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This is the right place to get free Preakness Picks 2008.
***UPDATED FOR BEHINDTHEBAR'S DEPARTURE***
Whether you're a professional horseplayer or a part-time handicapper, the Triple Crown races offer a unique opportunity to turn a quick buck courtesy of the Sport of Kings. We know that not everyone lives near a track or an OTB, but we've found that Doc's Sports offers excellent advice for sports handicappers. While they'll help you cash more bets for all sports, their Preakness page is probably the best on the internet. Check here for current odds, and here for their picks packages.
Going into Saturday's Preakness, there is one decision that every bettor needs to make up front: what do you do about Big Brown? Just about everyone agrees that he's the class of the field, but that consensus has made him 1-2 in the opening line.
I refuse to bet any horse with odds that low. I'd rather stay away from the race than bet a horse that won't even double my money.
Many people will try to make the payout better by betting the exacta with Big Brown over the rest of the field. That's always a terrible idea, because if one of the second favorites comes in second, you probably won't make any money off the bet.
So what does that leave us? We can still bet place and show bets, and we can also bet long shots to win and hope for a miracle. I'm a big fan of win-place-show bets, mainly because they're for wimps. We'll probably end up betting some of those.
So let's start off by going through the field:
1 - Macho Again - Hasn't finished in the money in a graded stakes
2 - Tres Borrachos - Maiden breaking win is his only one. Looks like he could be out front early.
3 - Icabad Crane - This is a HUGE step up in competition, and I don't think he has what it takes.
4 - Yankee Bravo - Looks like a slow starter, good finisher. Call me crazy, but I'm a believer.
5 - Behindatthebar - Another finisher, I like him too. - SCRATCHED
6 - Racecar Rhapsody - Good speed figures, but he's not a winner.
7 - Big Brown - Awesome, undefeated, clearly the best. I think this is the year we finally see a Triple Crown winner.
8 - Kentucky Bear - Very inexperienced, only the maiden win.
9 - Stevil - Can't seem to get the win, but has some impressive runs.
10 - Riley Tucker - Probably the most graded stakes experience in the field. Seems to have a knack for making it into the money.
11 - Giant Moon - I'm willing to throw out the foggy Gotham debacle. His other experience looks pretty good.
12 - Gayego - I'm embarassed to say I liked him in the Derby
13 - Hey Byrn - Throw out the Florida Derby where he had a bumped start, and this looks like a horse that could make some noise in this field.
OK, so after passing through the field, I like Yankee Bravo, Behindatthebar, Riley Tucker, Giant Moon, and Hey Byrn. Uh oh. When you're not betting exotics, it's tough to make money when you like half the field (but you really expect the favorite to win).
Let's take a closer look at those 5. Giant Moon doesn't have a paying finish in a good race, so he's out. Hey Byrn has one awesome speed figure, but that looks like a fluke. Cross him out. Yankee Bravo hasn't cracked a 90 speed figure. That's bad news. Behindatthebar seems to be taking on increasingly good competition and posting increasingly impressive results. I like him. Riley Tucker seems to know how to get to the front and I think he's ready for a breakthrough.
Now we're down to two horses (and Big Brown). Let's take a look at the odds. Big Brown opened at 1-2, Behindatthebar at 10-1, and Riley Tucker at 30-1
Here are the bets:
$2 WPS on Behindatthebar ($6 total)
$2 WPS on Riley Tucker ($6 total)
$2 Exacta Box on Riley Tucker, Yankee Bravo, Giant Moon, and Hey Byrn
Obviously the Preakness is a simple race to handicap, in that Big Brown will win if he doesn't stumble or hurt himself. That being said, it's going to be a very difficult race with which to make any money. In fact, handicappers will be easily teased into betting exactas. This is not a good approach though. An exacta with Big Brown on top will pay about as well as betting directly on the bottom horse to place. The downside is that you don't cash an exacta ticket if Big Brown falls apart, but you DO cash a place ticket. In fact, if Big Brown doesn't crack the top two due to divine or demonic intervention, a place ticket becomes more valuable.
[There is a major caveat though. See the comments for a discussion of how Big Brown could potentially foul up the place and show pools. If that's the case, you're going to have to go big ($5 to $10) on a couple exactas you like and hedge it with some $2 exactas that don't have Big Brown on top.]
For the same reason, trifectas are poor plays. With a horse as dominant as Big Brown, you really can't afford to play many combinations at only $1. A $1 trifecta featuring Big Brown on top is only going to pay slightly more than a $1 place-show exacta would, if such a thing existed.
The bottom line is that this race MUST be bet using place and show bets only. That means you have to accept that you won't get rich. If you want to toss some dollars away, box a trifecta that doesn't include Big Brown and hope he takes a nap on the backstretch. You can shoot for superfectas, but as I'll discuss below you'd be better off playing the Maryland Lotto's Pick 4 game. If you really feel you have to play exotics, you're not going to be able to bet $2. You're going to have to really handicap who you think will finish second and bet at least $5. The same goes for trifectas.
On to the horses:
Big Brown (7) will win. Pimlico favors early speed, and I expect Dutrow to send him out front and go for a wire-to-wire win. If any horses are foolish enough to chase him, they may fall back so far that Big Brown can cruise the last furlong. It's the best strategy for Dutrow and Desormeaux to conserve their horse and still not risk having Big Brown fail to fire down the stretch.
