Horse racing in the United States has been through many highs and lows since the first racecourse opened on Long Island in 1665.
Today the sport continues to be a popular betting medium, with over $10 billion wagered on US horse racing in 2020.
However, only a few major races capture the imagination of the wider American public, and the Preakness Stakes is undoubtedly one of the biggest events in the US racing calendar.
Here we look at the race in detail and how to approach it from a betting perspective.
The first running of the Preakness Stakes was in 1873 when Survivor won the lion’s share of the then $3,000 purse.
The Preakness forms the second leg of the US Triple Crown, taking place after the Kentucky Derby and before the Belmont Stakes.
At this stage, with the 2022 Preakness Stakes still six months away, no betting markets available and many potential challengers still yet to race, it is a difficult task to suggest horses that have the best chance of winning.
Horses that line up in the 2022 Preakness are likely to be Triple Crown horses, so for now, the best guide is to look at some of the key two-year-old trials.
Corniche – Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled seven Preakness winners in the past and his horses are always worth watching closely. This season he has unleashed high-class two-year-old Corniche, who has had a similar preparation in his first two starts to Baffert’s Triple Crown hero American Pharoah.
Corniche made light work of lesser rivals at Del Mar on debut, before making all to win with ease in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Saratoga. He has started as a hot favourite in both his runs, and he looks a serious contender for all the big three-year-old races next season.
Jack Christopher – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run in early November, is usually a race that has a heavy bearing on the Preakness Stakes the following season.
The Chad Brown-trained, Jack Christopher, is the current favourite for that contest on the back of two wins in two career starts. In the latest of those, he delivered a taking victory in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, a race that is often a good Triple Crown trial.
Pinehurst – Baffert has another unbeaten two-year-old in Pinehurst, who stepped up on his debut when racing away from his rivals to take the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity Stakes.
Pinehurst also has a place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile market, but he is a bigger price than stablemate Corniche. It will be fascinating to see which one comes out on top if they both take their chance there.
Given the current cloud hanging over Bob Baffert and various failed blood tests of his horses, which he disputes, the participation of these impressive two years olds for next year’s Triple Crown races is uncertain.
Major General – Another unbeaten two-year-old from the stable of Todd Pletcher. This colt produced a gutsy display on his second start to land the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race that opens the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series of trial races.
Pletcher will be hoping his son of Constitution makes it to the Derby and then the Preakness two weeks later, as he chases his first win in the Maryland race.
Wit – Another from the Pletcher stable, Wit has two wins from four career starts to his name so far but has come up short in Grade 1 company the last twice.
Most recently he was held up a long way off the pace in the Champagne Stakes and never had a clear run when trying to chase down Jack Christopher.
However, he finished running that day and could well be better than that effort.
It is run on the third Saturday in May every year, over a distance of nine-and-a-half furlongs on dirt at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland.
Open only to three-year-old colts and fillies, the field is limited to 14 runners and there’s a valuable purse of over $1.5 million on offer.
Horses that have run in the Kentucky Derby often line up in the Preakness, but for many horses, it can prove too gruelling a schedule as the race occurs just two weeks after the Derby at Churchill Downs.
In 2021, the Preakness Stakes attracted a field of 10 runners and only three had competed in the Kentucky Derby.
They included controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, who could only manage third in the Preakness, emphasising the challenge posed by horses bidding for the Triple Crown.
In 2019, over 130,000 fans descended on Pimlico Racecourse to catch sight of the Preakness winner and it is consistently the second-best attended race-meeting after the Kentucky Derby.
As the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness is often fought out by horses that have run in the Kentucky Derby.
Seven of the last 10 Preakness winners ran in the Derby before taking the prize at Pimlico, and three of those – Justify, American Pharoah and California Chrome – won in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Derby is a rough race for any horse and there can be many hard-luck stories as runners rush to get a good early position from the gates.
It is well worth watching back replays of the Derby because horses that may have been unlucky and finished down the field can suddenly bounce back in the Preakness.
In 2016, Exaggerator endured a torrid run in the Kentucky Derby, having to switch off the rail on the home turn, a move that forced him five wide into the straight.
