- Epicenter is a 6-5 morning line favorite in the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes.
- Epicenter was a 4-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby finishing second behind shock winner Rich Strike.
- The Preakness Stakes is the 13th race on a 14 race card at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course this Saturday.
On paper, it’s highly unlikely that the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes will be anything like the Kentucky Derby. This should be good news for favored Epicenter, who was caught at the wire by 80-1 underdog Rich Strike. The likely pace and other dynamics of the race is one important reason that Epicenter was set as a 6-5 morning line favorite. Another reason–this is not only a small field but not a very deep field in terms of talent.
By now, anyone with a remote interest in playing the ponies knows what happened at the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter got sucked into a speed duel in race with an absurd pace and ridiculous fractions. The first quarter mile split was 21.78 seconds–the fastest in Kentucky Derby history, and at the half mile the 45.36 fraction ranked in the top ten.He still came within an inch of winning the race thanks to a great ride from jockey Joel Rosario, only to get caught at the wire by also-eligible Rich Strike who got an even better ride from Sonny Leon. I’ve got a theory that had Rich Strike been in the field all along that he wouldn’t have won since Steve Asmussen and the other top trainers in the field would have been aware of him.
As it worked out, he was an afterthought. Most of the Kentucky Derby previews I read didn’t even bother to address Rich Strike or the other ‘also eligible’, Rattle n Roll. This is kind of silly IMO since late scratches have been commonplace in the race with the typically oversubscribed fields of the Kentucky Derby during the last decade or so. The Preakness won’t have any huge surprises due to the small field.
CAN EPICENTER BE BEATEN?
Epicenter must have come out of the Kentucky Derby in great shape or Steve Asmussen wouldn’t have subjected him to the quick turnaround to the Preakness. Just looking at the resumes of the horses in the field, it’s hard to dispute that Epicenter is the best ‘on paper’. Came into the Derby with four wins in his previous five starts including three year old victories in the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star and a second place in the Lecomte.
The only horse that I see as having a chance to upset Epicenter is Chad Brown’s Early Voting. Has the speed to keep Epicenter from running away with the race. Lost the Wood Memorial by a neck to Mo Donegal, posting a 111 Beyer Speed figure in the process. Hasn’t raced since the Wood meaning unlike Epicenter, Secret Oath, Simplification and several other entrants he’ll be well rested. The Preakness will only be his fourth career start but he looks like the real deal.
Simplification might have a ‘puncher’s chance’ and particularly if Epicenter and Early Voting get sucked into a speed duel. John Velasquez takes the mount and he’ll know that his best shot at victory is coming off the pace. Simplification is an interesting horse–he isn’t overwhelming in any specific area but he’s a solid, capable horse that is always competitive. Probably the best value in the field at 6-1.
The other big name in the field is Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath. She’s a 9-2 third choice, IMO due to her ‘name’ and relative novelty of being a female horse in a field of colts. Faced male horses in the Arkansas Derby finishing third but hard to see her beating a field of better male horses here.
I’ll try to beat Epicenter with Early Voting and Simplification. I’ll also use 20-1 Skippylongstocking underneath on exotics. He’s fresh, having last raced in the Wood Memorial where he finished third behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting. Turned in a 107 Beyer for the Wood.