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Track Tracts

The Bettor Part of Valor
by Gordon Pine

With the Derby in our pocket, we now move from one of the best betting opportunities of the year (the Kentucky Derby) to what is usually an average or poor betting opportunity (the Preakness). Not that the Preakness isn't a great race - it's just not usually a great betting race. Why? Because the form of the year's crop is clearer, the wheat has separated from the chaff somewhat, some of the legitimate three-year-olds have dropped out to try again in the Belmont or later, the field size is smaller, the Pimlico track usually favors a frontrunner or presser, and so on.

So, per usual, I use my standard mechanical contender-selection method to narrow the field down to five or so horses. I take the highest two of each horse's last three speed figures and average them. That gives me a contender figure for each horse. (If there are only two races available in the pps, I average them. If there is only one race available, I use that as the number.) I then take the top five horses as my contenders. If anybody is tied for fifth, I include them. I'm using Cramer speed figures rather than Beyer speed figures this year. In the Preakness, here are my five contenders:

  • Lion Heart: 101.5 contender rating
  • Borrego: 99 contender rating
  • Smarty Jones: 105.5 contender rating
  • Imperialism: 98 contender rating
  • Rock Hard Ten: 99 contender rating

Of these contenders, Smarty Jones continues to look dominant. But Lion Heart should go for it early on, and in-front ain't a bad place to be in the Preakness. Especially if there's a thunderstorm and the pressers are getting mud in the face, he could have a nice shot at it. And Gary Stevens is flying in from France to ride Rock Hard Ten in the Preakness ' he's a serious contender despite only three pps.  Imperialism had a bad trip in the Derby and finished with a lot left.  He's hard to ignore, but you can't bet 'em all.

Here's my betting line for the Preakness:

Horse Fair Odds Bet Odds ML Odds
Smarty Jones 6/5 5/2 6/5
Lion Heart 9/5 7/2 3/1
The Cliff's Edge 8/1 13/1 5/1

As usual, I'll bet the overlays to win, box them in the exacta, and wheel them in the exacta top and bottom to the top two favorites.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there'll be any overlays (from my handicapping perspective) in this race.  If the morning line odds are similar to the track odds, I'll be skipping the Preakness ' often a good move from a betting standpoint.

I'll never get my required 5/2 on Smarty Jones. But it's just possible I'll get 7/2 on Lion Heart. If I do, there'll be a win bet on him and an exacta box with him and Smarty Jones.

I like the look of Rock Hard Ten as a longshot bet, but it doesn't look like I'll get 13/1. If they do offer that much of a gift, the bet will be on him, as well as a top-and-bottom exacta wheel against the top two favorites (probably Smart Jones and Lion Heart).

So, discretion will be the better part of valor in this race ' the Preakness is a skipper unless the public offers higher odds than expected on one of these three horses. That's okay - we can sit back and wait for better bets in the Belmont. (And hopefully watch the Lakers finish out the Spurs on Saturday night.) NC

Copyright 2004 NetCapper Inc.  All rights reserved.

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