Saturday's feature race at Pimlico Race Course, the Preakness Stakes, is scheduled to go to the post at 6:20 p.m. ET. Prior to that time, handicappers and fans have plenty of time to try and pad the old wagering bankroll with an undercard that features the Grade 3 Dupont Distaff, Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap, Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap, and the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes. Let's take a look at the six stakes race leading up to today's Preakness (all times ET):
Race 6 - Chick Lang Stakes; Post Time: 1:50 p.m.
Six Furlongs, Dirt, Three-year-olds
This is one of those sprint races where it seems every horse in the field wants to run on or just off of the lead during the first half-mile. 2-Zee Bros is your 2/1 ML favorite but he's a winner of a single maiden race in three lifetime starts and most likely won't get things all his own way with 3-Bobcat Jim just to his outside. 7-City of Weston (6/1) should be able to sit right off of the early speed and make a strong run in the lane for a chance to get his picture taken.
Race 7 - James W. Murphy Stakes; Post Time: 2:33 p.m.
One mile, Turf, Three-year-olds
One of the best betting races on the whole Preakness card, the Murphy Stakes features a deep cast of eleven rivals going a mile on the lawn. There is rain in the forecast for Preakness day, so keep an eye on the condition of the turf course prior to any races on the green stuff. If the ground does come up "Good" or worse by post time, take a closer look at both 7-Yougotthatgoinforu (20/1) and 9-China Holiday (8/1), two horses that have had success on softer ground in the past. If it stays dry, I like 1-Notacatbutallama (9/5) and 10-Redwood Kitten (5/1) as the best of the bunch.
Race 8 - Grade 3 Dupont Distaff; 3:14 p.m.
1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares, Three-years-old and up
It may seem like a very minor difference in distance but 7-Brushed by a Star (2/1) is much better when racing at 1 1/16 miles than she is when racing at a 1 1/8 miles. Three of her last four races were at the nine furlong distance and she run well but not at her best. She draws outside her rivals in this spot which should help keep her out of trouble and will allow jockey Joel Rosario to track the morning line favorite, 6-Summer Applause (9/5) upon leaving the starting gate, if he so chooses.
Race 9 - Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap; 4 p.m.
1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares, Three-years-old and up
Another turf race with a deep and contentious field, 3-Pianist (4/1) might be able to control the pace of this race if jockey Mike Smith can hustle her out of the gate and onto the lead within the first quarter mile. When this filly gets the lead, she can be very difficult to beat. Additionally, she's won over a yielding turf course in the past which could give her an edge if things get wet at Pimlico on Saturday. 5-Old Tune (BRZ) has won two of three races since shipping to America from Brazil this winter but flopped badly in the G3-Jenny Wiley in her most recent start. She's won over soft turf courses in her native Brazil so this could be another mare to keep your eye on if the conditions get rainy.
Race 10 - Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap; 4:42 p.m.
6 Furlongs, Dirt, Three-year-olds and up
Another excellent betting race on the Preakness under card, and a race where I love 7-Candyman E (6/1) to spring a minor upset. He had a tough race at Keeneland in the G3-Commonwealth last time out but that race came over the Polytrack and he's been a consistently good runner on dirt during his entire career. There should be plenty of pace in front of him to soften things up for his strong late kick, and at 6/1 on the morning line, I think Candyman E could be in line for a nice victory in the Maryland Sprint.
Race 11 - Grade 2 Dixie Stakes; 5:25 p.m.
1 1/8 miles, Turf, Three-year-olds and up
What do you do when you have a horse that's consistently run well on the grass over the past year, has displayed a liking for softer ground (if necessary), AND gets a jockey change to Rosie Napravnik? You bet him like there's no tomorrow. 9-Swift Warrior (4/1) won the G2-Tampa Bay Stakes in his most recent start and has finished in the top three in seven of his 11 career starts on the grass, including two wins over ground rated "Good" at Tampa and the Fair Grounds. When you add in Rosie Napravnik, a jockey that sports a healthy 26% winning percentage on turf routes (with a $2.13 $2 ROI), well, it's time to get on board.
Another great stat on Rosie Napravnik: She's ridden 169 horses that went to the gate as the betting favorite in 2013 and won with 46.8% of those mounts. Now here's the truly remarkable part of that number: if you had bet $2 to win on all 169 of those starters you would have turned a (small) flat-bet profit, despite their favorite status. Swift Warrior isn't the morning line favorite (that honor belongs to Optimizer at 7/2) but he could be the crowd's choice by the time they enter the starting gate.
My fellow writers and I over at And Down The Stretch They Come have put together a summary of our Preakness day selections that are guaranteed (not guaranteed!) to make you money. [Article: 2013 Preakness Staff Picks]