmining has arrived ⁦@PimlicoRC⁩. https://t.co/DdyoiVv2rI

It's a winning streak that may not impress many, given that none of the victories were earned in graded races. However, Horse Racing Nation's Reinier Macatangay pointed out, "Not all of the horses he defeated were weak. Among those he has beaten are stakes regulars Gray Magician, Win Win Win and Our Braintrust."

Reinier M 🐎 @Capper_RMac

I'm on board the Alwaysmining train.

There is also the boost provided by local knowledge. Having been bred and trained in the same state as Pimlico, Alwaysmining knows the local surfaces in Baltimore well.

This is also a horse versatile enough to seek the lead early on or hang back and make a late dart to cross the line. Jockey Daniel Centeno employed the latter approach when riding to a win in April's Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, Maryland.

Being able to win in more ways than one is an obvious advantage over Improbable. The latter may be the bettors' choice, but there are no shortage of doubts, even from the three-year old's trainer, Bob Baffert.

The Hall of Famer played down Improbable's talent compared to some of his previous winners, per John Cherwa of the Los Angeles TimesI don't feel like I'm coming in here with Justify or American Pharoah. (Improbable) is a nice horse but he needs to improve.

Baffert doesn't sound overly confident about Improbable's chances.
Baffert doesn't sound overly confident about Improbable's chances.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It's hardly a vote of confidence for a colt that faces a tough enough afternoon trying to beat in-form Alwaysmining.


Bourbon War Good Enough to Show

Like Alwaysmining, Bourbon War's pre-race performances offer a strong hint of winning potential. While a fourth-place finish at the Florida Derby left him short of points for the Kentucky Derby, Bourbon War has the closing speed to improve on that showing at Pimlico.

Mark Hennig @Hennigracing

Bourbon War seems to want everyone to know he arrived....#Preakness144 https://t.co/fnf9bejdEc

The latter quality has Jerry Izenberg of The Star-Ledger believing Bourbon War will outlast the rest in a "frantic pace." Similarly, the Associated Press (h/t USA Today) believes "the right play is to go with the best finishing kick" of Bourbon War.

Trainer Mark Hennig has brought a streamlined horse to Pimlico, one lean enough to up the pace when needed.

Having Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle is another point in this horse's favour. The jockey collected the Eclipse Award a year ago after posting 396 wins and has added 144 more so far in this calendar year, according to Equibase (h/t America's Best Racing).

Ortiz knows how to get a horse over the line first. His ability to power through in the clutch will be key if Bourbon War stays in touch with the pack early before leaning on a formidable talent for closing.

It won't be enough to pip Alwaysmining to the post, but it will be more than enough to show.