Preakness: The best longshot to bet is Perform

May 20th, 2023

The 2023 Preakness (G1) at Pimlico will feature its smallest field in decades, which means most of the contenders will start at single-digit odds. But if you’re a longshot player hoping to catch an upset in the second leg of the Triple Crown, there’s a viable option to pursue.

Making a case for an upset isn’t too difficult. Kentucky Derby (G1) winner #3 Mage (8-5) is a talented colt, but he capitalized on a pace meltdown to rally and win the Derby, and a slower pace is expected for the Preakness. Other logical contenders like #1 National Treasure (4-1) and #7 Blazing Sevens (6-1) haven’t won this year and will need improvement to snatch top honors at Pimlico.

In contrast, there’s #6 Perform (15-1), a longshot who enters in winning form. The son of Good Magic has upside for improvement, and while his odds figure to drop with the scratch of #8 First Mission (5-2), there’s a good chance he’ll pay $20 or more if he visits the winner’s circle.

Perform was slow to develop for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, losing his first five starts around one turn. But since stretching out around two turns, Perform has been unstoppable. In a one-mile and 40-yard maiden special weight at Tampa Bay Downs, Peform rallied strongly to beat next-out winner Prove Worthy by 2 3/4 lengths. Then in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio S. at Laurel Park, Perform overcame a stumbling start and traffic trouble to win by a head.

Actually, “traffic trouble” doesn’t begin to describe the adversity Perform overcame. He was 10 lengths behind with three furlongs remaining, and when the field turned for home he was stopped while trying to advance up the rail. Perform tried shifting outside, but he was blocked again, so he dove back to the rail and found a seam. Even then he had to shift outside once more to seal the deal, eventually gaining six lengths in the final furlong alone to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

With an unencumbered run, Perform might have won the Federico Tesio by a larger margin and with a faster Brisnet Speed rating than the 94 he received. In the past, Perform has shown a consistent ability to set or press the pace, so expect to see him secure a midpack position in this small Preakness field. If he gets a clean trip (and that seems likely), Perform can step forward at a big price and maybe even take first prize.

Good luck!