BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike jumping across Pimlico Race Course, the 147th Preakness Stakes doesn’t have the usual excitement surrounding a potential 14th Triple Crown winner.
But as the name suggests, there are only three of these horse races each year, and even if no horse gets a chance to sweep the historic series, there are still plenty of interesting runners to watch and compelling narratives that could develop.
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Here’s a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the 147th round of the Preakness Stakes.
Post time is Saturday at 7:01 p.m
Will Kentucky Derby runners-up Epicenter close the deal in a shorter race?
In the 1 1/4 mile derby, Epicenter left as a 4-1 favorite and had a good drive, saving ground out of goal, staying close to early pace and pushing forward to build a strong track run. The Not This Time colt fended off a strong challenge from another favorite, Zandon, and looked in position to win until both horses were passed 80-1 by Rich Strike in the last sixteen.
At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races. Against a smaller, weaker field, Epicenter is the morning line’s 6-5 favorite, and with a similar trip to the Derby, he should be in prime positions to give trainer Steve Asmussen his third Preakness Stakes win.
Secret Oath and D. Wayne Lukas seek Lucky No. 7
After a brilliant double win in the Kentucky Oaks, Secret Oath takes on the boys in the Preakness and becomes the 56th filly to chase the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn’t shy away from challenging his chestnut foal. In April, he guided Arrogate’s daughter in the Arkansas Derby, a key Kentucky Derby prep race, and she finished a game third, challenging eventual winner Cyberknife.
If Secret Oath crosses the finish line first in Pimlico on Saturday, she would be the seventh filly to win the Preakness and the first since Swiss Skydiver in 2020. Lukas, 86, would also bag his record-breaking seventh Preakness Stakes win and himself Join Bob Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walden in the record books.
A preakness without crowd restrictions
For the first time since 2019, tens of thousands of fans will descend on the Old Hilltop for the Preakness. At the height of the pandemic, in 2020, the Belmont Stakes was the shortest distance contest, followed by the Kentucky Derby in September and the Preakness Stakes in October. All three races were held without fans.
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The traditional Derby-Preakness-Belmont order returned the following year, but with crowd restrictions.
Before the pandemic, crowds at Pimlico exceeded 100,000 fans every year since 2010. We will see on Saturday how many people have decided to come back.
Can lightning strike twice for coach Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables?
The 2017 Preakness field had three of the top four finishers in the Derby, winner Always Dreaming, runner-up Lookin At Lee and fourth-place finisher Classic Empire. Gunnevera (seventh) and Therefore (11th) also made the trip from Churchill Downs to Old Hilltop.
But the “smartass” who entered the race was Klaravich Stables’ Cloud Computing, coached by Chad Brown. After finishing second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, Brown sidestepped the derby with the light-running colt and opted to enter the Preakness as the new shooter. It paid off as the 13-1 cloud computing saw strong favorites Always Dreaming and Classic Empire battle it out for most of the race before charging at the front of the stretch to pass the fading Derby winner and Classic Empire around to hit a head.
Despite Brown being one of the best coaches in the world, the 2017 Preakness remains his only win in the Triple Crown series to date.
He will try to follow a similar path with another Klaravich stallion, Early Voting. Like Cloud Computing, the 3-year-old by Gun Runner from Amour d’Ete comes to Pimlico with just three races under his belt, finishing first in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes and second in Gotham. Unlike cloud computing, it’s not a big surprise when it wins. Oddsmakers have early voting from 7-2.
Could the Preakness get its own historical long shot?
Incredibly, Rich Strike at 80-1 is only the second longest shot to win the Derby, behind Donerail, the 90-1 winner of the 39th Run for the Roses.
The Preakness wasn’t so kind to the biggest misfits. Master Derby, the 1975 winner, has the largest payout in the history of the race, returning $48.80 for a $2 bet. Just behind him is 1925 winner Coventry, who returned $45.60 on a $2 bet. No other Preakness winner has had odds greater than 20-1.
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In this year’s nine-horse field, only three horses have odds of 20-1 or higher, Skippylongstocking (20-1), Happy Jack (30-1) and Fenwick (50-1).
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