The post positions have been drawn and the field is set for the 144th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday May 18 with a post time of 6:48 p.m. ET. There are 13 horses in the race, which makes it the largest Preakness field since 2011. This is also the first time since 1996 that the Kentucky Derby winner opted out of the Preakness Stakes.

That means that we won’t have a Triple Crown winner for the third time in five years, but, let’s be honest, we weren’t going to anyway. Not after Maximum Security was disqualified following the longest inquiry ever.

Only four Kentucky Derby participants are in the Preakness Stakes field, so we’ve got a lot of newcomers and a lot of ground to cover in order to break this one down.

First, here are the odds, trainers, jockeys, and post positions for Saturday evening’s race:

Post Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 War of Will M. Casse T. Gaffalione 4/1
2 Bourbon War M. Hennig I. Ortiz Jr. 12/1
3 Warrior’s Charge B. Cox J. Castellano 12/1
4 Improbable B. Baffert M. Smith 5/2
5 Owendale B. Cox F. Geroux 10/1
6 Market King D. Lukas J. Court 30/1
7 Alwaysmining K. Rubley D. Centeno 8/1
8 Signalman K. McPeek B. Hernandez Jr. 30/1
9 Bodexpress G. Delgado J. Velazquez 20/1
10 Everfast D. Romans J. Rosario 50/1
11 Laughing Fox S. Asmussen R. Santana Jr. 20/1
12 Anothertwistafate B. Wright J. Ortiz 6/1
13 Win Win Win M. Trombetta J. Pimental 15/1

The power duo of Bob Baffert and Mike Smith will keep Improbable in the favorite role leading up to post time, but it will definitely be interesting to see which middle shots take money. War of Will is 4/1 and Anothertwistafate, who did not run in the Preakness, is 6/1. Alwaysmining is at 8/1 and no other horses are in single digits.

That will change as the week goes along as one or two horses get some helium and moves up the board. This is a race with some household jockeys, but it may be lacking in the trainer department for some casual observers, as we don’t see any Todd Pletcher horses and nothing from people like Bill Mott and Chad Brown. Baffert had Justify and American Pharoah, maybe the best horse to ever run in these types of events, but Lukas is the only other winner dating back to 2012 with a horse in the field.

Let’s bounce around the board a little bit in search of some betting options. Improbable is the race favorite at 5/2. Improbable ran a rather disappointing fourth in the slop at Churchill Downs and hasn’t won in three races. He had strong place showings in the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes, but hasn’t won since the Los Alamos Futurity in December.

Baffert does go from Irad Ortiz Jr. to Mike Smith this time around, however. It was Jose Ortiz in the Arkansas Derby and Drayden Van Dyke in the Rebel Stakes. Smith is definitely the guy that Baffert would handpick at this point in time, so let’s see if it pays dividends. It is a little bit concerning that Smith hasn’t been riding Improbable. There’s only so much you can learn from workouts.

War of Will was discussed on our Preakness Stakes podcast with yours truly and Brian Blessing. It was rather interesting that Mark Casse and Tyler Gaffalione opted not to file an inquiry after they were directly impacted with Maximum Security’s dart to the inside that resulted in the disqualification. Credit to War of Will, Gaffalione, and Casse for bouncing back. Unfortunately, something out of their control might have an impact again.

War of Will has drawn yet another inside post here. Casse was interviewed on the day of the post draw and mentioned that his better runs have been on the outside. Will that cause the odds to shift away from this colt?

WoW has now been seventh and ninth in his last two starts and this is a horse that has been run a lot as a three-year-old. This will be just the sixth race on dirt and another new track, so I’m likely going to stay away here, especially with the post draw inside on the rail. With 13 horses, there will be a lot of traffic again.

Win Win Win is the other Kentucky Derby runner with a shot here. No offense to Bodexpress, who was a non-factor at Churchill Downs, but there really are only three in this race that are carryovers from the Derby that can win it. Win Win Win is one of them. The Maryland-based team of Michael Trombetta and Julian Pimental has to be a lot more comfortable here. The colt still had a good run in the Derby, but progress was impeded by Maximum Security’s transgressions.

If nothing else, Win Win Win has a great shot at hitting the board here. He can run from the outside and use his speed without getting caught up in the traffic at the beginning. He was on the board in four straight races prior to that ninth-place finish in the Derby. A second at the Blue Grass Stakes meant a finish one spot in front of Signalman and just behind Vekoma. Tacitus, who finished third in the Derby, won the Tampa Bay Derby in front of Outshine and Win Win Win.

