No Triple Crown is on the line in this year's $1.65 million Preakness Stakes, with Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike skipping the second leg to prepare for the Belmont Stakes. But Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath will face the second- and fourth-place finishers from the Derby.
Here are the odds and analysis for the Preakness field of nine with the official Pimlico morning line. Post time for the Preakness, which will be run as race 13 of 14, is 7:01 p.m. EDT.
1. Simplification (6-1 – Not This Time – Antonio Sano / John Velazquez – 8: 3-1-2 - $665,350) Although the Kentucky Derby was the first time Simplification finished off the board in a dirt race, his fourth-place finish was another excellent effort. His post-position draw is a concern: From the rail he might be forced to use his speed to get position or risk being shuffled too far back. There is legitimate early speed in this field from Early Voting, Fenwick and Armagnac. Still he cannot be completely ignored and another finish in the exotics is possible, but he will not be 35-1 this time as he was on the first Saturday in May. Chance for trifecta or superfecta.
2. Creative Minister (10-1 – Creative Cause – Ken McPeek / Brian Hernandez, Jr. – 3: 2-1-0 - $140,595) Creative Minister began his career only two months ago and in three starts has two wins and a loss by a neck in his debut. At Keeneland, he broke his maiden on a sloppy track and then impressed in an allowance on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He had to be a $150,000 supplemental Triple Crown nomination to become eligible for the Preakness. Trainer Ken Mc Peek won the Preakness two years ago with the filly Swiss Skydiver. His speed figures made significant improvement each time that he ran. Live long shot.
3. Fenwick (50-1 – Curlin – Kevin McKathan / Florent Geroux – 6: 1-1-0 - $53,840) Fenwick broke his maiden in his fifth race in March at Tampa Bay Downs with a front-running effort where Commandperformance was second. He moved onto the Kentucky Derby trail in the Blue Grass (G1) and was a distant last-place finisher. The Preakness will be run at the sixth track for his third trainer. His 50-1 morning line odds seem to fit. Toss.
4. Secret Oath (9-2 – Arrogate – D. Wayne Lukas / Luis Saez – 8: 5-0-2 - $1,295,417) Secret Oath was an impressive winner of the Kentucky Oaks against a strong field of 14 while once again displaying a turn of foot that allowed her to take control of that race and draw away. She will attempt to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness, joining the two most recent – Swiss Skydiver in 2020 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Lukas has six wins in the Preakness, including Oxbow in 2013. With plenty of speed in the Preakness field, Secret Oath should get an ideal setup that will allow her to make the final – and possibly winning – move. Top choice.
5. Early Voting (7-2 – Gun Runner – Chad Brown / Jose Ortiz – 3: 2-1-0 - $321,500) Early Voting is a neck away from being unbeaten in three starts. That neck loss came in the Wood Memorial (G2) when he was caught by Mo Donegal in the nine-furlong Derby prep race. He has honest early speed and is expected to go to the front right out of the gate, but a couple of other horses can pressure the Chad Brown runner for the lead. Brown made the right decision to skip the Derby to run at Pimlico as he did when he won the Preakness in 2017 with Cloud Computing. Win contender.
6. Happy Jack (30-1 – Oxbow – Doug O’Neill / Tyler Gaffalione – 5: 1-0-2 - $182,200) The blinkers go back on Happy Jack, who ran 14th in the Derby after being last in the early going. Since he broke his maiden at first asking in a sprint at Santa Anita, he was beaten by double-digit margins in all four starts. He did finish third twice on the Derby trail in California, but he was far behind throughout those races. Trainer Doug O’Neill won the Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Happy Jack’s sire Oxbow won in 2013. Toss.
7. Armagnac (12-1 – Quality Road – Tim Yakteen / Irad Ortiz, Jr. – 5: 2-0-1 - $135,140) Armagnac was a later addition to the Preakness as trainer Tim Yakteen thought that his front-end victory in a Santa Anita allowance was enough to earn a chance in Baltimore. That win came against a field of six, and his speed could place him among the early leaders. Armagnac shows up with morning-line odds of 12-1 even though twice he was beaten by the 30-1 Happy Jack on the Derby trail in California. Toss.
8. Epicenter (6-5 – Not This Time – Steve Asmussen / Joel Rosario– 7: 4-2-0 - $1,610,639) Aside from his debut race, Epicenter was first or second in his next six races since November. That, of course, includes his second in the Kentucky Derby, where he battled to beat all of his expected challengers only to get defeated by the long shot Rich Strike. It’s been a long campaign for Epicenter, and he certainly deserves to be the favorite. Savvy handicappers are wondering whether he will be able to come up with another big effort after the ten-furlong battle in the Derby. Trainer Steve Asmussen has a pair of Preakness wins with Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Curlin in 2007. Win contender.
9. Skippylongstocking (20-1 – Exaggerator – Saffie Joseph Jr. / Junior Alvarado – 9: 2-1-2 - $165,100) Skippylongstocking was third in the Wood Memorial last month, but he was not a threat to win or even finish second. It was a positive to see him run well away from the Gulfstream Park base of his trainer. His sire Exaggerator won the Preakness in 2016. He will have to make a big step forward to be a contender. Toss.
Summary: Horses coming from the Kentucky Derby or other races that weekend have the advantage in the Preakness. This year’s field of nine has five of them – Simplification, Creative Minister, Secret Oath, Happy Jack and Epicenter. From that group Creative Minister, Secret Oath and Epicenter must be considered.
Epicenter looked like a winner in the Derby as he fought hard to defeat the expected challengers only to get upset by Rich Strike. You have to wonder whether that effort will take something out of Epicenter, and his 6-5 morning line odds are off-putting.
Creative Minister is on a roll right now and should run well on the heels of an easy victory on the Derby day undercard. He will have to take another step forward, but he is a threat if he does so.
On the other hand, Secret Oath had a far less strenuous race in her Oaks victory, is going to get an ideal pace scenario and as the morning line third choice, she is preferred.