I'll Have Another (outside) and Bodemeister were two trustworthy favorites during the 2012 Triple Crown series. They finished first and second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
There’s money to be won if you bet the Preakness Stakes, but you need to be willing to dig a little beneath the surface. My organization, the Jim Hurley Network, has turned the Preakness into profits over the last 29 years because we do precisely that. I refer to the big paydays that await on the exotics, and the horses that key them.
The winner of the Preakness Stakes has an average payout of $16.16 over the last five years, which is a solid payday, well above the average of what you see on a typical day at any track in the country. But the exacta, trifecta and superfecta are where the big money is. And with an 11-horse field, 45 percent less than the Kentucky Derby, it stands to reason that your chances of putting together an exotic box that will cash in are much better.
That’s certainly true, and the average payouts over the last five years on the exotics provide all the incentive we need ...
- The average exacta paid at $192.54
- The average trifecta delivered $1,304.08
- And the average superfecta was a $10,150.96 bonanza!
It’s tempting to immediately look for the longshot horses that will jack up the exotic payouts. And that’s certainly a vital part of the process. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The reality is that not every favorite is going to flame out so badly that they don’t even finish in the top four. You’re going to need to identify the favorite you can trust—not that you bet him to win the race at a low price—but simply to include in your exotic bets on the Preakness Stakes.
How do you identify a favorite you can trust and one that’s set to disappoint? Often times, the clues lie in that horse’s pre-Preakness résumé. In our five-year window, there have been 11 horses that were either the favorite, or priced very closely to the actual favorite, that proved necessary to trigger an exotic payout. Finding the longshot was great, but pairing them up with the favorites below was even more lucrative.
ELEVEN FAVORITES WHO COULD BE TRUSTED
What follows is the résumé each of the 11 horses compiled prior to coming to the Preakness. Note any similarities you see, while staying aware that sometimes a similarity is just coincidence.
Rachel Alexandra (Won 2009 Preakness): She was the first filly in 85 years to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Running against the girls, Rachel dominated, with seven wins in her previous 10 races. This included a dominating performance in the Kentucky Oaks, the filly race that precedes the Kentucky Derby. It was enough to get her running with the boys, and she delivered.
Mine That Bird (2nd in 2009 Preakness): Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby victory was preceded by four wins in Canada, a second-place finish in the Borderland Derby and a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby.
Musket Man (3rd in 2009 Preakness): He ran third in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that he won the Illinois Derby and Tampa Bay Derby, part of a résumé that included five wins and two third-place finishes in seven trips to the post before the Preakness.
Lookin At Lucky (Won 2010 Preakness): Trained by Bob Baffert, the best in the West, Lookin At Lucky won six of eight pre-Triple Crown races, included the Rebel Stakes. A disappointing sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby triggered a jockey change that helped produce a Preakness win.
Animal Kingdom (2nd in 2011 Preakness): He competed in only one graded stakes race prior to the Triple Crown but ran strongly in four starts, recording a pair of seconds and two wins in four races. Then he got the biggest win of all, taking the Kentucky Derby.
ANIMAL KINGDOM AFTER WINNING THE 2011 KENTUCKY DERBY
I’ll Have Another (Won 2012 Preakness): He came to the Preakness riding high off his Derby win. Prior to the Triple Crown, I’ll Have Another had a good but not a great résumé. Four stakes races produced two wins, one second and one sixth-place finish.
Bodemeister (2nd in 2012 Preakness): The rival to I’ll Have Another in their great battles of the 2012 Triple Crown, he had a short but strong résumé coming in to the Triple Crown with a win in the Arkansas Derby and a second-place finish in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. He entered the Preakness off a second in the Kentucky Derby.
Creative Cause (3rd in 2012 Preakness): He was very consistent coming into the Triple Crown. In eight races, he never finished lower than third … until the Kentucky Derby, when he came in fifth.
Mylute (3rd in 2013 Preakness): Mylute was up and down and all over the place. He finished seventh in the Risen Star Stakes but second at the Louisiana Derby. He won some non-descript races, placed in stakes at Delta Downs (3rd in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot) and Prairie Meadows and also finished fifth in a graded stakes race at Arlington.
Orb (4th in 2013 Preakness): Five straight wins paved his way to the Preakness, escalating in importance from a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct to the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream and finally to his victory in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
ORB WINNING THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Photo by Coglinese Photos
Did anything jump out at you? Certainly, all of these horses had résumés that warranted recommending them. The conundrum of how to handle the Derby winner becomes evident here—four of the five Derby winners (Mine That Bird, Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another and Orb) all belonged on exotic tickets but only I’ll Have Another was able to win. It’s a reminder that while respect for the Derby winner is appropriate and necessary, it’s a mistake to slavishly follow the mainstream media and jump on him.
Ultimately, the question of how to handle the favorites is one that requires delicate balance and a proper understanding of value. You don’t want to waste your money betting horses at low prices that have no better chance of winning than a horse with longer odds and a good résumé of his own. But on the flip side, some of these favorites have proven necessary to cash a big exotic ticket.
How do you decide which way to play it? At the Jim Hurley Network, which I founded in 1985, the way we decide is to have our stat handicappers pore through the performance charts of each race. They look at the speed ratings, who starts strong and who has a closing kick. We have experts who watch video of those same races looking for subtle clues that numbers alone won’t tell you. And we’re on the phone with on-scene sources from around the country, who watch these horses in their morning works and talk to their connections
It all provides me with a complete package of information, so that my clients come into every Preakness Stakes confident that we know which Derby runners aren’t going to recover on two weeks’ rest (a shorter timeframe that most have ever run on) and which new shooters are going to offer great value on the morning line. That’s how we end up celebrating at race’s end and going to the window to cash our exotic tickets.