Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Weakness of Preakness 2012

By John Woods

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This year’s Preakness Stakes looks to be relatively uneventful as far as betting goes, as four horses stand above the other seven. Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another appear to be the class of the field, and if either fail Went the Day Well and Creative Cause should win. This does not bode well for odds, which means it’s time to look into exotics.

My favorite exotic bet is a trifecta, requiring the bettor to select the top three finishers in order. My father and I usually split a $24 box ticket, meaning we bet $1 on a combination of four horses to win, place, and show.
To illustrate how I pick a trifecta I’ll look back at the 2008 Derby, the race of my greatest betting triumph. To start I eliminate every horse at around 30-1 or above, unless there's something there I love. Which is usually nothing. That took out about half the field in 2008, 8 horses to be exact. Next, as Churchill Downs has a dirt track, I eliminate any horses that have won primarily on a poly track. In this case: Monba, Bob Black Jack, Visionaire, Big Truck, and second choice Colonel John. As a corollary: if a horse flopped on poly, I don't automatically throw it out. Denis of Cork's only loss came on a poly track, and I liked his closing speed. (Actually, he lost on a dirt track. Dad thought Hawthorne Race Course had a poly track. It's not. But I'm not complaining.) Then I take the favorite and at least one of the lowest prices left. Big Brown was mandatory for selection, as was either Pyro, Eight Belles, or Court Vision.

I was left with Big Brown, Eight Belles, Pyro, Denis of Cork, Court Vision, and longshots Z Humor and Gayego. I went with the first four. Big Brown, the morning favorite, and third favorite Pyro (also my pick to win) were mandatory. Filly Eight Belles was horse 3. I love fillies. They generally get underbet, and she was more talented than pretty much every colt in this race. The last pick was closer Denis of Cork, my longshot; I always throw a longshot in, because one usually gets up.

I watched the race at the Meadowlands simulcast thinking nothing would happen.  Big Brown romped to a 5 length victory. Eight Belles placed, and I couldn’t make out the show. (Blame the odd post colors.) Seeing Pyro finish a well-beaten 8th led me to get up and leave. Then my father called me. His shaking voice barely got out that Denis of Cork had showed. I excitedly looked back at the screen. 20-5-16. We had hit the trifecta. Trembling I hung up, and clutching the ticket walked over to the tote windows. The minutes grew interminable.

Finally the results were official. The trifecta was $3445.60. Even with betting a $1 box that came to over $1700. The attendant had to close the window while she got tax forms for me to fill out. I tipped her a $50 (she was closed while the other windows raked in cash) and left. I had no idea that Eight Belles had broken both ankles until I got home.

I'll Have Another surprised most at the Kentucky Derby.

Preakness fields are limited to 14 horses at most, and usually 8-12 horses run. Trifectas are therefore easier to pick, though prices rarely get as high as in the Derby. Even though odds are usually much lower, good deals can still be found; look at the 2008 race, where a 1-5 Big Brown win still paid out a $336.80 trifecta with 40-1 Macho Again and 22-1 Icabad Crane, or Smarty Jones’ even-money win in 2004 paying $177.20 with 7-1 Rock Hard Ten and 13-1 Eddington in the trifecta.
This race reminds me very much of 2007, when Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Circular Quay were far and away the best horses in the field. The trifecta was $100 thanks to 7-2 Curlin beating 3-2 Street Sense and 4-1 Hard Spun, with Circular Quay finishing 5th. I didn’t have to go through my normal trifecta picking method because it would have been useless. The hardest decision was tossing out Circular Quay, who I figured would bounce, in favor of longshot C P West (4th).

Both Bodemeister and I'll Have Another are mandatory inclusions in a trifecta. But Bodemeister doesn’t have any early speed in the race, and the last time that happened (Arkansas Derby) he won by 9 1/2 lengths. I don’t see I’ll Have Another being able to close this time. I’ll go with Creative Cause over Went the Day well for the third horse; Creative Cause has both a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure and a better running style, while Went the Day Well ran the race of his life in the Derby and still finished 4th. I’m guessing he’ll bounce.

If I pick a fourth horse to include I have two interesting longshots to choose. NY-bred Zetterholm has only an 85 Beyer to speak of, and has sprint breeding, yet Rick Dutrow chose to run him here. My father likes him simply for that reason – why would a well-respected trainer run a terrible horse in a Grade I race? There has to be a reason. Cozzetti has great closing speed and a classic distance breeding to match, and though he hasn’t put up great Beyers he was one of the few horses that could catch up to Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby. His trainer also won last year’s Preakness with Shackleford.

Prediction: Bodemeister wins, with Creative Cause placing over I’ll Have Another.

1 comment:

  1. I'll Have Another...Bodemeister...Creative Cause...Good enough for me, Mr. Woods I will contact you before the Belmont hah