Coming out of the Kentucky Derby starting gate two weeks ago, Irish War Cry and Rajiv Maragh took a hard left turn and delivered a cross body block that would’ve made Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana, and Bayern proud. For Classic Empire, the result was the loss of any chance to win the Run for the Roses, and that he somehow managed to salvage fourth despite the incident can be seen, in hindsight, as a minor miracle.
Two weeks later, Classic Empire is back in the Preakness, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. He’ll line up directly outside of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, who had nothing short of a perfect trip in his victory earlier this month. That’s not to demean Always Dreaming’s victory, or the stellar jobs done by trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, but what this means is that Always Dreaming could be a wagering underlay for stand-alone, win-only purposes.
I’ll be using both of those horses in multi-race exotics wagers. However, for the purposes of win-only wagers, I think Classic Empire is the play in the Preakness. He was my Derby pick, and even though he didn’t win that day, he ran a winning race. Given the smaller field and more of a chance to show his tactical speed, he’ll have every opportunity to turn the tables Saturday in Maryland.
With that in mind, here are my multi-race exotics tickets for Preakness Day at Pimlico. There are plenty of opportunities to take swings, and the guaranteed pools mean that if you hit, you’ll likely be rewarded handsomely.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #2
R6: 3,6 (15)
90 or 108 bets, $45 or $54
Many aspects of this ticket require some explanation. First of all, a Pick Four starts in the third, and if you want to play it, you can, for the same amount. As mentioned yesterday, given a single in the first leg of a Pick Five and the substantially-lesser takeout, it makes no sense not to play THAT wager instead.
My single is #2 Commend, whose form going short on turf is very good. He missed by a head three back in stakes company, and it’s safe to assume something went wrong two back, because we didn’t see him for nearly six months. His comeback race was much longer than he wants to run, and he gets his desired trip Saturday in his second start off a layoff.
Finally, you’ll notice an asterisk by #1 Elusive Joni, who I’ve used in the fifth at Pimlico. That means that, if #15 Barney Rebel draws into the sixth and you need a horse to throw out to keep costs down, that’s the one I’d recommend. If you keep her on the ticket, it becomes a $67.50 ticket, and that’s too expensive for me to comfortably give out.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6
R6: 1,3,6 (15)
39 or 52 bets, $19.50 or $26
The value of the ticket is contingent upon whether or not Barney Rebel draws in. Because I had the budget to do so, I also threw in #1 Jose Sea View, who was a tough omission from my Pick Five ticket.
My two singles will likely be heavy favorites. Recruiting Ready has been focused on sprints since a failed attempt going a mile three back, and his runaway win in the Bachelor was extremely impressive. Speaking of impressive, Whitmore is undefeated in sprints, and he’ll likely be favored in the Maryland Sprint, which doubles as the payoff leg of this sequence.
The presence of those two singles allows me to hit the “ALL” button in the eighth, the James W. Murphy. Simply put, I don’t have a clue about this race, so I’m hoping we get a price home between two short prices. If that happens, this Pick Four could pay pretty handsomely.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #9
80 bets, $40
This is another instance where I feel the need to give out a Pick Five ticket, since there’s a single in the opening leg. That’s Whitmore, who was profiled above. Having said that, you may want to play both the Pick Five and the Pick Four, as the all-stakes Pick Four boasts a guaranteed pool of $2 million.
The Gallorette (Race #10) and the Dixie (Race #12) are both wide-open races. The favorites may not be much more than 3-1 or 7/2 in either spot, which, combined with guaranteed pools, makes for a VERY juicy sequence. The 11th is the Sir Barton, and while Hedge Fund merits respect, my top pick is Time to Travel, who adds Lasix and John Velazquez in his second start for trainer Michael Matz.
We end with the Preakness, and I’m using the two logicals on my Pick Five ticket. However, the course of action I’d recommend, if you’re playing both tickets, is to single whoever your top choice is in the Preakness so you can spread further in some of the other races in the sequence. Want to hit the “ALL” button in either the Gallorette or the Dixie to be safe, or add a few horses into the Sir Barton? Do that. There’s still substantial overlap between your tickets to where you could hit both. It’s all a matter of picking the right horse in the second leg of the Triple Crown. No pressure!