Preakness Stakes Picks & Guide: Horse Racing’s Triple Crown Continues

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We take a look at the history of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and share our 2022 Preakness Stakes picks ahead of the big race.

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Almost everyone will agree that the Kentucky Derby is the highlight of horse racing’s Triple Crown. But did you know the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the three-race spring calendar, actually started two years earlier?

Known as “The Race for the Black-Eyed Susans” in honor of the Maryland state flowers draped across the winner, the Preakness Stakes first occurred in 1873. Since that time, the race has undergone changes in venue, conditions. It has persevered for nearly 150 years to become:

  • The second-biggest horse race in the United States in terms of attendance (behind the Kentucky Derby)
  • The race where Triple Crown contenders separate from the pretenders
Preakness Stakes Picks

Background and History of the Preakness Stakes

Before getting stuck into some Preakness Stakes picks, let’s look at the history of the race.

The Preakness Stakes got its start in 1873. Relatively speaking, it looked much as it does today. There were only seven starters that year. Back then, the race was 1.5 miles long (today, it is 1.19 miles, or a mile and 3/16ths).

Pimlico Race Course (in Baltimore, MD) opened three years earlier in 1870. The winner of the featured race that day was a colt named Preakness, thus giving the race its name.

But the racers were all three-year olds, just as they are today. A horse named Survivor won the first Preakness Stakes by ten lengths. This record that stood for over 130 years until Smarty Jones won by 11.5 lengths in 2004.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Preakness Stakes moved about the Northeast. It was first hosted at Morris Park in the Bronx, NY, then moving to Coney Island in 1894 after a three-year hiatus.

The Return to Pimlico

The race would return to Pimlico in 1909 and would exist as a handicap race for several years (in which more accomplished or faster horses carried added weight).

Preakness Stakes Pimlico Picks

After some uncertainty at the start of the 21st century over the future of the race, the city of Baltimore reached an agreement to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico permanently in 2019. It ensured that this tradition will continue into the foreseeable future.

Preakness Stakes and the Triple Crown

The race enjoys plenty of fame on its own. However, the Preakness Stakes is best known as the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. It is scheduled two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

At 1.19 miles, it’s the shortest of the three races. The Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles and is Belmont 1.5 miles. But it has a reputation as perhaps the most demanding of the trio due to the short recovery time after Kentucky.

For this reason, over the years the field for the Preakness has been determined by the outcome of the Kentucky Derby (more on this later), as trainers and owners decide how and when to rest their horses.

Sir Barton (1919) and Gallant Fox (1930) were the first Triple Crown winners. But the modern order of races was established in 1932 (Kentucky Derby first, followed two weeks later by the Preakness and finally the Belmont Stakes three weeks after.) Thus in modern times, the Preakness runs between May 15 and May 21 each year.

Gallant Fox Triple Crown
Gallant Fox, 1870 Triple Crown Winner

Preakness Stakes Winning History

There have been 23 horses in history to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Of the 23 horses, 13 have gone onto Belmont, won, and become Triple Crown winners. The most recent Triple Crown winner was Justify in 2018.

This is why the Preakness has the reputation of being the race that separates the greatest horses. No one would suggest winning any race is easy. However, statistics suggest that if your horse can win at Pimlico after winning at Kentucky, there’s a better-than-even opportunity of completing the Triple Crown.

Conversely, many Derby winners who don’t take the Preakness have skipped the Belmont after seeing their Triple Crown chances disappear.

Now, let’s get into Preakness Stakes picks from the past and for the future (in 2022).

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Fastest Horses & Biggest Longshots at the Preakness Stakes

Fastest Time

Secretariat holds the record for the fastest time in the Preakness Stakes – as he does the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes – at one minute, 53 seconds.

It’s worth noting that this is the record for the 1.19-mile distance. Horses have completed the Preakness race in shorter times but did so during times when the race was run over a shorter distance.

Secretariat Preakness Stakes

Biggest Longshots

The Preakness has a reputation as a good race to bet longshots (worth noting for Preakness Stakes picks!). But that’s a relative term, especially this year.

After 80:1 Rich Strike won the 2022 Kentucky Derby, people hoping for a similar payout are likely to be disappointed on Saturday. For one thing, the Preakness attracts a smaller field of horses. And with Kentucky in the rearview mirror, the oddsmakers have seen these horses run one major race. Thus, the odds aren’t quite as potentially lucrative.

But, if you’re willing to adjust your expectations, you can make some money at Pimlico. Since 2006, a half-dozen horses have won the Preakness Stakes with odds of 10:1 or greater, including Swiss Skydiver and Rombauer the past two years!

Swiss Skydiver Preakness
Swiss Skydiver upsets Authentic to win 2020 Preakness Stakes

Odds-wise, the biggest upset in Preakness history occurred in 1975, when Master Derby crossed the line first at odds of 23:1. This paid out $48.80 on a $2 bet!

The 2022 Preakness Stakes Picks: Favorites and Longshots

The 2022 race lost a little luster when the owners of Rich Strike removed the Kentucky Derby winner from the event, citing a desire to take 5-6 weeks between races.

Rich Strike becomes the first Derby winner to miss the Preakness Stakes for a reason other than injury since Spend A Buck in 1985.

Was the 80:1 Kentucky Derby longshot likely to repeat his performance at Pimlico? Unlikely, perhaps, but this means there will be no Triple Crown winner in 2022. It also means the Preakness field is wide open, so let’s take a look at some of the main contenders:

Epicenter

By post time, this winner of the Louisiana Derby was the favorite at the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter looked poised to take the Run for the Roses before the furious rally by Rich Strike.

It’s interesting to note that Rich Strike’s rally hit its apex in final few hundred yards – and the Preakness is 1/16 of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby. So, a similar run could have Epicenter – likely to be favored once again – in the winner’s circle at Pimlico.

Epicenter Preakness Stakes

Simplification

The fourth-place finisher at the Kentucky Derby hung with Epicenter for much of the race. Simplification could provide another formidable challenge Saturday.

The horse has won three times in the past six months and also ran 3rd in April’s Florida Derby.

Simplification Preakness Stakes

Secret Oath

This is the story line to watch at Pimlico. After dominating a field of fillies in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago, Secret Oath takes on the boys at Pimlico.

She is the daughter of 2016 Breeders Cup champion Arrogate and her owners originally planned to enter Secret Oath in the Kentucky Derby rather than the Oaks. A victory at Pimlico would make Secret Oath the seventh filly to win the Preakness. The most recent was Swiss Skydiver in 2020.

Secret Oath Horse Betting

So, Time for the Preakness!

Zandon, Messier, and Mo Donegal are among the Kentucky Derby frontrunners sitting out the Preakness. This has led to many horse racing experts questioning the two-week turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and whether a longer rest period wouldn’t benefit the entirety of the Triple Crown.

But none of this will matter come Saturday afternoon, when the starters line up at the gate at Pimlico for the 147th Preakness Stakes. It will be interesting to see how the race odds evolve up until post time. After an almost-impossible longshot win in the Kentucky Derby, will we see order restored? Or will Secret Oath or an unknown turn 2022 into the Year of the Underdogs?

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