2022 Preakness Stakes: Ranking Each of the Horses
2022 Preakness Stakes: Ranking Each of the Horses
Since the Kentucky Derby, there have been several defections from the Preakness Stakes field. Most notably, the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike announced that the chestnut colt will skip the race and will run next at the Belmont Stakes. Additionally, third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Zandon will go straight to New York and Un Ojo, who had to skip the Kentucky Derby due to foot issues, was also pulled from the Preakness field for the same reason. What remains is a solid field with some familiar names mixed in with some new shooters. It feels like a top-heavy field with four strong win contenders, but below I rank the entire group based on how likely they are to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Here are the complete Preakness Stakes odds.
9. Fenwick 50-1
Took five races to break his maiden, but he eventually did it at Tampa Bay Downs while defeating former Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner Commandperformance. He followed that up with an 11th-place finish at the Grade I Blue Grass. Fenwick should be a factor early as he likes to get out on the lead, but he has yet to demonstrate that he is able to hang with this caliber of horses. If he wins, it might make Rich Strike's Kentucky Derby victory look mundane.
8. Happy Jack 30-1
Many considered him the worst horse to run in this year's Kentucky Derby, but he used the suicidal early pace of that race to his advantage as he sat back and passed fatiguing horses late. However, let's not overstate a 14th-place Kentucky Derby finish as some sort of moral victory. He still hasn't been within 10 lengths of the winning horse in his four starts since breaking his maiden.
7. Creative Minister 10-1
Trainer Ken McPeek did not have a lot of success at the Kentucky Derby with Smile Happy or Tiz the Bomb, but Creative Minister is an interesting new shooter from his barn for the Preakness. Coming off consecutive victories in a maiden and allowance race, he has shown the ability to handle two turns and should take to the 9.5 furlongs of this race. He is a deep closer who will need some pace to run into. His only loss in three career starts was in his debut effort when jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. just gave him a little too much ground to make up in a sprint race. That won't be the issue this time but whether such an inexperienced horse can handle the two-week turnaround from his last race is certainly worth questioning.
6. Armagnac 12-1
The Tim Yakteen-trained horse coming in from California is a fascinating entry. He was not within earshot of Kentucky Derby runners Taiba and Messier when he ran against them last month at the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. However, Armagnac came back from that race and beat a nice allowance field at Santa Anita during Kentucky Derby weekend. The two-week turnaround will be something new, but he broke his maiden on a three-week turnaround while stretching out to a new distance. Hard to find a way to get him to the winner's circle, but feels like an ascending horse whose best races are ahead of him.
5. Skippylongstocking 20-1
If you just look at his past performances you will see that he was beaten soundly by Simplification back in January at the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and finished third behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting at the Grade I Wood Memorial last month. However, he's consistently run against good competition and the Mucho Macho Man was his only bad performance. Additionally, he has a similar pedigree to Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and should like more distance. He ran well at the Wood Memorial to finish third at 17-1 odds that day. I would expect him to sit mid-back and make a charge. While I think a victory is out of reach, he seems primed to outrun his odds.
4. Simplification 6-1
Before the post draw, he was my second choice, but I do not like drawing the rail. He certainly has the tactical speed to overcome it, but his trip got a little more complicated. However, he is coming off a great Kentucky Derby in which despite going off as a 35-1 long shot, he finished fourth after sitting well back and getting a great ride from Jose Ortiz. Simplification has looked good coming out of the Derby and may have to be more forwardly placed due to his post position. The three-time winner has never turned in a poor effort and has finished in the top three in six of his last seven races. Jockey John Velazquez hops aboard for the mount as Jose Ortiz chose to ride Early Voting.
3. Early Voting 7-2
Trainer Chad Brown may have pulled Zandon from the Preakness field, but he pulled Early Voting from the Kentucky Derby specifically to point him toward this race. One of the many things that sets Brown apart is that he is one of the best at targeting and training for specific races. Early Voting is only running his fourth career race but has plenty of talent. He won the Grade III Withers by wiring the field and just got nabbed by Mo Donegal at the wire last time out at the Grade I Wood Memorial. He will not have to wire the field this time out as Fenwick represents the early speed, but that should be ideal. Brown's comments two weeks ago seemed to indicate that he would like Early Voting to sit just off the pace in order to give him a target to run at late. However, he's going a new distance and may be a little too close to the early speed of Fenwick, which might tire him out late. I could see several scenarios with him winning, but there is going to be a lot of quality running at him late.
2. Secret Oath 9-2
The Kentucky Oaks champion is running against the boys. We have seen fillies be successful at the Preakness in recent years with the victories of Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Swiss Skydiver in 2020. Can Secret Oath make it three fillies in the last 13 years? Possibly. She has a decent shot with the smaller field. The two-week turnaround is a question mark for multiple horses, but as witnessed in the Arkansas Derby, she can definitely pass the boys when she unfurls that devastating kick. In Arkansas, she had a rough trip and was not able to run down Cyberknife. Cyberknife would probably be the fifth-best horse in this field, so she will have to improve, but we saw her bounce back from that effort to beat the deepest field of three-year-old fillies in years. There are reasons to doubt she can get there, but Fenwick should give her the pace to run into and Luis Saez should have her perfectly positioned for an ideal trip.
1. Epicenter 6-5
The appropriate morning-line favorite. He ran an incredibly impressive second-place a little over a week ago at Churchill Downs. Despite the blistering speed early in the Kentucky Derby, Epicenter was the only horse from the front half of the field that was able to have enough left to kick for home. He held off his biggest challenger in Zandon and appeared to have the race won before the miraculous effort from Rich Strike. He will not face nearly the same speed upfront as he did last time and should be able to sit nicely behind the leaders. He feels like a slam dunk, but the only question is how much the Kentucky Derby took out of him. He's been firing off big efforts for the last five months, which can be hard to sustain, but the post position and likely race layout just set up perfectly for him.
Check back throughout the week for more Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness coverage.
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Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.