There’s no question who will be the public sentimental favorite in the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.
With miracle longshot Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike sitting out the Preakness to prep for New York’s Belmont Stakes in June, the mantle of railbird darling passes to Secret Oath, the filly who won the Kentucky Oaks, which is held the day before the Derby.
Along with being the only filly in the Preakness, Secret Oath is trained by another fan favorite, the colorful 86-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, who has six Preakness titles to his credit.
In addition to wagering on the horses, Maryland sports betting is up and running at five casino sportsbooks.
The state is still working on launching mobile sports betting, but there has been little movement lately, including this week, and it’s looking like it won’t go live until next year.
Preakness Post Positions, Odds
Seven is the Lucky Number
For bettors into numerology, the operative number is seven. Lukas, normally sporting his trademark Cowboy hat, is going for his seventh Preakness win and Secret Oath is trying to be the seventh filly to win the Second Jewel of Racing’s Triple Crown.
The most recent filly winners were Swiss Skydiver in 2020 at a Preakness held in October and mainly without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Lukas last won the Preakness with Oxbow in 2013.
For this year’s Preakness, Secret Oath got an ideal draw with the No. 4 gate in a nine-horse field. The Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles.
In the Kentucky Oaks, run over 1 1/8 miles, Secret Oath wound up breaking from the pack to the outside chasing down Echo Zulu in the stretch and holding on for the win.
For the Preakness, Secret Oath, with Luis Saez in the irons, was 9-2 in the morning line. Her eight-race resume sports five wins.
Epicenter is Preakness Favorite
Meanwhile, the prohibitive chalk for the Preakness is Epicenter, who was stunned in the Kentucky Derby by 80-1 shot Rich Strike.
Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Joel Rosario, has four wins and two seconds in seven races. In the Preakness morning line, Epicenter was 6-5, and in his defense at the Derby, it took a perfect ride by Rich Strike jockey Sonny Leon and a heroic burst by the unheralded colt to deny the front-running bay.
Other contenders in the Preakness are Early Voting (7-2 in the morning line) and Simplification (6-1).
Early Voting has two wins and a near-miss second in three starts. He is trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz. Early Voting sat out the Derby and is regarded as a speed colt who may help set the pace at Pimlico.
Simplification ran in the Derby where he finished fourth at 35-1 odds. His challenge at Pimlico will be his post position coming out of the No. 1 gate. A horse can get bottled up on the rail at Pimlico — where the turns have been perceived as being tight — and an early rush is sometimes required to avoid that fate. Simplification is trained by Antonio Sano and ridden by John Velazquez and has three wins in eight starts.
Others to Watch
Another Preakness starter who raced at Churchill Downs in the Derby is Happy Jack (30-1, No. 6). He finished 14th. Happy Jack is trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
Creative Minister (10-1, No. 2) wasn’t in the Derby but the stylish-looking gray was on the undercard and notched a win in an allowance. The trainer is Ken McPeek and the jockey is Brian Hernandez. Creative Minister’s connection put up a $150,000 supplemental that made him eligible for the Preakness.