5 Preakness handicapping trends to consider

May 17th, 2022

The post positions for the 146th Preakness (G1) have been drawn, which means handicappers can start digging deep to finalize their selections.

To enhance our understanding of Pimlico’s signature 1 3/16-mile race, let’s explore five Preakness handicapping trends worth keeping in mind:

New shooters are winning with greater frequency

Between 1984 and 2005, 21 out of 22 Preakness winners exited the Kentucky Derby (G1), with Red Bullet (2000) serving as the lone exception. The second leg of the Triple Crown has historically provided an opportunity for Kentucky Derby alumni to stage a rematch two weeks later.

But since 2006, “new shooters” have been winning the Preakness with increasing frequency. Bernardini (2006), Rachel Alexandra (2009), Cloud Computing (2017), Swiss Skydiver (2020), and Rombauer (2021) all topped their Derby-experienced rivals. Of these, only Rachel Alexandra, the Kentucky Oaks winner the day before the Derby, tackled the Preakness less than three weeks after their previous start.

The takeaway? As fewer Kentucky Derby starters tackle the two-week turnaround to the Preakness, expect to see a steady stream of newcomers nab the Triple Crown’s second jewel.

Inside trips have been beneficial

The fabled “tight turns” at Pimlico might be a myth, but saving ground is still a good strategy in the Preakness. Four of the last six winners—Exaggerator (2016), Cloud Computing (2017), War of Will (2019), and Swiss Skydiver (2020)—all prevailed after spending significant portions of their journey racing inside.

Inside posts have likewise thrived

As an extension of the previous statistic, inside post positions have been advantageous in recent editions of the Preakness. Six of the last eight winners started from the inner half of the field, including two winners—American Pharoah (2015) and War of Will (2019)—who broke from the rail.

Speed is a significant asset

Did you know there have been four gate-to-wire Preakness winners over the last dozen years? That’s a 33% win rate for pacesetters. Rachel Alexandra (2009), Oxbow (2013), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018) all wired the Preakness, while Shackleford (2011), I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), Cloud Computing (2017), War of Will (2019), and even Swiss Skydiver (2020) all employed varying degrees of pace-tracking tactics.

Just like in most North American dirt races, tactical speed is an asset in the Preakness. Unless you’re Exaggerator (2016) capitalizing on a fast pace over a sloppy track, it’s hard to win the Preakness with deep-closing tactics.

Mid-range longshots are worth considering

Major longshots are an uncommon sight in the Preakness winner’s circle; the highest-priced winner in Preakness history was 23-1 shot Master Derby in 1975.  But horses starting in the 11-1 to 15-1 range have won five of the last 11 editions of the Preakness, with new shooters Cloud Computing (2017), Swiss Skydiver (2020), and Rombauer (2021) fitting in this category.

Considering Preakness favorites have only prevailed three times in the last decade, it’s safe to say the trend in recent years has been for mid-range longshots to steal the show.

Good luck with your handicapping!