It seems to make a lot of sense to put WWW in your exotics and to even have a small piece to win.

What about those horses that didn’t run the Derby? Bourbon War, a horse that had a perfect name for a run around Churchill Downs, didn’t have enough points to qualify. The son of Tapit is here, though, and Mark Hennig and Irad Ortiz Jr. have drawn the second post. Bourbon War ran fourth in the Florida Derby to Kentucky Derby winner* Maximum Security and behind Bodexpress and Code of Honor, who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes in front of Bourbon War and finished third in the Derby, second after the DQ.

That’s a fairly strong resume for Bourbon War, but it’s certainly fair to wonder if this horse has enough to win with the inside post draw and not the same speed figures as the others.

Of all the great trainers in racing, you wouldn’t expect Brad Cox to be the only one with two runners in a Triple Crown race. That is the case here with Warrior’s Charge in the #3 slot and Owendale in the #5 slot. Cox has two outstanding jockeys on his colts with Javier Castellano in the irons for Warrior’s Charge and Florent Geroux for Owendale.

Warrior’s Charge lacks the bloodline and the experience in the eyes of most. He doesn’t really come from a long line of winning horses. It is rather intriguing to see Castellano on this horse. He must have seen something in the workouts. Interestingly enough, Geroux rode Warrior’s Charge in his most recent allowance race on April 12. You notice he’s riding Owendale instead.

It was Geroux in the irons for the Lexington Stakes, the April 13 Grade 3 race at Keeneland. In that race, Owendale outdueled Anothertwistafate for the win. Around the third turn, Owendale hit a second gear and ran away with the race after sitting ninth out of 10 horses for the first half of the race. It looked like he got shot out of a cannon. A wide turn never slowed him down. On a fast track, this is a horse with a powerful gallop and Geroux knew exactly when to put the pedal to the metal. Owendale was 12/1. He was 6/1 in the Risen Star. Maybe Geroux is just the right driver.

Speaking of Anothertwistafate, he was the runner-up to Owendale at the Lexington Stakes. The pedigree here is strong with father Scat Daddy, but the path to the Preakness is a little bit strange. After starting on dirt, Anothertwistafate moved to synthetic surfaces and won three times. Two runner-up finishes on dirt are certainly encouraging, especially in the Sunland Derby. In the horse’s return to dirt, he got outside of traffic and nearly ran down Cutting Humor on the front stretch. That race was 1 1/8 miles, whereas the Lexington Stakes, where Owendale pulled away late, was 1 1/16 miles.

Alwaysmining is putting a six-race winning streak on the line this weekend. All of those races have been at nearby Laurel Park, including a win by 11.5 lengths in the Federico Tesio last month. The level of competition here for Alwaysmining could be a problem, as there is a lot more speed in this race. It’s also worth wondering about the distance. The 1 1/8 mile win in the aforementioned Federico Tesio was impressive, but the field lacked the speed that this race has. Furthermore, there were only five horses in that race. There were seven in the Private Terms in March and six in the Miracle Wood.

How will this gelding deal with the additional traffic? Being sandwiched in the middle between horses trying to get to the rail and those trying to get out from the extreme inside could spook this horse quite a bit. While speed hasn’t been a factor in lesser races, it could very well be a factor with a field of 13. We haven’t had a Maryland-based winner since 1983. Will it be Alwaysmining?

Signalman came on the scene for Kenny McPeek with a second in the Breeders’ Futurity and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The win at Kentucky Jockey Club was nice, but a seventh and a third here in the spring has soured opinions of this colt. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. has been with this horse for the last five races. Will that be enough to hit the board?

Signalman was comfortable in his home state of Kentucky, and has a win at Saratoga, but really struggled at Gulfstream for the Fountain of Youth. That was a really strong field and it wasn’t the best showing. I’d be wary here.

Add it all up and break it all down and we’ve got a more wide-open race than the odds would indicate in my estimation. The Smith/Baffert combo will likely drive Improbable into a bigger favorite, but I’m looking at Win Win Win and Owendale here. Pimental can stay to the outside and then make a push. Owendale showed that he can let somebody else set the pace and close strong. While this is the shortest of the Triple Crown races, this is still longer than most of these horses have run.


Exacta box 5/13

Tri box 4/5/13