While the $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1) is the focal point on Saturday at Pimlico and the lone race many will watch and wager on, there are a dozen other races on the marathon nine hour card, so be patient and pace yourself, it is going to be a long day.
All hail Kegasus.
The marquee event of the day matches up the top two finishers from the Kentucky Derby (G1), and most seem to think that Bodemeister has the tactical advantage over Derby winner I’ll Have Another.
The Bob Baffert trainee will not have to deal with the likes of Trinniberg and Hansen, and with the Pimlico racing surface having a reputation of being kind to speed, the colt figures to go off as the solid favorite.
I’ll Have Another meanwhile has had picture perfect trips in his last two starts and will have to get another solid ride from Mario Gutierrez if the colt is going to win the race and head off to Belmont Park for a shot of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
A case can be made for Went the Day Well and Creative Cause, the fourth and fifth place finishers respectively in the Derby, both getting less than stellar trips on the first Saturday of May.
There are five newcomers to the party, with Wood Memorial (G1) third place finisher Teeth of the Dog perhaps having the most upside, and the colt is trained by Michael Matz, trainer of the ill-fated Barbaro.
The wagering festivities kick off nearly eight hours before the Preakness field will load into the gate with a field of 13 second level optional claimers going five furlongs on the turf at 10:30am ET.
The stakes action kicks off in the third race with the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap (G3) for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Grade 1 winner Zagora is seeking to bounce back from a rare subpar performance in a fifth place finish in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland and will be the likely betting favorite.
A field of eight three-year-olds will line up in the $100,000 Chick Lang, which goes off as the eighth race on the card.
The Patrick Biancone trainee Innocent Man ships in from Southern California undefeated in two career starts and is the even money favorite.
Biancone, who once served a suspension when authorities found snake venom in his barn is anything but an “innocent man” so forgive me for trying to beat the gelding.
The $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (G3) drew a competitive field of ten who will go six furlongs on the main track.
Favoritism will likely come down to Diski Dance, Hamazing Destiny, and Bandbox in a wide open race.
It is back on turf for the ninth race, the $100,000 James W. Murphy for three-year-olds that drew a full field of twelve.
Trainer Christophe Clement ships in recent first level optional claimer winners Easy Crossing and Achilles, who will both be making their stakes debuts.
Pilgrim (G3) winner Shkspear Shaliyah and Illinois Derby (G3) winner Done Talking are looking to bounce back off subpar efforts in their last starts while Hammers Terror is coming off a good effort in a third place finish in the Lexington (G3) over polytrack at Keeneland.
The tenth race on the card is the $100,000 Allare Dupont Distaff (G3) which drew a field of nine fillies and mares that will go 1 1/16 miles on the Pimlico main track.
The D. Wayne Lukas trained Absinthe Minded is looking to bounce back off a fourth place finish in the La Troien (G2) at Churchill Downs and is the 8-5 morning line favorite.
Hall of famer Bob Baffert ships in Awesomemundo for her stakes debut. The filly beat second level optional claimers by 7 ½ lengths in her most recent outing and is owned by Baffert’s wife Jill.
The race preceding the Preakness is the $300,000 Dixie (G2), a nine furlong test on the grass for older runners that drew a field of eleven.
Five of the runners in the field are coming into the race off wins including Henry Clark winner Hudson Steele, Autumn (G2) winner Straight Story, and Muniz Jr. Handicap (G2) winner Casino Host.
In addition to the full card at Pimlico, I will also have my full card reports for Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, meaning I will have selections for 34 races on Saturday.
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Get Michael Dempsey’s full card report Preakness Day at Pimlico! Michael is a Maryland bred who cut his teeth on the backstretch at Maryland tracks and as a horse owner, handicapper, and gambler, he knows Pimlico from the backstretch to the finish line.
Go to the Buy Picks Page for his Preakness Day Report as well as his full card reports for Belmont Park and Churchill Downs.