*UPDATED April 2019*
The Preakness Stakes may not have the name recognition of the Kentucky Derby, but the second leg of the Triple Crown has its own decorated history and background. The race, which takes place 2 weeks after the Derby on the third Saturday in May, has been run since 1873.
Most of the betting intrigue when it comes to the Preakness Stakes lies with whichever thoroughbred has just won the Kentucky Derby. Plenty of horses that have won the Derby have gone on to win the Preakness, but only 13 have ever won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same season, and the betting odds at Preakness Stakes betting sites reflect that.
American Pharoah became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years when he did so in 2015. After that, we had to wait only 3 more years before Justify did it in 2018. Will we have back-to-back Triple Crown winners this year? The last time that happened was in 1977-1978, when Seattle Slew and Affirmed won consecutive Crowns.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby will almost surely enter the Preakness as the odds-on betting favorite at most Preakness Stakes betting websites. That was the case last year with Justify, who won at Churchill Downs as a 3-1 favorite. His odds were far less favorable at Pimlico, where he entered the race at 1-2 to finish first.
Here are the top sites we recommend for betting on the 2019 Preakness Stakes:
Breaking Down the Early Preakness Field
While the Kentucky Derby field may include as many as 20 thoroughbreds, the Preakness is typically a much smaller race. Just 8 horses comprised last year’s field at Pimlico, which obviously made things easier for Justify as a Preakness Stakes betting site favorite. His chances of outrunning 7 other horses were better than having to beat 19 others at Churchill Downs.
Game Winner is the early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Most of the top Preakness Stakes betting websites have Game Winner listed around +700 to win the Run for the Roses, so we can naturally assume that he is also the popular early bet to win this year’s Preakness.
Game Winner’s trainer is Bob Baffert, who happens to be the most famous name in horse racing these days.
Despite sitting 10th place with 45 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the 2-year-old colt has managed to win 4 of his 5 starts thus far, which would have given you some decent payouts if you’d placed some money down at BetOnline. Assuming he eventually accrues enough points to qualify, it sounds as though Game Winner will enter the Derby as the pretty heavy betting favorite at all of our recommended Preakness Stakes betting sites. If he wins the Derby and stays healthy through the 2-week run-up to the Preakness Stakes, he’ll likely be the best bet at Pimlico, too.
Another horse generating some early buzz is Improbable, who is listed right around +800 on BetOnline.ag. Improbable won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity last December, and he has now won 3 of his 4 starts overall, along with a second-place showing. Like Game Winner and the 2 Triple Crown winners before him, Improbable also happens to be trained by Baffert, which is a fact that surely plays no small role in his favorable odds.
Preakness Differs from the Derby
It’s also worth noting that some horses that emerge as legitimate contenders at the Kentucky Derby may not race at all in the Preakness. Some trainers, including Todd Pletcher, have said publicly that they are not fond of racing horses at the Preakness with just 2 weeks off after the Derby. So, whichever horse emerges victorious at Churchill Downs will likely be able to take advantage of a bit of a watered-down field at Pimlico.
That helps explain why we have seen horses win the first 2 legs of the Triple Crown so often in the past before ultimately coming up short at the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont is a completely different type of race, and it often features some thoroughbreds that did not participate in either the Derby or the Preakness. Obviously, those horses tend to be more well-rested for the Belmont, which makes it tougher to win for those that have raced at the previous 2 Triple Crown events. It’s also worth noting that the Preakness is capped at 14 participants.
The Preakness is also a slightly shorter race than the Derby, which is helpful to those horses that may be a bit fatigued after going all-out 2 weeks prior in Kentucky. The track at Pimlico is 1 and 3/16 miles long, while the track at Churchill Downs runs 1¼ miles long.
The tracks themselves also differ. Pimlico’s track generally plays like a faster track, while the Derby’s is sometimes dependent on weather conditions. Both races use dirt tracks, but the footing is more firm at Pimlico. So, while a rainy day could make for a sloppy race at Churchill Downs, rainy conditions have less of an effect on the outcome at Pimlico. That’s certainly a factor that can help create edge when placing wagers at a Preakness betting site, as well.
Betting on the Preakness can be complicated with so much of the money coming in on the horse that just won the Kentucky Derby. That horse is likely to have less profitable odds at the Preakness than it did at the Derby, and more often than not the Derby winner winds up at least challenging for one of the top-3 finishing spots at Pimlico.
While you may be able to get a Derby winner at something like 20/1 before the race, those kinds of odds are less likely to present themselves at the Preakness.
However, that much money coming in on the favorite likely means the other horses in the field will see their odds inflate at Preakness betting websites.
Popular Preakness Stakes Bets
Horse racing has been around for decades, and betting on horse racing has, too. The most basic and most popular way to bet on a race like the Preakness is to try and pick the winner. Futures odds are all tied to which horse will finish in first place, but these days there is no shortage of other options when it comes to betting on the Preakness online.
Placing a straight wager on a horse to win (finish first), place (finish second) or show (finish third) is the least-risky bet you can make. This way, you are putting money on a horse to finish in one of the top-3 spots, and the bet wins regardless of which place they wind up taking. If your horse finishes in the top-3, you win. Payouts on these types of bets tend to be smaller than more risky wagering options.
If you want to shoot for a little more upside, you can place an exacta, trifecta or superfecta wager. An exacta bet means you are picking the 2 horses that finish first and second, and you have to get them in the correct order. A trifecta bet is a bet that picks the top-3 finishers, while a superfecta bet picks the top-4.
There are 14 races in all, and you can even place bets spanning several different events. For example, you can place a bet on which horses will finish in first place in back-to-back races. That is called a Daily Double bet. Picking 3 straight winners is a Pick 3, and picking 4 straight winners is a Pick 4, and so on.
We know Justify won the 2018 Preakness, while Bravazo (15-1 to win) took second and Tenfold (25-1) finished third. A $2 exacta that correctly picked Justify and Bravazo to finish 1-2 last year would have paid out $27.40. A $1 trifecta (Justify, Bravazo, Tenfold) paid out $148,30, while the $1 superfecta paid out $372.50.
Clearly, there is plenty of money to be won betting on the Preakness Stakes. It may not have all the pop and circumstance that we see at Churchill Downs every May, but the Triple Crown’s second leg still offers plenty of profitable betting opportunities.