While Kentucky Derby upset winner Rich Strike got a 10-day break and is now back at Churchill Downs preparing for the Belmont Stakes, a field of nine will line up on Saturday in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes.
There will be no Triple Crown winner in 2022, but the Preakness Stakes still offers an intriguing matchup between the Kentucky Derby runner up Epicenter and the Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath.
The Steve Asmussen trained Epicenter was run down in the final strides in Louisville, missing by a neck to 80-1 longshot Rich Strike, who is bypassing the Preakness. Epicenter was installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite and will break from the eight post with Joel Rosario in the irons.
“He’s bounced out of the Derby with relative ease and made the ship fine. Just trying to get settled in and get our schooling done and run Saturday,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “He’s traveling really well. It seems like his energy level is good.”
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Secret Oath is seeking to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness. Swiss Skydiver was the last in 2020. She is trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas who has saddled six Preakness winners, one shy of tying the record held by Bob Baffert and R. Wyndham Walden.
The last Preakness winner saddled by Lukas was Oxbow in 2013. Lukas sent out the filly Winning Colors in 1988 where she checked in third.
Trainer Chad Brown sends out Early Voting who figures to be the second choice in the wagering. The colt drew clear in the stretch in the Wood Memorial (G2) but got run down by Mo Donegal by a neck.
The Preakness Stakes is the 13th race on a 14-race card at Pimlico on Saturday. First post is 10:30am ET.
Here is a look at the entire Preakness field in post position order:
1 Simplification 6-1
Jockey: John Velazquez
Trainer: Antonio Sano
This colt is just one of three to exit the Kentucky Derby. The Sano trainee raced near the back of the pack early and came with a good late run while very wide to finish fourth. Two back in the Florida Derby (G1) he was up pressing the pace before weakening late to check in third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths. His last win came three back in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. He picks up a new rider in Hall of Famer Velazquez with Jose Ortiz sticking with Early Voting. The colt figures to be closer to the pace today with the rail draw and expected more moderate pace than he saw in Louisville. He needs to improve a couple of lengths to be competitive with the chalk in here and that is not out of the question.
2 Creative Minister 10-1
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer: Ken McPeek
This colt was not Triple Crown nominated so his connections had to pony up $150,000 just to run. The colt broke his maiden in the slop at Keeneland in his second career start, then was a good looking winner at Churchill Downs versus first level allowance company on the Derby Day undercard. The colt comes back off a two week break with a major class hike. That seems like a tall order but the colt has shown improvement with each outing and has as much upside as any in the field. McPeel won the 2020 Preakness Stakes with the filly Swiss Skydiver.
3 Fenwick 50-1
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Kevin McKathan
The colt took the field gate to wire to break his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs in March in his fifth career start. He stepped into stakes company in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland last out and faded to finish a well beaten 11th, 36 lengths behind the winner. He looks badly outclassed in this spot.
4 Secret Oath 9-2
Jockey: Luis Saez
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
This filly takes on the boys here and the ladies have managed to win this race six times including Swiss Skydiver in 2020 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. She was a respectable third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) against the boys back in April and her Hall of Fame trainer decided to stick with the Kentucky Oaks (G1) where she was an impressive winner earning a career top speed figure. She gets a five-pound weight break but the race flow really does not set up that well for her. She won the Oaks as if she may still have some room for improvement, and that would make her competitive here.
5 Early Voting 7-2
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer Chad Brown
This colt appears to be the major threat to the favorite. His connections decided to skip the Kentucky Derby and wait for this race. That was the same move Chad Brown made with his 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing who won the second jewel of the Triple Crown in his fourth career start. That colt had run second in the Gotham (G3) and third in the Wood Memorial (G2). Early Voting was a much the best winner of the Withers (G3) in the mud at Aqueduct in his second career start and then was beaten just a neck in the Wood to Mo Donegal who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers and this race looks like it is setting up for a contender that is on or very close to the early lead.
6 Happy Jack 30-1
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
The O’Neill trainee has been beaten double digit lengths in all four of his starts since his maiden breaker in his debut. Sent off at 23-1 in the Kentucky Derby the colt trailed the field and ended up a well beaten 14th. He was no match for Taiba and Messier in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) two back and those two did not fire on Derby Day either. Blinkers are added but this guy has not come close to earning a figure good enough to be a threat in this spot and is going to be a big price.
7 Armagnac 12-1
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Tim Yakteem
This colt was a former Bob Baffert trainee that was transferred to Tim Yakteem. The trainer got two other Baffert runners for the Derby and Taiba and Messier were both disappointing, checking in 12th and 15th respectively. Armagnac was a well beaten fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and bounced back with a sharp first level optional claiming win at Santa Anita on May 8. The colt figures to be forwardly placed and picks up Irad but needs another move forward to be in the mix.
8 Epicenter 6-5
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
This colt looked well on his way to wearing the Roses two weeks ago before Rich Strike came calling late and spoiling the party for Asmussen who can’t seem to win the Kentucky Derby. The colt has earned back-to-back triple digit Beyer Speed Figures while the rest of the field has yet to hit that number at all. The colt was dominant in his previous two starts at Fair Grounds, winning the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2). The colt looks like a standout here for Asmussen who is 2 for 14 in this race, his winners coming with Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Curlin in 2007. The main knock is going to be the price which could be even money.
9 Skippylongstocking 20-1
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
This colt earned a career top speed figure in his third-place finish in the Wood where he was 3 ½ lengths back of runner up Early Voting. After showing speed in his early races he was rated in his last two which are his best efforts. The colt appears on the improve and looks capable of handling the extra distance here but still needs a jump forward to be competitive in this spot.
Epicenter indeed looks like a standout but it’s tough to bet him to win at 6-5 or less. Early Voting looks like the best option and figures to be around 3-1.
In the exotics I don’t see much value in playing trifectas or supers. I’ll try and beat the chalk with Early Voting in the exacta over Secret Oath and Simplification. And I’ll box Early Voting and Secret Oath in the exacta if the will pays are around $20+.
We likely are going to be able to find more value in some of the other races on the 14-race card or at Belmont Park which has a solid 11-race card on Saturday.