If Las Vegas is correct, the 140th Preakness Stakes will mirror the Kentucky Derby’s wild home stretch finish from two weeks ago.
Derby winner American Pharoah is the prohibitive favorite at 5/6 and the two he outlasted down the final 200 yards at Churchill Downs, runner up Firing Line at 5/1 and Dortmund at 11/2, are expected to again show at the 1 3/16-mile run at Pimlico on Saturday, according to Bovada.lv.
The predicted outcome seems all the more likely considering six of the 12 Preakness contenders ran in the Derby. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s duo of Carpe Diem and Materiality finished 10th and sixth, respectively, at the Derby, both poorer showings than expected.
However, Carpe Diem isn’t far behind the top three contenders at 14/1 odds, and Materiality’s next up at 16/1. Danzig Moon is the other horse to also race the Derby and comes in as a 22/1 longshot.
Mr. Z, from the same Zayat Stables connections as American Pharoah, would have been the seventh but his owner Ahmed Zayat said he wants to build the three-year-old colt’s confidence.
"I'm not running," Zayat said to The Courier-Journal. “I just don't see any merit for that. I know he didn't have a chance to run in the Derby. I know he was in huge traffic. But I think at this juncture I need to get him confidence. I know the horse is tenacious. I know he's all heart. I know he's fast. I know he was in a photo finish with Dortmund and Firing Line (in the Los Alamitos Futurity).
"So you would argue he's as talented as they are, at least on paper and actuality… I think I need to build his confidence back."
Mr. Z showed against stablemate American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby last month, but has lost 12 consecutive races and Zayat might be right in pulling him back. Although it does make things a bit easier for American Pharoah.
His times highly comparable to the last three Triple Crown threats, American Pharoah only claimed the Derby by one length but with a shorter track and fewer contenders in the field he could be the 14th thoroughbred to claim the first two jewels of horse racing’s annual gauntlet.
Zayat’s attitude and faith in American Pharoah are understandably high.
"It has been absolutely surreal. I'm not on cloud nine, I'm on cloud 29," Zayat said to ESPN. "It's so historical; it's such a big achievement that it didn't sink in right away. We're beyond tickled pink. Think about it, it doesn't get better."
Expected to depart his Louisville training grounds on Wednesday for the trip to Pimlico, American Pharoah and Dortmund each worked out Monday with a 1 1/2-mile gallop, according to Blood-Horse.
The new entrants making their debuts in the second leg of the Triple Crown and hoping to thwart American Pharoah’s progress include Competitive Edge, Divining Rod, Bodhisattva, Grand Bili and Tale of Verve. Though only Competitive Edge has been given the best chance to throw of American Pharoah at 16/1.
Stanford, who was scratched from the Derby and another of Pletcher’s contenders, is also expected to run and is listed at 40/1.
Of this new batch, Competitive Edge certainly has the pedigree to squash American Pharoah’s hopes.
Victorious in four straight, including the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile nine days ago, Competitive Edge is a descendant of 2010 Derby winner Super Saver. He’ll be a bit fresher than American Pharoah, a fact that derailed Triple Crown-hopeful California Chrome last year.
And there’s Bodhisattva and Tale of Verve, each coming of victories at 1 1/16 mile tracks. Owned and trained by Jose Corrales, Bodhisattva already took down Pimlico at the Federico Tesio last month, winning by 1 1/2 lengths, which suggests he could hang with American Pharoah in the closing seconds of the Preakness.
Though he’s yet to run in a stakes race, Tale of Verve won at Keeneland by one length and stands as threats to both Firing Line and Dortmund.
Early Betting Odds
American Pharoah 5/6
Firing Line 5/1
Carpe Diem 14/1
Competitive Edge 16/1
Divining Rod 22/1
Danzig Moon 22/
Grand Bili 50/1
Tale of Verve 50/1