From there he closed rapidly on the eventual winner, Nyquist, all the way to the line. In the Preakness two weeks later, Exaggerator dramatically turned the Derby form around, after being better positioned off the home turn and then pulling clear of Nyquist in the straight, running out a three-length winner.
Despite looking unlucky in the Derby, Exaggerator was sent off at around 5/2 for the Preakness, while Nyquist was the 7/10 favourite.
From a betting perspective, this shows the value to be found if closely scrutinising the Kentucky Derby as a race.
Races in the US are often run in a different style to races in the UK and the rest of Europe. Horses often break from the stalls as quickly as possible to try to achieve a prominent racing position.
This means races in the US are usually truly run and horses travel at an even pace from the beginning of the race to the finish, rather than being asked to quicken dramatically near the finish. In short, establishing an idea of “pace” is crucial with US racing.
Three of the last 10 Preakness Stakes have been won by horses that led from the start, so a simple strategy might mean finding a horse that is likely to be quickest away from the stalls in order to gain an advantage.
Had you done that, you would have turned a £9.70 profit into a £1 stake in the last 10-years.
Of course, this doesn’t always work out and if there are too many front runners in the race this can create pressure on the lead, forcing the leaders to run too quickly which in turn sets things up for a horse to close from off the pace, as Exaggerator did perfectly in 2016.
Unless there is a standout candidate for the Preakness like American Pharoah, Justify or California Chrome, don’t be afraid to look at horses that may seem to have had a lot of runs and might not have made the most of their chances.
Last season’s winner Rombauer had only won twice in six previous starts, while 2013 winner Oxbow had won just once in the same number of racecourse appearances.
Those winners returned at odds of around 12/1 and 15/1, showing that there is value to be had outside the top of the market in the Preakness.
Don’t forget to read about how to bet on the Triple Crown.
There have been many brilliant Preakness winners over the years, and many have kept their Triple Crown bid alive by winning the contest.
In 1997, Silver Charm was all heart when involved in a titanic battle down the Pimlico home straight as he edged out fellow grey, Free House, and Captain Bodgit by the narrowest of margins in a three-way photo finish.
All three had finished in the places two weeks earlier in Kentucky, where again Silver Charm had narrowly gained the verdict. Silver Charm was then to fall agonisingly short of the Triple Crown when he finished a close runner-up in the Belmont Stakes.
Three-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra had run away with the Kentucky Oaks, winning by 20-lengths before taking her place in the 2009 Preakness Stakes against the colts.
Under rider Calvin Borel she made no mistake, scoring by a length, to become only the fifth filly in history to win the Preakness and the first since 1924.
The best remembered Preakness winners, however, are usually those horses that go on to win the Triple Crown.
Few horses could possibly achieve the recognition and legacy of 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. The Preakness was his second stop on the road to Triple Crown glory and he won with ease to set up his shot at the Belmont Stakes.
His winning time of 1:53:00 is still the fastest time ever recorded in the Preakness.
Since then, there have been a further four Triple Crown winners, including Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed a year later, before more recent winners American Pharoah and Justify.
There can have been few better Preakness performances than American Pharoah’s in 2015. Bob Baffert’s majestic colt set searching fractions under Victor Espinoza on a sloppy track surface at Pimlico, and once into the home straight the duo pulled further clear, coming home in splendid isolation by seven lengths from their mud-splattered rivals.
For any horse race, the type of bet you place is an important consideration. This is because every race market is different, due to the number of horses running and the odds of those horses.
Knowing the best bet to place in different circumstances can improve your chance of winning. Here are a few common horse racing bets.
A bet placed on one horse in a race. There are different types of straight bets: win, place, and each-way bets.
There are two types of forecasts: a straight forecast and a reverse forecast. With a straight forecast, you select two horses to finish first and second in a race.
They must finish in the correct order to win the bet. With a reverse forecast, the two horses can finish in any order.
There are also straight and reverse tricasts. A straight tricast challenges you to predict the first three horses in a race in the correct order. A reverse tricast means your three selections can finish in any order.