Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, unbeaten in four straight starts, will continue his quest for a Triple Crown from the No. 4 post position at Pimlico in the 142nd Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
Always Dreaming, the 4-to-5 morning-line favorite, has won back-to-back Grade 1 stakes by a total of 7 3/4 lengths, and delivered trainer Todd Pletcher just his second Kentucky Derby victory in the 143rd run for the roses at Churchill Downs. Pletcher has never won the Preakness in eight tries; his best finish came in 2000, when Impeachment finished third during the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Always Dreaming is a worthy favorite. He ran a strong race at Churchill Downs with no signs of slowing. Only one other horse in the Preakness field, Multiplier, has a higher BRIS Speed Rating than Always Dreaming in his last race, but that came against Grade 3 competition; Always Dreaming recorded his in the slop against Grade 1 horses.
Unfortunately, horses such as Multiplier who don’t race in the Kentucky Derby are at a disadvantage in the Preakness.
Since 2000, only Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini (2006) and the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009) won the Preakness after skipping the Kentucky Derby. Over the past decade, 21 of the 30 top-three finishers (win, place and show) in the Preakness were filled by horses who had run two weeks earlier at Churchill Downs, leaving us with Classic Empire, Hence, Lookin At Lee and Gunnevera in addition to Always Dreaming with which to fill out exotic wagers such as the exacta and trifecta.
And of those live horses, look for one of the top two choices — Always Dreaming or Classic Empire — to cross the wire first: Since 2007, four favorites and four second choices have been draped in black-eyed-Susans. Just don’t put them 1-2 on your ticket: The last time the favorite won the Preakness with the second choice coming in second was Pleasant Colony and Bold Ego in 1981.
You won’t make a huge score going with one of the top two choices at the top of your ticket, but Hence (20-to-1 odds), Lookin At Lee (10-to-1) and Gunnevera (15-to-1) could boost the payout if they sneak into the second spot, with Lookin At Lee looking good to round out your exotics: He finished second in the Kentucky Derby from a tough inside post (16th at the first call) and passed five horses in the stretch on his way to the finish line.
Beyer Speed FIgures for the #KyDerby
Always Dreaming 102
Lookin at Lee 98
Battle of Midway 91
Classic Empire 90
— Lane Gold (@lanegold) May 7, 2017
Conquest Mo Money, a 15-to-1 long shot, represents the lone early speed in the field and could set the pace at the start and hold on for second or third.
Always Dreaming or Classic Empire winning at a short price will suppress any big payday this Saturday, but using Lookin At Lee and Conquest Mo Money in a trifecta with some of the Kentucky Derby runners could generate a decent ticket.
One exacta worth playing is Always Dreaming over Lookin At Lee, Conquest Mo Money and Classic Empire. Betting the favorite at the top of an exacta is not going to get anyone rich, but you could get some value in the pools on race day. Using the morning-line odds as a guide, here are fair exacta returns assuming a $2 bet:
Always Dreaming over Lookin At Lee: $38
Always Dreaming over Conquest Mo Money: $55
Always Dreaming over Classic Empire: $14
If Lookin at Lee and Conquest Mo Money remain double-digit long shots, they help boost the trifecta payout as well.
Odds have been updated as of May 18, 2017.