The Preakness (05/17/13)


A unique strategy for handicapping the Preakness Stakes. The contributor of this article is a lifelong horseplayer and owner. This is not an official pick.

The Preakness Stakes is my favorite of the Triple Crown races. Though the Derby gets all the hype and the Belmont is crowning jewel on the Crown, only those horses that can win the Preakness get a chance at immortality. And, coming into the Preakness, 100% of the Derby winners are alive to win the Triple Crown.

Enough with the hyperbole, here's the real reason why I love the Preakness. The best three year olds in the country have just two weeks rest between their most important effort (Derby) and this second leg. This transition from the Derby to the Preakness will be the basis for my analysis.

Two weeks ago I posted my Derby analysis, the foundation of the article was a two race pattern where I looked at the Equiform speed figure final numbers and their relationship between the two. That is, could we anticipate progression or regression in their Derby start.

While that assumption and approach worked successfully for the Derby, it is not the sole direction I will take for the Preakness. The main reason for adjusting the perspective is the assumption that each of the Derby starters put forth their best effort (given the importance of running well in the Derby from a Breeding perspective).

There are a “million” ways to handicap a race, however heading back into the vacuum I will look at the Derby final # and four furlong # and ratio for each of the Preakness starters. For the three who did not start in the Derby we can look at the two race pattern (akin to the Derby analysis) as well as their 4 furlong pace number ratio.

Before I review each horse, here's a down and dirty explanation of what is an Equiform 4 furlong pace number. The four furlong pace # indicates how fast each horse ran the first 4 furlongs of the race. The pattern between the 4 furlong pace # and the final time is what I will use as part of this Preakness evaluation.

The chart below lists each starter; the first set of numbers are the final race # and the bottom # is the associated 4 furlong pace #. The /w indicates that the horse won the race. In this evaluation, we'll look at the Delta between the final # and 4 furlong number as the lynchpin for analysis.

One more note, for a race of such magnitude there are only three horses who have won at least two of their last three starts.

Horse Measure Most recent race 2nd to last race 3rd to last race
Orb Final 78.25/w 74/w 73.5/w
4 Furlong 66 63 75
Goldencents Final 57.75 76/w 73
4 Furlong 82 75 78
Titletown Five Final 71.5 70.25 67.25
4 Furlong 80 82 73
Departing Final 75/w 72.5 72.5/W
4 Furlong 67 74 65
MyLute Final 76.75 74 72.25
4 Furlong 65 70 70
Oxbow Final 74.25 69.75 75.25
4 Furlong 81 65 72
Will Take Charge Final 73.25 75.25/w 65.5
4 Furlong 72 71 63
Govenor Charlie Final 74.75/w 73.5/w 68.75
4 Furlong 73 74 75
ItsMyLuckyDay Final 69 72.75 77.75/w
4 Furlong 80 65 77

Note: All comparisons and #'s listed below in analysis will go from most recent race to 3rd to last start.


His Derby effort was outstanding. His final # of 78.25 is 1.5 points faster than the nearest competitor, Mylute. Orb's last start was a 4.25 move forward and a relatively big jump off his 2nd to last race # of 74.

Looking at Orb's final #'s over the last three races and comparing them to each of those races 4 furlong pace #'s, his deltas are: +12.25 (78.25 final time vs. 66 four furlong), +11 (74/63) and -1.5 (73.5/75). You can see that each of the deltas increases, an indication that Orb's closing efforts (last 5-6 furlongs) are progressing.


His Derby effort of 57.75 was an anomaly. It was an 18.25 point regression off his previous start, and while not surprised he regressed in the Derby, his number of 57.75 must be discarded. Looking at his four furlong number of 82, it is clear that Goldencents will be on or near the lead. It's my contention that there is a fair amount of speed in the Preakness and given his final time/four furlong delta's of -24.25, +1 and -5 in his last three starts, Goldencents is too erratic and inconsistent for my money.

Titletown Five

His final times of 71.25, 70.25 and 67.25 are just too slow against his competition. Potentially a nice horse, Titletown Five is in over his head. Even his deltas are heading the wrong way: -8.5, -8.25 and -6.75. Toss.


Final Time #'s are solidly improving (75, 72.5, 72.5) and his deltas are heading the right way as well. (+8, -1.5, +7.5). It is not unreasonable to think that Departing could be sitting on a big effort, especially since he skipped the Derby and was pointed towards the Preakness. Progression of 1 or 2 points in the Preakness is expected and if the favorite regresses even a point off the final #, Departing has a shot. My key horse at a price.


This colt's last race of 76.75 is the second fastest last race final #. He improved a reasonable 2.75 off his prior start (74), which is progression while still within the boundary of not overdoing it.

His final time/4 furlong deltas of +10.75, +4 and +2.25 indicate that his late kick continues to improve. It's understandable that the linesmaker made him a second choice. On the fence about this one, will likely watch the tote board and if at 8:1 or higher, consider.


While Oxbow ran a 74.25 final # in the Derby and that # was a +4.5 move forward off his 2nd to last out of 69.75, his 4 furlong #'s are what is interesting.

Let's look at his final time/4 furlong deltas of -6.75, +4.75, and +3.25. The key note here is that his 4 furlong pace # of 81 (in the Derby) was a 16 point improvement off the 2nd to last race 4 furlong 3 of 65. It's also interesting that the 81 was his fastest 4 furlong number lifetime (I know this going back through all his races). The combination of the fastest 4 furlong # combined with a competitive final # is an indication that Oxbow is sitting on progression. Use underneath at a price.

Will Take Charge

His Derby final # was a half-step lower at 73.25 than a number of these. Notice that his 4 furlong #'s of 72, 71 and 63 are improving. Compared to Goldencents 82 or Orb's 66 it is clear that he'll be mid pack, unfortunately his deltas of +1.25, +4.25 and +2.25 respectively are not strong enough to outkick the others. Pass.

Governor Charlie

A newcomer on the scene, Charlie's final #'s of 74.75, 73.5 and 68.75 show progression. Looking at his 4 furlong pace #'s of 73, 74 and 75, they are consistent and what's even more interesting is his deltas between his final # and four furlong pace # are: +1.75, -.5 and -6.25. The most recent delta of 1.75 is the first time that Charlie's final # exceeded his four furlong pace #, this is an indication that progression can be expected, especially for lightly raced horses going long. For my money though, he only has three starts in which his three final #'s have improved, regression looks looming. Even at a price, I'll take a pass.


Final time # of 69 is the lowest of all nine starters and was a 3.75 point regression from his previous 72.75. It looks like that 77.75 in his third to last start drained the luck out of this colt who I will rename, Itsmyday. No thank you.

So that's the full field analysis. Here's how I'll play the race.

Orb and Departing Exacta box. Orb and Departing over Oxbow exacta.

Should you want to swing at the tri drop in Charlie and Mylute.