You’ve Got to Bet the Preakness

This Saturday, I’ll be back at the same sports bar where I watched the Kentucky Derby. If you read my Derby column, I told you to throw out a couple of favorites (Lawyer Ron and Brother Derek), and keep Barbaro, despite history being against him. Unfortunately, I also told you that I like America’s favorite bet, the exacta. The exacta always seems do-able, and offers a chance to win some real dollars. And in a field of 20, what were the chances of hitting the Trifecta? Sad to say, that darn Bluegrass Cat spoiled my day. This was a horse that, by all reports, was “the bust of 2006.” That’s why it’s called gambling. But Triple Crown races are events, and, if you are a sports fan, you’ve got to bet the Preakness.

This time, it’s all about value. Sure, Barbaro looked great in the Kentucky Derby, but is he the sure thing that many analysts and bettors make him out to be? Well, maybe. Which is the reason you’ll never get value betting on him this Saturday. At best, he’ll go off at even money. Keep in mind, until Smarty Jones won in 2004, it had been 25 years since an odds-on-favorite won the Preakness Stakes. You’ll hear a lot about “The Bounce Factor,” which says that horses tend to regress after particularly strong races, especially when they are coming back on short rest. And Barbaro is a horse that has never run with fewer than five weeks of rest.

Did you know that 21of the last 22 Preakness Winners ran in the Kentucky Derby? So, what about Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint? Brother Derek, the morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, had major positioning problems in the Derby, and spent most of the race trying to break through a crowded 20-horse field. He lost a shoe and still finished fourth. He could be primed to run in the Preakness the race that many had expected him to run in the Derby. Sweetnorthernsaint, who ended up as the Derby favorite after a lot of late money was bet on him, also is one to watch. His Beyer speed figures were consistently better than those of Barbaro before the Derby. At 4-1, he may be a good bet.

Only three horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby will run in the Preakness, the smallest number in the last quarter century. So, given that, the odds would be better that a horse would break that 21 out of 22 streak which I mentioned earlier. Which new horses are possible contenders? Most analysts think Bernardini is the best of the newcomers. The term “Speed Freak” has been used for Diabolical, and that always perks up my ears. Like Now likes to gun it from the start, so, maybe, he’ll take the lead and keep it. Nothing about the other new horses excites me.

So, I’ll be splitting up my $50 with a variety of bets. Right now, an exacta of Sweetnorthernsaint and Bernardini seems like good value, and not too outlandish. Scrappy T, the best fresh horse last year, came in second. Diabolical as a long shot to win might be worth a try. As long as Brother Derek doesn’t slip to worse than 3-1, put him in some exacta bets. And, if you just can’t bear not betting on Barbaro, put him in a couple of trifectas that include a long shot. Have a drink and enjoy yourself; there’s only one more to go after this one.