The buildup to the 2022 Preakness Stakes feels similar to the Kentucky Derby in one particular way.
Hopes of a new Triple Crown winner were dashed after Rich Strike's trainers opted to skip Saturday's race to focus on the Belmont Stakes, which leaves Epicenter as the primary horse to watch at Pimlico Race Course.
The colt started the week as the pre-race favorite after also being one of the favorites to win at Churchill Downs.
Epicenter has the best pedigree among Saturday's nine-horse field, but that may not mean anything if the race is fast and an underdog emerges as the winner, as happened at the Run for the Roses.
However, he is expected to face less of a threat on Saturday because the field is smaller and the quality of competition will dip without the possibility of a Triple Crown.
Preakness Stakes Field
The Preakness feels like it could be Epicenter's race to lose.
Of course, we should approach that statement with some caution since we talked so much about him and Zandon at the Kentucky Derby and Rich Strike won as an 80-1 underdog.
It is more likely the outsider's success was an outlier compared to the lack of success from the top horses in reaching the winner's circle.
Epicenter was in the mix for the Derby victory in the final stretch before Rich Strike surged down the inside and took first place.
Epicenter's solid run at Churchill Downs is promising for his candidacy to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The favorite should have a clear path to the front of the field based on the quality of horses around him.
The three horses surrounding Epicenter in Post 8 had odds of 12-1 or longer on the morning line when the draw was made on Monday.
Most of the jockeying for position will come on the inside lane, where Simplification, Secret Oath and Early Voting reside.
Simplification was one of the surprises of the Derby, and he will attempt to improve on his fourth-place finish from two weeks ago.
Secret Oath also comes into Baltimore on short rest, but she ran a day before the Derby horses, claiming victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
Early Voting is the horse that may challenge Epicenter the most if he gets off to a fast start. He is on six weeks rest after taking second place at the Wood Memorial.
Only one of the Preakness entrants carries odds of 50-1 or longer. Fenwick may be a popular betting horse because of the long odds Rich Strike won at.
However, he may disappoint anyone who backs him on Saturday. The horse is 50-1 for a reason. He finished in 11th place in his last start at the Blue Grass Stakes on April 9.