Once the Kentucky Derby is out of the way, all eyes turn to the Preakness Stakes as the second leg of Thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Although some are simply interested to see if the Kentucky Derby champion will pull off another victory at the Preakness and keep his hopes of a Triple Crown alive, the Preakness also stands on its own for being rich in history and steeped in traditions. It’s also often the most exciting race of the Triple Crown season, thanks to its shorter distance and smaller field.
In this Preakness Stakes betting guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about betting this year’s big race.
The Preakness Stakes is held annually at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland. Though dates of the race used to vary, it has been held on the third Saturday of May since 1932, placing it two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.
Television coverage of the event typically begins as early as 2:30 p.m. Eastern, and the race itself is usually scheduled for 6:45 p.m. NBC has televised the Preakness Stakes nationwide since 2001.
There are a lot of places online where you can bet the Preakness Stakes, but not all of them deserve your trust or your business.
Here is a short list of sites that we recommend for betting the Preakness Stakes.
Of the three Triple Crown events, the Preakness is where the stars tend to shine the brightest. Favorites have won more than half of the races in the history of the event, including some of the most legendary horses to ever take the track.
Kentucky Derby participants also tend to do well at Pimlico. Seven of the last 17 Derby champions went on to win the Preakness, and only three horses who didn’t race in Louisville two weeks earlier have won in Baltimore.
Here’s a list of every horse to win the Preakness Stakes (Triple Crown winners are indicated with an *):
Pimlico Race Track is the second-oldest racetrack in the United States, first opening its doors in 1870 and playing host to the inaugural Preakness Stakes three years later.
It has survived numerous challenges since that time, including the Great Fire of Baltimore in 1904, the Prohibition era, an anti-gambling movement in 1910, and several riots in the city. Sadly, however, there are fears that Pimlico’s days are numbered, due to its poor location, outdated facilities, and a severe decrease in race dates over the years.
The track itself is a one-mile dirt oval, and although the weather in Baltimore is usually warm and sunny in May, an influx of rain can make things pretty sloppy in a hurry, slowing the field dramatically.
One other thing to know about the track is that running in the middle lanes has long proven to be an advantage for horses in the Preakness. Only two horses have won from the rail position in the past 52 years, and 22 champions since 1995 have been from Post 4 or further out. In the history of the event, more than 15% of the winners have come from Post 6.
Many people consider Secretariat to be the greatest Thoroughbred of all time, so it’s no surprise to see the legendary stallion’s name listed in the Preakness Stakes record books for the fastest winning time in history.
However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Secretariat owned the record all to himself. Before 2012, his recorded time was 1:53.40, which tied him with Curlin (2007), Louis Quatorze (1996), and Tank’s Prospect (1985). But 39 years after Secretariat’s run at the Preakness, former owner Penny Chenery and Maryland Jockey Club president Thomas Chuckas requested that the Maryland Racing Commission review the race to double-check his time.
Using updated technology, the commission concluded that Secretariat had in fact completed the race in 1:53 flat. The ruling was extremely significant because not only did it make Secretariat the fastest horse in Preakness history, but he also owned the record in all three Triple Crown races.
The record for the fastest Preakness time only includes races held since 1925, since that was the year that the Preakness was shortened to its current length of one and three-sixteenths miles. Prior to that, the event had been contested at six different distances, ranging from 1.5 miles to one mile.
As the shortest of the three Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes is also the most difficult for one horse to dominate over the rest of the field. Three of the last dozen races have come down to a neck-and-neck finish, and four others were determined by two lengths or less.
That’s what makes Smarty Jones’ performance at the 2004 Preakness so outstanding. Having won the Kentucky Derby earlier in the month, Smarty Jones carried that momentum into the Preakness, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and roaring out to an 11.5-length victory. That margin of victory set the new Preakness record, breaking the previous standard of 10 lengths that Survivor won the first-ever race by in 1873.
Maybe Smarty Jones should have eased up down the stretch of the Preakness, however. His Triple Crown hopes were dashed several weeks later when he finished second at the Belmont, getting passed down the stretch of a race for the first time in his career.
There aren’t any huge participation numbers in the Preakness over the years because the field maxes out at 14 horses.
If more than 14 horses attempt to enter in the race, organizers use a three-tiered process in order to determine eligibility. The first seven spots are awarded to horses who have earned the most money in graded stakes races (such as the Kentucky Derby), the next four go to the top lifetime earners in non-restricted races, and the last three are given to the next three top earners, regardless of the race classes in which they earned that money.
The Preakness typically struggles to fill its 14-horse field. The Kentucky Derby winner will always want to attend the race in order to pursue the Triple Crown, but other Derby participants are sometimes held out of the Preakness due to the short two-week turnaround between events, especially with the Belmont on deck in early June.
As a result, the average number of entrants in the Preakness is nine. The smallest Preakness Stakes field in recent history came in 2000 when Red Bullet won a race of eight horses.
As we mentioned earlier, longshots don’t tend to fare well at the Preakness Stakes. More than half of the Preakness Stakes races have won by the favorites (72 of 141) as of 2018, compared to 56 of 133 at the Belmont Stakes and 51 of 143 at the Kentucky Derby.
