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2014 Preakness Stakes: Statistics and Picks

With the first Saturday in May behind us, we look to the 2nd jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown...also known as the Preakness.  A couple weeks ago we took a look at some unique statistics behind the Kentucky Derby, and now for the Preakness we're doing the same thing including my betting interests (at the bottom).

The Preakness is sometimes thought of as the little brother to the Kentucky Derby.  While it doesn't carry the same purse ($1 million instead of $2 million) and lacks some of the bling and media circus, the Preakness is shrouded in history...this year's race being the 139th edition.

Even if you don’t know how to read a race program, here are a few statistics that will hopefully help you with your pick.  Let's start by looking at win percentages by post position.

Post Position Winning %
While the shortest path to the finish line is at the inside rail, the #1 position is tough to win from in both the Preakness as well as the Kentucky Derby.  The last time the #1 horse won the Derby was in 1986 while the Preakness was last won by the #1 post position in 1994 by horse Tabasco Cat with legendary Pat Day the jockey. Meanwhile the outside post has won exactly 1 Preakness in 139 years (Rachel Alexandra in 2009).

Here’s how the post positions have fared since 1984 (the last 30 years):

Post Position

# of Starts Wins Win %
7 30 7 23%
6 30 5 17%
13 6 1 17%
4 28 4 14%
3 30 3 10%
12 11 1 9%
9 26 2 8%
8 29 2 7%
11 15 1 6%
10 18 1 6%
5 29 1 3%
1 30 1 3%
2 30 1 3%
14 3 0 0%

Looking at the above grid, the inside positions of #1 and #2 have had a tough go. At post time the #1 and #2 horses are usually the first to load in the gate and can sometimes sit for a minute or more before the starting gate opens.  This can allow the inside horses to relax and leave the gate late, or let anxiety build and build to the point where it is no longer focused on the race.  This isn't the case with every horse, but with big crowds and noise you can imagine sitting in a gate for a lengthy period isn't an advantage.  

An additional reason for the lack of success for inside positions is that the turns at Pimlico race course are tighter than most larger race tracks.  Since 1995, there hasn't been a Preakness winner from post positions 1 through 3.

Biggest Longshot Payoffs
There are always a couple long shots in the Preakness, but because the field size is smaller than the Kentucky Derby (limited to 14 horses) we don't see very many super-long shots.  That being said lots can happen in a race, and the horses don't know what their odds are.  In a race with 10 horses, the favorite can still get boxed in or be forced way wide, leaving the door open for a horse that gets a perfect trip.

Here are the biggest Preakness Stakes payoffs ever:

Year Winner $2 Win Payoff
1975 Master Derby $46.80
1926 Coventry $43.60
1983 Deputed Testamony $39.00
1926 Display $38.70
1972 Bee Bee Bee $37.40
2013 Oxbow $30.80
1909 Effendi $30.00
1900 Hindus $30.00

Here are some other Preakness fun facts:

  • Longshot fishing, there have only been 3 horses win the Preakness at odds of 10-to-1 or higher in the last 30 years.
  • Girl Power - this year will mark the first time in Preakness history that a filly (Ria Antonia), female jockey (Rosie Napravnik), and a female trainer (Linda Rice) will all compete at once.  No female jockey or trainer has ever won, but 5 fillies have.
  • Close finishes - 14 of the last 30 Preakness races have been won by less than a length.
  • 11 Kentucky Derby winners have come back to win the Preakness since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 (35 years ago). 
  • 33.3% is the win-percentage of favorites since 1984 (10 wins)
  • 8 of the last 12 Derby favorites returned to run first or second in this race (California Chrome was Derby favorite).
  • $4,000,000 - appraised value of the Woodlawn Vase, the trophy given to the winning owner.
  • 6:18pm ET - the Preakness post time this Saturday.

My 2014 Preakness Picks
I'm feeling fairly confident after picking the winner, 3rd, and 5th place horses in the are my picks for the Preakness:

  • #8 Social Inclusion (5-1) - he is fresh after missing the Derby, and he has been lightly raced.  I think this up and comer will give another honest effort (2 wins and 1 third in three lifetime starts).  His final workout prep was very fast (4 furlongs in 47 sec). If he can improve just a little more, he wins.  And his odds will offer more value than California Chrome.

  • #3 California Chrome (3-5) - he has been scintillating in his last three victories, and made his derby win look easy.  His status as the hot favorite is well earned. That said, he had a perfect trip in the Derby, no traffic problems in a lead stalking ride.  Worth noting that 6 of the last 7 Preakness winners have come from WAY wide to win.  The turns are a little tighter at Pimlico, and he will be inside on the rail or in the 2 wide path. I'm betting that Chrome gets caught, but stays in the top 2.

  • #7 Kid Cruz (20-1) - this 'come from behind' horse is taking a big step up in competition, but this race might set up perfectly for him.  There's no shortage of front running speed horses, if they duel at a quick pace I see Kid Cruz rolling late and picking up the pieces.  He's the only horse in the Preakness that has raced at Pimlico race course, a race in which he won.  Oh yeah, and the 23% win clip from the 7 post doesn't hurt either.  I think he gets a top 3 piece for sure, and he's my longshot to win it all.

I'm also throwing #2 General a Rod (15-1) in my exacta and triacta boxes...good luck with your picks!

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