Up until the very recent past, betting on the favorite at the Kentucky Derby was a losing proposition. That is not the case when it comes to the the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. As American Pharoah prepares to get within one win of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, here are some things you should be aware of before they dawn the Black Eyed Susan’s on the winner.
As final preparations for the 140th Preakness take place, note that 34 horses have won the Derby and Preakness. Of the 34, eleven have gone on to win the Belmont and capture the Triple Crown. Thirteen horses have won the first two legs since Affirmed, including three in the last six years: Big Brown in 2008, I’ll Have Another in 2012, and California Chrome last year.
Each of the last six runnings of the race have been decided by less than two lengths with four of six finishing in a margin of one length or less. Prior to the recent string of close races, the Preakness champion swept to victory by at least 4.5 lengths in five of six years (starting with Funny Cide in 2003 and ending with Big Brown).
Dating back to Point Given’s win in 2001, eight of 14 winners have gone off as the favorite, and all but three horses that were first to the wire paid less than $10. When Oxbow won in 2013, he was the first horse to capture the race at 15-1 or more since 1975.
While the notion that Pimlico – with its tight turns – favors horses that run on the lead has been prominent for years, that has not been the case in recent editions of the Preakness. While Oxbow and Rachel Alexandra went wire-to-wire, they are the only two winners to do so dating back to the start of the century. What California Chrome did last year – stalking and sitting just off the initial group – has been the winning tactic in seven of the last 15 runnings.
Curlin and Point Given are the only horses to come back from more than a ten-length deficit during the past 15 years and win.
Jockey Victor Espinoza, who rides American Pharoah and was aboard California Chrome last year, is seeking to win his third Preakness. No rider has won the race in consecutive years since Pat Day piloted three straight champions (Tabasco Cat, Timber Country, and Louis Quatorze in 1994, 1995, and 1996).
After guiding Firing Line to a second-place performance at the Kentucky Derby, jockey Gary Stevens will look to climb into elite company at the Preakness. Stevens captured the second jewel of the Triple Crown aboard Silver Charm in 1997, Point Given in 2001, and Oxbow two years ago. If Firing Line wins on Saturday, Stevens will join the tandem of Day and Eddie Arcaro as the only jockeys to win four or more Preaknesses.
Bob Baffert, who trains American Pharoah and Dortmund, has won the Preakness five times. His last victory was with Lookin at Lucky in 2010. Only Hall-of-Famers R. Wyndham Walden (from the 1800s) and D. Wayne Lucas have had more success than Baffert at the Preakness.
The post position draw is on Wednesday, and Saturday’s post time is scheduled for 6:18 pm.
(Photo credit: Maryland GovPics (Flickr: 139th Preakness Stakes) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)