Someone has to finish second. These are the candidates I like:
Behindthebar (5) - The Beyers are consistent, and only one race is particularly worrisome. Here is the dilemma: it's also the horses only race on dirt. Distance isn't a concern. We're only left to hope that the bad race has more to do with a trainer switch than and dislike for the surface. I'm buoyed a little bit by a 1:00 5f breezer on dirt on May 11. Value is crimped a bit by third favorite status, but a real gambler might play some 7-5-X trifectas. --SCRATCHED
Racecar Rhapsody (6) - The horse has run good Beyers on dirt and synthetic, and a decent 1:01 5f breezer on May 10 is pleasant. Many will be concerned by back-to-back 4ths in graded stakes race. I am including him as a value pick among the potential place horses because he is a closer and I foresee the Big Brown pace situation predicted above. Might be a nice 10-1 or better place ticket if Frank Carucci's morning line odds hold up.
Riley Tucker (10) - One of the most experienced horses in the race, Riley Tucker has a nice mix of distances and surfaces, and has been consistent with six money showings in seven starts. He's getting Prado back, who has rode him to a win, place and show, but I'm very concerned by his habit of rating off the pace, especially under Prado. That could be a devastating mistake at the Preakness, especially coming off the 10th spot given Pimlico's tight turns.
Giant Moon (11) - I debated putting this horse in the next group down. The first four races were exciting, with four straight victories in the maiden effort and then three ungraded stakes races. Then there was the Gotham disaster, which featured nearly no visibility in the fog. I totally throw that out. He bounced back decently in the Wood Memorial-G1 but faded a bit and finished 4th. Now he gets Dominguez back, who has a lot of Pimlico experience. The wins were wire-to-wire, or close to it, which is a major concern, but the May 13 4f in 47 and 3 is good to see. spacer
Gayego (12) - Sigh. Pass me the Alka-Seltzer. Gayego is a handicapping nightmare. He ran some triple-digit Beyers leading up to the Derby, had never finished worse that second, took well to dirt, and was one of a few horses to retain the same jockey throughout. Then he totally spazzed in the Derby, barely getting out of the gate and basically just phoning in the entire race. Oh, and that was from the second to outside post in a noisy environment, the exact same situation we have here. Oh, and this is another horse that likes to rate just off the pace, which would be a disaster for any horse in this race, as discussed above. So why is my stomach gurgling? They're adding blinkers. Fuck you Paulo Lobo.
MIGHT FIND THE BOARD
This is where it gets really difficult. Of the seven remaining horses, it's tough to really rule any of them out to show given the pace shape I expect for this race. Rather than call these the show horses, I'd rather consider them contenders to be on the board, possibly even second.
Macho Again (1) - So much to hate, including the fact that the horse has never gone over a mile, and one of those was a poor sixth in New Orleans. The good news is that the horse has shown closing ability. They've flown in the Fair Grounds (New Orleans) jockey, so that's a sign that Stewart Dallas isn't totally treating this as a vanity entry. Distance blood number is above average (339), but not inspiring. The workouts are painful too.
Tres Borrachos (2) - This horse caught my interest for the Derby. After switching from synthetic to dirt the horse's Beyers shot up from the 70's to the 90's. They tried to get him into the Derby, but fell short on stakes winnings. The distance isn't likely to be an issue, but I am concerned that many races show Tres Barrachos going from the front to the middle, and here the front might be something no one wants a piece of.
Icabad Crane (3) - Nothing to like here except a hot jockey and a good post position for Pimlico.
Yankee Bravo (4) - Not a total joke, but no Beyer over 90 and very little experience. Does show some closing ability, so consider if you are betting supers. Wins on turf and synthetic, a place in the Louisiana Derby-G2 and a 4th on synthetic in the Santa Anita-G1. Retaining Solis.
Kentucky Bear (8) - Only three races to look at, with a maiden win, a show (Bluegrass Stakes-G1) and a distant 7th (Fountain of Youth-G2). If you just love the number 8, or hate a lot of the other horses, I guess it's possible.
Stevil (9) - The only think I like is that the horse closes and carries Velazquez. That's enough for a show look in this race.
Hey Byrn (13) - Some allowance wins and the Grade 3 Holy Bull fill out a consistent resume here. He won at 1 3/16, posting only an 88 Beyer in a weak field (the odds on Hey Byrn were 1-1). There's one 14-length allowance win under Prado back in February that should tease some bets out.
So how will I bet it? I'm not going to put dollar amounts, because that will depend in part on how the first 11 races go, but my plays are:
Racecar Rhapsody - PS
Behindthebar - P
Trifecta - Big Brown, Behindthebar, Giant Moon, My Three Other Place Horses + Tres Borrachos (elevated due to Behindthebar scratch)
#5 Behindatthebar - Winner of his last two, he closed from 15 lengths back in his last race, showing that the field and a 1:09 6f pace did not bother him. Big Brown will be out there on the lead, and this horse might have the patience and the closing speed to catch him. --SCRATCHED
#12 Gayego - I liked him in the Derby, and I still like his speed. By far the most capable horse after Big Brown, a good trip could yield dramatically different results.
If you have the money and you're willing to take the (large) risk, $1 Exactas with the 5,12 over the field would cost $24 and pay like gangbusters if Big Brown fails to win or place. Big Brown is the likely winner, but he will be overbet in a big way over such a weak field. Successful gambling is about finding the bets where the payoff exceeds the odds. If you don't want such a risky proposition, you're stuck with place and show bets.
Get the Preakness Past Performances here, courtesy of the Daily Racing Form.
If you'll be in the infield with Russell, Brien and me, you had better read this first.
A Tale of the Tape comparison of the Preakness and the Derby.
And in case you think we're total hacks, a look at last year's picks will show that we luck into it sometimes.
The Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette has an excellent Preakness preview of their own, as does SportsCracklePop.