2021 Preakness Stakes Betting Preview

By in Horse Racing on
12 Minute Read

The 2021 Preakness takes center stage in the sports world this Saturday night. It’s the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and it carries with it a great deal of history and prestige, as the 146th running of the race. For bettors, it’s a chance to cash in on a race that should draw intense betting interest.

In terms of important horse races, it’s hard to top the three races that make up thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. The races (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes) represent a kind of gauntlet for the world’s best horses to run. Winning all three of those races, all at different distances, in a five-week span, represents one of the toughest feats in all of horse racing.

Any time a Kentucky Derby winner decides to run in the Preakness Stakes, there is a lot of attention paid to it because of the Triple Crown possibility. This year that attention might be greater than ever, but perhaps for different reasons. That’s because the Derby champ, Medina Spirit, comes to Pimlico Race Course with a tremendous amount of baggage.

Derby Controversy Carries Over

Medina Spirit and had his handlers hardly time to celebrate when it was announced that the horse tested positive for a banned substance used when it raced in the Derby. If a second sample confirms the first, the colt will likely be stripped of the title. On top of that, the fact that the horse comes from the barn of Bob Baffert, the sport’s most decorated and controversial trainer, only adds to the intrigue.

Earlier this week, after delaying the draw to mull it over, Pimlico officials decided they would allow Medina Spirit to run in the Preakness.

He’ll be the favorite, with nine other competitors, many of them new to the Triple Crown circuit this year, lining up to knock him off. It should make for quite a scene, although horse racing bettors will be trying to tune all that out and focus on making the winning picks.

To that end, we’re here to help you out with this 2021 Preakness Stakes betting preview. We’ll take you through the records of the ten projected runners in the field for Saturday’s race. And then we’ll make our picks for the top four finishers so that you’ll be all set to make your wagers at real money horse racing websites.

2021 Preakness Stakes Details

  • Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
  • When: Saturday, May 15, post time approximately 6:50 PM Eastern Time (Race 13 on Pimlico’s program)
  • Who: Ten three-year-old horses
  • Distance: 1 3/16 miles
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Purse: $1 million

2021 Preakness Stakes Contenders

#1 Ram (Ricardo Santana Jr., D. Wayne Lukas) 30-1

Throughout the 80s and early 90s, D. Wayne Lukas was the sport’s brash, successful trainer who won all the big races, including the Preakness six times, a record since broken by Bob Baffert, who has long since usurped that throne as the top big-race trainer from him. In Ram, he has a colt who certainly seems to be punching a bit above his weight class. At least until you see that he was a $325,000 purchase as a yearling and that he’s the son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh.

Still, just two starts ago, he was available for $50,000 in a maiden claimer in Oaklawn. He had no takers, but he went out and won that race and then followed it up with an allowance win at Churchill Downs. Ram is taking a massive leap up in terms of the caliber of the horses he will be facing in here.

Truth be told, if it weren’t for the bloodlines and the connections, there wouldn’t be anything to write home about with Ram. The speed figures and class suggest that he doesn’t have much chance of hanging with the others in the Preakness. Lukas aside, it would be a story even if he snuck into the top four.

#2 Keepmeinmind (David Cohen, Robertino Diodoro) 15-1

This colt is one of only two others returning from the Kentucky Derby to face off with Medina Spirit. In that race two weeks ago, Keepmeinmind was let go at 49-1 and for most of the race looked the part, scuttling along near the back of the pack. It was only in the stretch that he showed some life, passing four horses to move up to seventh.

The concern for Keepmeinmind is his style. His lone career victory, in the Kentucky Juvenile last November, came when he was ninth at the midway point and uncorked a furious rally. That kind of closing kick often doesn’t come into play in the Preakness, the shortest of all the Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles.

The good news for this colt is that the favorite, Medina Spirit, should be on the lead early, which could prompt others to take a shot at him, creating a fast pace that allows a closer to shine. But the bad news is that there aren’t a lot of other leavers in the field, which means that maybe Medina Spirit can keep the pace under control once again. It doesn’t bode well for Keepmeinmind, who might have a better finish in the order this time only because there are less horses in his way.

#3 Medina Spirit (John Velazquez, Bob Baffert) 9-5

Were it not for the Derby controversy, Medina Spirit would seem to be in a perfect spot to get the first two legs of the Triple Crown. His early speed got him home in the Derby, which is a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Preakness. Not to mention the fact that he shouldn’t have much competition on the lead from this group, unless some change their tactics.
But the question marks are popping up all over the place now. The cynical ones will assume that Medina Spirit, unable to get the same kind of illegal boost in the Preakness, won’t run quite the same race. And considering that his performance in the Derby was far beyond what he has ever done In his previous starts, that view might indeed be justified.

