Handicapping the 2021 Preakness Stakes

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With all the headlines surrounding Medina Spirit’s positive medication overage exiting the Kentucky Derby, the headline event of the weekend has seemingly flown under the radar. This year’s Preakness Stakes from Pimlico will not go down as one of the better renewals in recent memory, but there are still ten talented three-year-olds scheduled to go to the post in the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown. Below you will find the most likely winner of the Preakness, a horse who may offer some value in the race, along with a longshot to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon.

MOST LIKELY WINNER

Not only is Medina Spirit (#3, 9/5 morning line odds) the fastest horse in the race when it comes to Beyer Speed Figures, but he also projects to be the controlling pace in the race. One of two trained by Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit and John Velazquez are likely to employ the same tactics that propelled them to a first-place finish (for the time being) in this year’s Kentucky Derby, and it would be stunning to see a change in strategy in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. Yes, Concert Tour drawn to the outside has ample speed, but it seems extremely unlikely that the two Baffert trained runners would get into some sort of a speed duel. Look for Concert Tour to be the one to take back and sit just off Medina Spirit, allowing the Derby winner to have every opportunity to prevail if good enough. The 9/5 morning line odds (roughly 36% chance of winning) assigned to Medina Spirit do not seem like a reasonable expectation. Fair odds on the Derby winner would land closer to 7/5 (roughly 42% chance of winning), but, in all likelihood, he ends up closer to 1/1 by post time.

VALUE

Trainer Chad Brown has targeted the Preakness for Crowded Trade (#4, 10/1 morning line odds) for quite some time, and the path the son of More Than Ready has taken to this point is eerily similar to the one Cloud Computing (also trained by Brown) took en route to victory in the 2017 Preakness Stakes. After finishing second in a one-turn mile at Aqueduct on March 6, Crowded Trade stretched out to a two-turn event for the first time in his career in April’s Wood Memorial, a race in which he ultimately finished third. When dissecting the way the race was run, Crowded Trade’s performance becomes more intriguing, as he moved into the hottest part of the pace rounding the far turn before flattening down the lane. An ill-timed move may very well have cost him the race, and now the change to veteran rider Javier Castellano should put this colt in prime position to strike. Expect him to settle three or four lengths off the leaders down the backstretch before commencing a bid on Saturday. The morning line odds of 10/1 (roughly 9% chance of winning) would represent an overlay, as odds of 7/1 (roughly 13% chance of winning) seem more accurate.

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LONGSHOT

By no means a likely winner, the Japanese-based France Go de Ina (#7, 20/1 morning line odds) looks like a horse who can outrun his odds at a giant price. France Go de Ina is a unique entrant in this year’s Preakness, as he is based in Japan but has an American dirt pedigree in the truest sense. His sire, Will Take Charge, won the 2013 Travers at Saratoga Race Course, and he is out of a Curlin mare, suggesting he will run all day. In his three-year-old debut in the UAE Derby, France Go de Ina was a step slow from the gate, forcing him to race toward the rear of the field throughout. After running into traffic on multiple occasions, jockey Joel Rosario was eventually able to find daylight, and the colt responded with interest. With a cleaner break and better positioning on Saturday, France Go de Ina represents a horse who could spice up exotics at huge odds. His morning line odds of 20/1 (roughly 5% chance of winning) seem like an accurate representation of his chances of winning.

MATT BERNIER’S 2021 PREAKNESS PICKS

1) 3 – Medina Spirit, 9/5 ML
2) 4 – Crowded Trade, 10/1 ML
3) 5 – Midnight Bourbon, 5/1 ML
4) 7 – France Go de Ina, 20/1 ML