The highest odds for any horse to win the Preakness reflects that domination by the elite entrants. Master Derby holds the record for the biggest surprise winner in Preakness history, going off at 23:1 odds in 1975 after finishing fourth at the Kentucky Derby a few weeks earlier. To put those odds into perspective, they are not even a third of the payout that bettors received on the biggest upsets at the Kentucky Derby (Donerail paid 91:1 in 1913) or Belmont (Savara paid 70:1 in 2002).
There are several possible reasons for why dark horses haven’t cashed many big winners at the Preakness. First, bettors know a lot more about many of the horses after having seen them in action a couple of weeks earlier at the Kentucky Derby, making the odds a lot sharper. Second, the smaller field of the Preakness keeps underdog prices from getting too high, since it’s easier to win a race of 14 horses than it is a race of 20. And finally, the smaller field also makes things less chaotic, giving the top horses a clearer path to the finish.
Wyndham Walden is the winningest trainer in the history of the Preakness Stakes, having dominated the race throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Walden produced seven Preakness champions, including five straight winners from 1878-1882.
Walden’s record is in jeopardy, however, as Bob Baffert continues to train Triple Crown winners. Baffert is currently second all-time in Preakness victories with six and could tie Walden as early as 2018 if Justify follows up his Kentucky Derby win by prevailing at the Preakness. It may simply be a matter of time for Baffert, the former trainer of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who also sits second all-time when it comes to victories in Triple Crown events (also including the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes).
Calumet Farm has owned and bred the most winners in Preakness Stakes history, laying claim to seven champions. However, only one Calumet horse (2013 Preakness champion Oxbow) has won a Triple Crown event since 1968.
Eddie Arcaro rode six different horses to victory in the Preakness throughout the 1940s and 1950s, a record that still stands for the most wins by a jockey at the event. Arcaro is also a five-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and a six-time champ at the Belmont, holding or sharing the all-time record for wins by a jockey at those races as well.
More recently, Victor Espinoza has been aboard three Preakness winners since the turn of the century, including back-to-back titles with California Chrome and American Pharoah in 2014 and 2015. Kent Desormeaux, who guided Exaggerator to victory in 2016, also has three Preakness wins on his resume.
Although the Kentucky Derby is the longest-running sporting event in the United States, the Preakness is technically an older event. The first Preakness Stakes was held in 1873 (two years before the Kentucky Derby came into existence), but a three-year hiatus for the Preakness from 1891-1893 prevents the race from claiming the longest-running status.
The origin of the name “Preakness” dates all the way back to the 1700s, when a northern New Jersey tribe of Native Americans referred to their area as the Pra-qua-les (meaning quail woods), a name that eventually evolved into Preakness. Nearly a century later, Thoroughbred horse owner Milton H. Sanford named his farms after the area (one of his farms actually was located in that area of New Jersey), then gave the same name to one of his colts. That colt went on to win the first race at Pimlico in 1870, leading the Maryland Jockey Club to name their new stakes race after him. The first Preakness Stakes featured seven horses, with Survivor running to a 10-length victory that would remain the event’s largest margin of victory for 131 years.
The original distance of the Preakness Stakes was set at 1.5 miles, but organizers experimented with various other lengths until eventually settling on the current one-and-three-sixteenth miles distance in 1925. The date of the event also used to fluctuate, and the Preakness actually took place on the same day as the Kentucky Derby on two occasions. And although Pimlico was the first host of the Preakness and is still home to the event, the race has not always been held in Baltimore. New York City’s Morris Park Racecourse was the venue for the 1890 Preakness, and the race then moved to Coney Island’s Gravesend Race Track from 1894-1908 before returning to Pimlico.
Despite its modest and inconsistent beginnings, the Preakness has always been one of the most-attended horse races in North America, ranking behind only the Kentucky Derby. Attendance took a bit of a dip in 2009 when organizers removed a “bring your own booze” policy in reaction to videos of heavily intoxicated people running on top of outhouses. However, the return of beer (sold by the stadium) and the introduction of musical acts in 2010 led to a resurgence in attendance, and crowds have been approximately 100,000 people ever since.
The Kentucky Derby may be more popular, and the Belmont Stakes may be the final hurdle for any Triple Crown hopeful to clear, but the Preakness Stakes deserves your betting attention as well.
Of those three races, the Preakness is the quickest to conclude, constantly delivering dramatic finishes. You’ll also find a lot more information about each horse when making your Preakness predictions than before the Thoroughbred season gets started with the Kentucky Derby, especially since horses who run at the Derby tend to do well at the Preakness.
And while you shouldn’t sleep on any horse in the small Preakness field, it’s also a chance to back some of the top favorites. You may not win as much money for an outright win as you would on a longshot, but boxing some of the top hopefuls into an exacta or triacta would usually make for a nice payday at the Preakness.
Check out one of the top Preakness betting sites that we recommend, make a deposit, and give betting the Preakness a try. You won’t regret it!