We’re not trying to get too bogged down in what Medina Spirit winning means for the sport or whether Bob Baffert is good or bad for horse racing. All we’re trying to do here is determine whether or not he makes for a good bet. And with the absence of value, the lingering suspicion, and the normal worries about how a hard-used Derby winner can come back just two weeks later and rev it up again, it’s probably best to look elsewhere and make this colt prove you wrong again.

#4 Crowded Trade (Javier Castellano, Chad Brown) 10-1

In 2017, trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano hooked up to win the Preakness with Cloud Computing, a 13-1 shot who didn’t run in the Derby (it was Castellano’s second Preakness victory.) Crowded Trade bears a striking resemblance to him in terms of his record, right down to the fact that he comes from the New York prep races and that this is his fourth career start after being unraced as a 2-year-old. Clearly, these two men understand how to win with a so-called “new shooter” in the Preakness.

As for his record, there are definitely some encouraging signs for Crowded Trade. His speed figure in a loss in the Grade 3 Gotham two starts ago suggests that he can certainly hang with these. It would also put him in line for a bounce-back effort after he wasn’t quite as sharp in his next start in the Wood Memorial, although a seven-wide trip will do that to you.

There are worries about the ability of Crowded Trade to go this distance, but he wasn’t tiring at the end of the Wood, which is close to the Preakness at 1 1/8 miles. If Medina Spirit is indeed vulnerable, somebody will have to step up and pick up the slack. And this colt, with connections who have done it before, might be able to do it at a fetching price.

#5 Midnight Bourbon (Irad Ortiz Jr, Steven Asmussen) 5-1

Trainer Steven Asmussen won this race twice in a span of three years a while back with a pair of heavy hitters: the superstar Curlin in 2007 and then the filly Rachel Alexandra two years later. In the Derby, Midnight Bourbon, who’s getting a new set of hands in Irad Ortiz Jr., tasted his first real disappointment. After hitting the board in his first seven career starts, he could only manage a sixth-place finish.

But a lot of bettors will probably be willing to write that off to an unforgiving post position on the far outside of the 19-horse field and the fact that he got jostled early on in the race. From that point, Midnight Bourbon made the best of a bad situation, although he was only passing tired horses and wasn’t getting closer to the leaders at the end. With a shorter field and a better post position, he should be much more likely to follow the stalking style that he most prefers.

Now the question is whether Midnight Bourbon can step it up a notch or two and run not just a solid race but a great one. Maybe he’ll be so relieved at the better circumstances that he will indeed have the race of his life on Saturday. But it’s more likely that he’ll have to settle for a top 3 finish and not the Preakness victory.

#6 Rombauer (Flavien Prat, Michael McCarthy) 12-1

This colt has taken a somewhat circuitous route to get to the Preakness, shuffling back and forth between the West Coast and Kentucky looking for the right fit. His bloodlines don’t exactly scream Triple Crown contender, although pedigree is probably one the weaker predictors for races like this when you come down to it. More than anything, Rombauer is a tough horse to recommend because it’s hard to tell what kind of horse he is.
He started his career on the turf, winning one of two before trying the dirt for a couple of Grade 1s as a two-year-old, which ended in a second and a fifth. The latter race was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so his handlers must have been hoping for big things from Rombauer. But they haven’t quite materialized, at least not in a way that would suggest that he has a Triple Crown win in him.

After racing mostly as a deep closer, he tried getting closer to the action in his last start in the Bluegrass, ending a respectable but unthreatening third behind Essential Quality. In that race, he was only bet at 24-1, which suggests that he might not be a hot sleeper pick in the Preakness. Rombauer just hasn’t shown enough to suggest that a substantial leap is coming on Saturday.

#7 France Go de Ina (Joel Rosario, Hideyuki Mori) 20-1

Speaking of horses who are coming a long way to get to the Preakness, this colt who has raced mostly in Japan certainly takes the prize. France Go de Ina certainly boasts a mouthful of a name, but there haven’t been any clues that he the game to go with it, at least in terms of winning a race like this. Joel Rosario is a top big-race jockey and gives him some credibility, but it’s going to take more than that to come out a winner on Saturday.

France Go de Ina won two of three races in Japan as a two-year-old, conquering big fields by a wide margin. He took his first swing as a three-year-old racing in Dubai in the UAE Derby, where he finished well up the track in 6th behind winner Rebel’s Romance. At least he got to go the unusual distance of 1 3/16 miles that they’ll have to traverse in the Preakness, so maybe there will be a comfort level there.

