The 2023 Preakness Stakes is coming up this Saturday. A field of eight 3-year-olds, including Kentucky Derby winner Mage, will contest the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The good folks at PlayKentucky have given me a $100 budget to bet on the Preakness. Should you want to wager, plenty of options are available. FanDuel Racing Kentucky, for instance, is offering a $20 No Sweat Preakness Bet on Saturday.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage looms large
The only horse to wheel back in two weeks after the Kentucky Derby is the winner of that race. No. 3 Mage rallied from well back to hit the wire first beneath Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who had been winless in 15 prior Kentucky Derby tries.
Mage was 15-1 that day, but he’ll be a much shorter price on Saturday. The Derby winner is the 8-5 morning line favorite against seven horses that either didn’t qualify for that race or were pointed elsewhere by the connections.
I happen to think Mage is the most likely winner (a really brave opinion, I know).
However, I also believe there’s more value to be had than simply taking that 8-5 price in the win pool if you’re a Kentucky horse race betting enthusiast looking to get in on the action Saturday.
I’m going a different direction.
Finding value in exactas
One thing I often do when I like a favorite is key that horse on top of exactas and use a single horse in that wager’s second spot. It’s a different spin on a win bet, one that can extract value from a short-priced runner.
The question is, what runner should I lean on to run second behind my top pick?
Besides Mage, there are three other runners likely to take some money, and I’m not crazy about two of them.
No. 8 First Mission is the 5-2 second choice, but I’m just not sold on his last-out win in the Lexington. Third-place finisher Disarm came back to run fourth in the Derby, but I don’t think he was necessarily ridden to win the Lexington. All he had to do to make the Derby field was run third, and he did. At First Mission’s likely fairly-short price, I think he’s a bad bet.
No. 7 Blazing Sevens at 6-1, meanwhile, hails from a barn that’s had success skipping the Derby and eyeing the Preakness. Trainer Chad Brown has won two renewals of this race doing that. However, I think there are distance limitations here.
Both of Blazing Sevens’ wins have come in one-turn races. He’s 0-for-3 going two turns, and his best two-turn effort was when he finished a distant third in the Blue Grass behind two runners who misfired in the Derby. If he runs well, I lose.
That leaves No. 1 National Treasure, at 4-1, who ships in for trainer Bob Baffert.
He hasn’t won since a debut score at Del Mar in September, but I think there’s plenty to like here. He’s been working well in California and adds blinkers, which is often an indication a horse will show early speed.
There isn’t much pace in this race, so if he goes early, he could get comfortable and have plenty left late.
One $100 bill, one bet
My play is a simple one. Rather than take the 8-5 win odds on Mage, I’ll up my potential payout, root for Mage to win and hope National Treasure is sitting on a big enough race to run second.
My bet: $100 exacta — 3 (Mage) with 1 (National Treasure)