Jeremy Plonk: How to Attack the Preakness Future Wager

Last year’s inaugural Preakness Future Wager handled more than $304,000, showing strong support from horseplayers across the country wanting to dive into the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Meanwhile, 2024 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pools are trending up in handle from previous highs, setting the stage for the return – and expansion – this week of the second Preakness Future Wager.

You can bet on the 149th running of the historic Preakness Stakes beginning Thursday at noon ET as the first of two Future pools runs through 8 pm ET on Saturday. Meet the Contenders for the Preakness Future Wager here. A second Preakness Future Wager will be held April 26-May 4 and close just moments before the running of the Kentucky Derby. This year’s Preakness is set for May 18.

From a strategy standpoint, approaching this 40-entry Preakness Future Wager Pool includes several notable handicapping considerations.

Bob Baffert’s Runners are Eligible to Compete

While still banned from the Kentucky Derby and its Future Wagers, Bob Baffert-trained horses are included in the 39 individual interests of the Preakness Future Wager and include the 4-1 morning line favorite NYSOS, 3-for-3 by 26-3/4 lengths so far; 10-1 unbeaten proposition MAYMUN; 20-1 offering MUTH, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and recent San Vicente winner; and 15-1 prospect COACH PRIME, third in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Gamblers eager to get down on the Baffert chances may potentially produce underlay prices on these runners, so go into it with a plan of what a fair price you think on each should be before investing. Overplay on these horses will cause an overlay price situation on others in the field.

Immediate Impacts

The Preakness Future Wager closes just after Saturday’s running of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, Gotham at Aqueduct and San Felipe at Santa Anita. Those fresh results typically have a disproportionate impact on Future Wagers that close in such proximity. Your price on one of these prep winners almost assuredly will be shorter than if they had not even competed this weekend, much less if they suffer a loss. On the flipside, horses from these preps who had a reasonable justification in defeat can give a forgiving handicapper inflated odds to attack in the Futures.

Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown Deserve Looks

This duo of top-notch stables has had at least one Preakness starter each in each of the past three years. Asmussen’s streak extends back each of the past seven years. Brown’s 2024 Preakness Future Wager entrants include 40-1 DOMESTIC PRODUCT and 15-1 SIERRA LEONE; Asmussen has 50-1 HALL OF FAME and 40-1 TRACK PHANTOM.

Todd Pletcher Rarely Targets the Preakness; Cox Trending That Way

Pletcher’s Preakness Future Wager entrants include AGATE ROAD, BORN NOBLE, FIERCENESS, LOCKED, SPEAK EASY and TUSCAN SKY – quite a 6-pack. But consider his participation in the Triple Crown series over the years. His 64 Kentucky Derby starters are far and away the all-time record for that race. But he’s run only 10 horses in the Preakness and just 3 in the last decade, including 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. Bottom line: Unless you think one of these 6 is the Kentucky Derby winner and will continue in his Triple Crown pursuit, the Preakness Future Wager Pool 1 might be a place to look elsewhere.

In this same vein, trainer Brad Cox has been more of a Derby-Belmont trainer in the past few years in a change of his approach to the middle jewel. He has CATCHING FREEDOM, JUST A TOUCH and NASH in the PFW Pool 1. And note those with past Derby-Belmont plans would be even more brazen to do so this year with the Belmont Stakes shortened to 1-1/4 miles at Saratoga while Belmont Park is closed for construction.

Which Horses Might the Calendar Smile Upon?

The calendar can be a cruel mistress to Triple Crown contenders as a horse is only 3 years old on the first Saturday in May for a single day in his or her entire life. Missing training time or a prep race on the trail can be all the setback needed to derail such plans. Horses who have been behind the schedule in winter and early spring can find some relief in the Preakness, even with its fixed date.

Unlike the Kentucky Derby, there’s not qualifying points involved to make the field, the distance is slightly shorter and more achievable and you get an extra two weeks of developmental time, which can be as much as two additional workouts. Also, horses who got a late start to the season (or didn’t exit the maiden ranks until late winter) often run out of time and opportunities to become a Kentucky Derby horse; they could fit here. Even if a late bloomer does make the Kentucky Derby field, they’ll do so lightly raced and give their connections more optimism that they’re not over the top and more capable of coming back on the two-week turnaround.

Among those with the ‘lost time’ element include 30-1 KNIGHTSBRIDGE and 50-1 SNEAD. The late bloomers include the likes of 50-1 VICTORY AVENUE, 40-1 CONQUEST WARRIOR, 60-1 DRIP and the aforementioned pair of MAYMUN and JUST A TOUCH.

Bits and Pieces

Horses who skipped the Kentucky Derby have won the Preakness each of the last 4 years, so don’t look down on a horse in the PFW who is short on Kentucky Derby qualifying points right now … While Japanese runner Lani did compete in all 3 Triple Crown legs of 2016, the more recent consensus from those overseas runners looking at America’s big 3 has been to focus on the Derby and Belmont. That said, Japan’s highly promising FOREVER YOUNG may be a Preakness player if he wins in Louisville, but a risk assumption with anything short of victory … ENDLESSLY earned an automatic berth to the Preakness by winning the El Camino Real Derby at Pimlico’s sister track Golden Gate Fields. That path worked for 2021 Preakness winner Rombauer, but there’s some question whether the turf specialist ENDLESSLY would compete on dirt at this level.

What’s a Fair Price?

My rule in Future Wagers over the years has been based on how many more starts will the horse make before the destination race? Each one of those adds risk to their likelihood of racing (chance for poor performance, physical setback).

I demand 30-1 or more on any horse that has to run twice more before the race in question. Too much can go wrong to take a shorter price. If your horse is likely to run in the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby, you’ll want at least 30-1 to play for the Preakness, for example. The average Thoroughbred race winner is about $11, so I want at least 5 times that when taking such risk.

Now, if your horse only has one more race before the race in question, it becomes clearer and less risky. My approach has been to assume victory in that next race; why else would you think a horse will win the BIG one if you don’t think they’ll win the next one?

Now put yourself in the oddsmaker role. What price do you think your horse will be in the destination race if he wins his next start: Is he among the favorites … the middle prices … or still a longshot? Put him in that category and then double the anticipated price in the Future Wager that you’ll want in order to assume the risk of another race yet to go. If you think he’ll be a Preakness favorite in the 2-1 to 4-1 range, then you’ll need at least 4-1 to 8-1 in the Futures to acquire any minimum level of value.


continue reading