Most years you can expect the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico to be won by a tried-and-true Triple Crown contender who ran in the Kentucky Derby (G1) two weeks prior.
The stats are impressive: 31 of the last 35 Preakness winners exited a start in the Kentucky Derby. So it’s safe to say “new shooters” have been at a disadvantage in the second leg of the Triple Crown. But this year the first four horses to cross the finish line in the Derby—Maximum Security, Country House, Code of Honor, and Tacitus—will be skipping the Preakness for various reasons, opening the door for a newcomer to step up and surprise at Pimlico.
So who are the top contenders to consider? The race is still ten days away, but here are the five horses I’m most interested in at the moment….
This talented colt caught my eye on the Derby trail with his professional, focused running style and his ability to finish fast in the homestretch. Unfortunately he got trapped behind horses in both the Sunland Derby (G3) and the Lexington Stakes (G3), and was further compromised by a dead rail in the latter race, so he failed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. His connections have since regrouped to target the Preakness, where a clean outside trip could help Anothertwistafate deliver a career-best performance.
He didn’t get an ideal trip in the Kentucky Derby, rating in between and behind horses for much of the race before rallying mildly in the homestretch. A fast track, a smaller field and a clean run outside of horses could make all the difference for Improbable, so keep an eye on the weather forecast and the post position draw. A cleaner run in the Arkansas Derby (G1) saw Improbable finish ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Country House by 5 3/4 lengths.
War of Will
Considering how War of Will was reluctant to settle early in the Kentucky Derby and got shut off by Maximum Security on the far turn, he ran a huge race to challenge for the lead at the quarter pole and remain thoroughly in contention until the final furlong. His best races have come with outside stalking trips, so like Anothertwistafate and Improbable, an outside draw in the Preakness would be beneficial.
The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) runner-up kept good company throughout the winter and was compromised by the slow early/fast late race shape of the Florida Derby (G1), where he finished fourth behind Maximum Security and Code of Honor. The only problem with Bourbon War is his running style—as a one-run deep closer, he’s reliant on a fast pace to set up his late charge.
He was aided by an unimpeded run over the best part of the track when defeating Anothertwistafate by 1 3/4 lengths in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, but Owendale was also full of run in the homestretch and fired off solid speed figures (98 Beyer and 99 Brisnet) that would make him competitive in the Preakness. This improving colt might be getting good at just the right time.