Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter reprises his role as Triple Crown race favorite for the second time in as many races, coming into the 148th Preakness Stakes as the 6/5 morning-line favorite.
Pimlico Race Course’s morning-line author David Feustle tabbed the Derby runner-up as the definitive favorite during Monday afternoon’s post-position draw in Baltimore. The Louisiana Derby and Risen Star winner will start from Post 8 in Saturday’s nine-horse Preakness.
“I think it’s absolutely ideal,” trainer Steve Asmussen told the Maryland Jockey Club about that post position. “You could say we’re half as nervous as the draw for the Derby, when you go from 20 runners to nine. I think that makes it that much more beneficial to everybody as far as post-position draw goes. With that being said, it’s exciting to run against Early Voting, me being a huge fan of Gun Runner (an Asmussen trainee). So I’m very excited to see him, but obviously anxious for Epicetner’s opportunity in the Preakness.”
Epicenter left the Churchill Downs gate as the 4.10/1 favorite in the 20-horse Derby nine days ago. He was 50 yards from the winner’s circle when 80/1 long shot Rich Strike snatched and grabbed the race away with a marvelous rail ride.
Early Voting lying in wait for this race
As for Early Voting, Chad Brown’s new shooter is the second favorite at 7/2. The Wood Memorial runner-up bypassed the Derby for the Preakness. From Post 5, Early Voting attempts to give Brown his second Preakness title in five years. He and owner Seth Klarman won the 2017 Preakness with 17/1 Cloud Computing.
Early Voting could have run the Derby. He had enough points. But Brown opted for the Preakness, citing his front-running style, the smaller field and his similarity to Cloud Computing.
“Terrific. I wanted to be somewhere in the middle, so that will work,” Brown said, pleased with the draw.
Can we see two victorious Preakness fillies this decade?
The other new shooter of note, filly Secret Oath, drew Post 4. Feustle put 9/2 odds on the Kentucky Oaks winner, who captured that race from the rail. A victory here would give fillies two of the last three Preakness titles. Swiss Skydiver took the 2020 pandemic Preakness run in October.
A Secret Oath victory here would give Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his seventh Preakness title.
Earlier this past weekend, owner Rob Mitchell told Horse Racing Nation this is Secret Oath’s last running with the boys. She will run against her own sex for the duration of her career.
No matter that Simplification got railed
While the Preakness rail isn’t the post of death it usually is in the Derby, someone’s gotta ride the rail. Here, that someone is Simplification (6/1). who comes in off his fourth-place Derby finish at 35.30/1. He, Epicenter and Happy Jack (Post 6-30/1) are the only Derby horses tangling in the Preakness.
“I saw speed to the outside. It doesn’t change our strategy,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “At first, I thought ‘No good,’ but (jockey) Johnny V (Velazquez) is so smart. He will make the decision if he has to go outside.”
The beauty of a nine-horse field is there are no bad posts. Every trainer liked where they found themselves. Even connections of 50/1 Fenwick, the longest shot on the board who starts from Post 3, have no issues with post position.
‘Right in the middle’ with the Preakness’ longest shot
“The draw was perfect,” trainer Kevin McKathan said. “I wanted to be right in the middle.”
McKathan has other issues with the 11th-place Blue Grass Stakes finisher, who finished last — 36 lengths back of Zandon. But post position isn’t one of them.
“I deserve to be 50/1 how we ran last time. I deserve to be that, maybe 60/1,” he said.