Considering that it’s his first start in the United States and that his initial workout at Pimlico was less than eye-popping, you really have to perform some tricky leaps of logic to get to where this colt comes out on top. There’s some pop in the pedigree, but not enough to suggest that the so-so record to this point should be overlooked. France Go de Ina will be little more than a curiosity on Saturday and shouldn’t be one of your picks.

#8 Unbridled Honor (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher) 15-1

Trainer Todd Pletcher didn’t get things to go his way with his four entries in the Kentucky Derby, but he’s back with a new shooter trying to win the Preakness, the one Triple Crown race that has eluded him in his illustrious career. He’s hoping that the improvement that Unbridled Honor showed in his last start can happen again. The colt will likely need to take one more step up to compete in this one.

Just three starts ago, Unbridled Honor picked up a victory in a maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs, using that as a springboard to tougher competition. He’s coming off fourth and second-place finishes in his last two graded stakes efforts. In both races, he went off at the kind of long odds that he’ll likely be facing on Saturday.

Unbridled Honor likes to come from off the pace, and the Preakness, while the shortest of the three Triple Crown races, is still longer than what this colt has raced to this point. That means he might be able to run on late and be a factor. Pletcher’s reputation will get him some attention, and Luis Saez is a top jockey as well riding this one for the first time, but a second or third-place effort might be his peak in this one.

#9 Risk Taking (Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown) 15-1

The second of Chad Brown’s entries will be trying to prove that his last start was an aberration and that he can return to previous form. In the Wood Memorial, Risk Taking, coming off back to back wins at Aqueduct, was made a tepid favorite at 2-1. But after bobbling at the start, he never really looked like wanted to compete, and he meandered to seventh in the field of ninth.
The list is far and long of horses who shake off a clunker and come back to perform very well the next time around; that’s why many handicappers cling to the “bounce” theory so tightly. With Risk Taking, the question is whether his top form is high enough that, if he bounces back to it, it will mean a win in the Preakness. His big win, the Grade 3 Withers in February, featured competition that now looks less than imposing.

Risk Taking does favor a stalking style that should suit the Preakness pretty well. The outside post will require some dexterity from jockey Jose Ortiz, especially with the first turn coming earlier in the race than a longer-distanced contest would require. This colt makes for an interesting down-ticket dart throw, although it might not make sense to use him under the winner, since he’s more of an all-or-nothing prospect.

#10 Concert Tour (Mike Smith, Bob Baffert) 5-2

Bob Baffert’s second entry looked like one of the top Kentucky Derby contenders in the early spring, only to drop off following a disappointing loss. But the speed figures, pedigree and, yes, the connections, all scream champion. Now Concert Tour gets his belated chance to make a splash after he sat out the Derby.

The outside post could be problematic for Concert Tour, as he likes to do his damage on the front end. His frontrunning style also puts him into direct competition with his stablemate Medina Spirit. Mike Smith, who performed the amazing feat of winning his second Preakness with Justify a quarter-century after his first in 1993 with Prairie Bayou, takes over as his jockey and will have his work cut out for him.

Before the Derby, the resume for Concert Tour looked a lot stronger than the one Medina Spirit boasted. If he can overcome the outside post, he can certainly be in the mix in the final strides. And if Medina Spirit does drop off, for whatever reason, this colt could really take advantage as the lone speed threat in the field.

2021 Preakness Stakes Picks

Your first task when betting on the 2021 Preakness Stakes will be deciding what to do with Medina Spirit. Aside from the whole controversy, the idea that he would follow up such a huge effort in the Derby with another one big enough to win the Preakness two weeks later was always problematic. What he had done before two weeks ago just doesn’t indicate a horse who can win multiple Triple Crown races, even if the Preakness does fit his style.

That Said, Medina Spirit Probably Won’t Just Go Away

It’s conceivable that he hustles out early and stays on long enough to speed up the pace, as Bob Baffert’s other trainee, Concert Tour, also tries to grab the early lead. Even at the shorter distance, a hot pace would be problematic for Concert Tour, who caved in a similar situation in his previous start.

That leaves out 10-1 upset pick, Crowded Trade, to pick up the pieces. The eerie similarities to what Brown and Castellano achieved with Cloud Computing a few years back seem to indicate that they know this path well. Look for Crowded Trade to stalk the pacesetters and come up in the final strides for the upset victory.

2021 Preakness Stakes Projected Order of Finish

  • 1st: #4 Crowded Trade
  • 2nd: #10 Concert Tour
  • 3rd: #8 Unbridled Honor
  • 4th: #5 Midnight Bourbon
Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...

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