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Top-10 things to remember while betting on the Preakness

14 May 2012

Saturday's 137th running of the Preakness means different things for different people. For people looking for a big party, the Preakness is a place for people to drink heavily, hang out with Kegasus -- Lord of the Infield, listen to Maroon 5 and Whiz Khalifa and "get their Preak on" (I'm not kidding, that was the marketing campaign in 2010).

For horse racing fans, the Preakness represents the second leg of the Triple Crown, the hope that this will be the first year since Affirmed in 1978 that a horse will win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont (June 9), and a great day of betting.

The field for Saturday's running of the 137th Preakness hasn't been finalized yet. That happens later this week. But it's not too early to think about how you should approach picking the race's winner. Here are 10 things to consider as you look at the race.

10. Derby Preakness double
From 1997 through 2004, it was fairly common to see the Kentucky Derby champion win the Preakness. Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003) and Smarty Jones (2004) all did it. But since then, only Big Brown (2008) has done it. The Derby Preakness double is not an easy feat to pull off. It takes a remarkable horse and an extraordinary amount of luck to win two races in three weeks.

9. Shortest distance
The Preakness is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles. This means horses coming from off the pace won't have as much space to reel in the front runners.

8. Weather
It looks like it's going to be a warm sunny day Saturday (mid-70s), so the track should be extremely fast. It also means you don't have to worry about which horses race well on sloppy tracks. Concentrate on speed and you'll do OK.

7. Speed bias
The Preakness tends to favor early speed and front-running horses. Shackleford held off a late charge from Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to win last year's Preakness in wire-to-wire fashion. Rachel Alexandra moved right to the front of the pack in the 2009 Preakness and held off late charging Kentucky Derby winner (sound familiar) Mine That Bird. In 2008, Big Brown stayed in the top 3 -- with close contact to the front runners -- for the entire race before making his big move and crushing the Preakness field. And War Emblem sat in second for much of his race before winning the 2002 Preakness.

6. Traffic
Keep an eye on post positions. In this year's Kentucky Derby, Union Rags was squeezed at the start of the race, ran into traffic trying to get back into contention and finished seventh. Dullahan, who finished third, and Went the Day Well, who finished fourth, both ran into traffic issues trying to navigate the Derby's 20-horse field.

The Preakness field will be capped at 14 horses, so it won't be as bad as the Derby. But keep on eye on post positions. Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another broke from 19 and avoided a lot of problems. An inside rail position combined with a bad start can doom a contending horse in the Preakness.

5. Travel schedule
I'll Have Another went straight from the Kentucky Derby to Pimlico, where the Preakness is held. Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher Creative Cause flew back to California after the Derby and is flying to the Preakness on Wednesday. That's a lot of flying for a horse, and there's no telling how he's going to respond to it. When horses are racing twice in 14 days -- something they rarely do -- everything needs to be taken into account, including travel schedules.

4. I'll Have Another
Entering the Kentucky Derby, it was hard to figure out which horse had true championship speed. Union Rags passed the eye test. Bodemeister looked like it had the goods as well. But an uncharacteristically slow Santa Anita Derby win had bettors overlooking I'll Have Another. It turns out I'll Have Another had enough speed to catch a tiring Bodemeister at 1 1/4 miles. Now, will he have enough speed to run past the field at 1 3/16?

3. Bodemeister
It's not often that the horse that finishes second in the Kentucky Derby feels like the actual winner of the race. But that's exactly what's happened to Bodemeister. Bodemeister looked so strong for most of the race that it makes you wonder if he can go wire-to-wire at the Preakness. Or at least run a race like War Emblem in 2002, where he sits in second before making one move to close it out. There's a good chance Bodemeister will be the morning line favorite. The Derby showed he was a special horse. A Preakness win would validate it.

2. Went the Day Well
This horse closed so strongly at the Kentucky Derby, it had backers wondering what might have been. Went the Day Well simply had a tough ride and not much room to race early on. And the fact he finished so strongly is a good indication of how talented the horse is. If you're looking for a horse outside of Bodemeister and I'll Have Another, Went the Day Well could be for you.

1. Have fun
I can't emphasize this enough. All of this is supposed to be fun. If you like a horse's name and want to bet it, do it. If you enjoy betting long shots, then do it. Yes, you want to make some money. But you also want to have fun with both the process and the race. Have fun doing your research. Have fun placing your wagers. And have fun watching the race. If you do those things, the rest doesn't matter.
Recent Articles
Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.