The 20-horse field at the Kentucky Derby doesn't just provide splendid visuals year after year, but also monster payouts in the wagering pools due to the complexity of the race. The Preakness field is limited to 14 starters and many times the race will draw fewer than a full gate which tends to spur a couple of results: typically a cleaner run race (less bad trips), and smaller payouts at the betting windows.
While in the Kentucky Derby it might make sense to play huge trifecta or superfecta in the hopes of hitting that life-altering score, casting a wider net with your wagers at Pimlico can leave you with a poor return on investment if the race turns chalky.
With the pleasantries out of the way, let's take a look at the wagering payouts at the Preakness since the year 2000. First, we'll look at the Win, Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta wagers. All payouts are normalized to $2 (unless other wise noted).
|Year||$2 Win||$2 Exacta||$2 Tri||$2 Super|
As you can see right off the bat, short priced horses do awfully well in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Over the last 13 years, only three Preakness winners have paid more than $10 for a $2 win bet (2000: $14.40, Red Bullet; 2006: $27.80, Bernardini; and 2011, $27.20: Shackleford). Typically, there are a lot less question marks surrounding the horses in the Preakness as compared to the Derby, as a result the betting public rarely lets the winner exit the gate at a juicy price. Additionally, since 2000 the favorite has finished worse than second only two times: Barbaro finished 9th in 2006 and Super Saver finished 8th in 2010. So if you're constructing an exacta, trifecta or superfecta ticket and you're contemplating tossing the favorite and going for the big cash, buyer beware.
Despite the fact that the favorite tends to perform very well in the Preakness, the exacta payouts are certainly something to take a shot at if you're willing to play a smaller ticket for a larger base amount. The median exacta since 2000 is $81.40 for a $2 base wager, a healthy return when you consider all of the favorites hitting the the top two during that time frame. Take a look at last year's exacta which featured the two favorites: I'll Have Another and Bodemeister. An $18.60 payout for a $2 bet doesn't seem like much but a 8/1 return for two colts that were clearly the best of the bunch isn't bad at all. Had a player loaded up with a two-horse exacta box for a $20 base bet ($40 total), they'd have $180.60 coming back to them at the end of the race. (And last year's exacta was the lowest payouts since the year 2000.)
Both the trifecta and the superfecta are extremely volatile wagers at the Preakness and, due to the costs of each play, should be constructed with care. The median trifecta is a paltry $336.80 but four times since 2000 the bet has paid more than $1,400. The super sports a nice $4,471 median (but note that's for a $2 base wager) but has paid as low as $461 when things get really chalky. The cost of a superfecta ticket can escalate quickly (although Pimlico now offers the best for a $0.10 minimum), especially if you are boxing your selections; while it might make sense to drop $400 or $500 on a Derby superfecta in the hopes of cashing for $20k or better, the Preakenss might not reward very large tickets.
Now let's turn to the Pick 3/4/5 bets, some of the most popular wagers at the track over the last ten to twenty years:
|Year||$1 Pick 3||$1 Pick 4||Pick 5||$2 Pick 6|
Only three times since 2000 has Pimlico offered a Pick 6 ending with the Preakness, so we'll just leave that bet out of our discussion for the time being.
A important thing to take note of with the Pick 3/4/5 wagers: those bets are now a $0.50 minimum wager at Pimlico. The payouts in the above chart are for $1 Pick 3 and Pick 4 bets due to the fact that most of the prior years the base bet was $1. It's just easier to display all the payouts at a constant base amount.
The Pick 5 (a bet that's replaced the Pick 6 at Pimlico on Preakness day) has paid fairly well the last couple of years and can represent a good investment if you can find a couple of price horses early in the sequence. The Pick 3 and Pick 4 are, like the trifectas and superfectas, all over the map. The Pick 3 sports a $111.20 median, which isn't bad, but has paid less than $50 three times in the last four years.
The final bets well take a look at are the daily doubles which come in two forms on Preakness day: the standard daily double involving the Preakness and the race run prior, and the Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness Daily Double.
|Year||$2 Daily Double||$2 Suzy/Preak|
Like the exactas, there is money to be made if you can hit either of the Doubles with an ice cold play. Once you start expanding your tickets the chance for profits begins to fade.
There are certainly opportunities to make money at the Preakness but just wildly playing a lot of deep tickets hoping a long shot hits the board and triggers boxcar prices is going against the historical trend. Instead, the Preakness is a race to focus on the one or two horses you really like and play them hard in the wagers where you feel you have an advantage.