Every year, the Kentucky Derby winner comes into the Preakness as the indicated horse. Even those horses that won the Derby at long odds tend to be well-bet in the Preakness and they tend to live up to expectations. This year in particular, the Derby winner is the overwhelming obvious choice.
What makes Justify more of an obvious choice than most years is his running style. When a horse wins the Derby on the lead, as Justify did, he obviously did not benefit or suffer from the notoriously difficult Derby traffic. He simply outran the field. And since the Preakness is very similar to the Derby, there is no reason he cannot do it again.
He will not be a good value, but he certainly should win. The small field in the Preakness suggests Justify’s dominance has kept a lot of horses home.
As usual, several horses that encountered trouble in the Kentucky Derby move forward to the Preakness, seeking redemption.
Good Magic ran a fantastic race in the Derby, but he was no match for the winner. He is a logical choice to hit the board, since this field is softer than the Derby and he has never missed the board in his career. Bravazo surprised a lot of people by running sixth in the Derby at 66-1. But every dog has his day, and by any indication the Derby was probably his.
Similarly Lone Sailor ran a respectable eighth in the Derby. But at 24-1 at post time, that result was about what people expected. He could advance Saturday against the weaker field.
The Federico Tesio winner has been known to jump up and hit the board in the Preakness and Diamond King is good enough to pull that off. He has four wins in five starts, including two in the Maryland Jockey Club circuit, so he will be bet like the home team. He should run well but is no match for Justify.
Of the newcomers, Sporting Chance looks to have a sporting chance to hit the board. He won the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga last fall. He’s been hanging around the win, place and show positions since, so he certainly belongs. This looks to be at the end of his distance capability, but he could get a piece.
Win bet: No horse gets a free pass at the G1 level, but this race is Justify’s to lose. Bet him to win and key him on top of your exotics. If he stays near his morning line odds of 1-2, that is still a decent price for a horse that is clearly the top of his class.
Exacta bet: Wheel Justify over Diamond King, Good Magic, Lone Sailor and Sporting Chance.
Trifecta bet: Wheel Justify over Diamond King, Good Magic, Lone Sailor and Sporting Chance.