First run in 1847, the Preakness Stakes is one of the most important horse races in the world. In North America, it forms part of the Triple Crown and is generally considered to be second in stature to the Kentucky Derby.
In short, it’s a big deal and the 2021 edition of this race is no exception. Scheduled to go off on Saturday, May 15th, the Preakness Stakes has attracted another strong field but who are the main contenders ahead of the off?
The Preakness Stakes is a flat race for three-year-old thoroughbreds which is run over nine and a half furlongs of the Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore. 2021 will mark the 146th running of an event that has produced more than its share of drama over the years.
Perhaps the greatest thoroughbred racehorse of them all, the incomparable Secretariat, is among the list of previous winners having claimed the Preakness in 1973. Other notable former champions include Count Fleet and War Admiral. In 2015, American Pharaoh added the trophy as he became the first horse to ever win the American Grand Slam.
Who will add their name to the illustrious list? The sportsbooks have already had their say and it’s a tight call heading into the off.
A Spirited Challenge
The participation of Medina Spirit is in doubt at the time of writing but, if he does race, the Bob Baffert trained horse is set to lead the outright markets. The three-year-old colt came through the field as an outsider to claim the Kentucky Derby in dramatic fashion and he’s being lined up for the Derby / Preakness double.
Medina Spirit certainly has the form to succeed, and he also has the pedigree. Trainer Baffert already has seven Preakness Stakes wins going back to 1997 and previously saddled the great American Pharaoh.
Questions over a split sample from that Derby win remain for now but Medina Spirit will be the horse to beat if he gets the all-clear.
You Can Bet That the Competition Will Be Fierce
A number of horses are set to make a strong challenge, irrespective of whether the reigning Kentucky Derby winner makes the field. Current horse racing odds show that Mandaloun and Concert Tour are likely to be among the closest challengers.
All three horses start amongst the favourites for the 2021 renewal, with Concert Tour attracting around 60% of new bets in the wake of Medina Spirit’s uncertain entry. Trained by Gary and Mary West, the colt has won three of his four races in 2021 and that run includes victory in the Group Two Rebel Stakes.
The only blot on a perfect four for four record came last time out when Concert Tour finished third in the Arkansas Derby.
Mandaloun is also getting some attention among Preakness Stakes backers and the horse could inherit the Kentucky Derby title if concerns over Medina Spirit are upheld. Trained by Brad Cox, the three-year-old has two wins and two additional places in five starts. Success in the Derby would be his biggest achievement to date but, while Mandaloun has a slightly inferior record to Concert Tour, the two horses seem evenly matched.
The Chasing Pack
We’ve seen a number of unfancied horses come through the pack to win the Preakness Stakes and there are many more runners to consider for 2021. Another horse closer to the front of the market is Crowded Trade, who has also seen a surge of interest in the days leading up to the weekend.
Despite that interest, the Chad Brown-trained horse has a very modest record with a second and a third-place from just two runs to date. Brown, however, is a former champion trainer having saddled Cloud Computing to Preakness Stakes success in 2017.
Elsewhere, Caddo River has much longer odds and can therefore be classed as one of the promising outsiders. Another horse from the Brad Cox stable, Caddo River has finished inside the top two placings in four of his five outings to date.
Included in that impressive run is a victory by ten and a half lengths at Oaklawn Park at the start of the year.
Caddo River should be an exciting prospect while Unbridled Honor is another horse that is getting some backing from the outside bunch. This runner showed well at the Lexington before fading to finish in second place behind King Fury. That was one of four overall races for Unbridled Honor, who has an overall record of one win and one-second place.
All to race for
At a distance of nine and a half furlongs, the Preakness Stakes isn’t exactly a sprint, but the relatively short distance can mean that there is less room for an upset. Surprise results can still occur, but the favourites often come through to claim the title.
Clearly, much depends on the reports surrounding Medina Spirit and whether or not Baffert’s mount will be included in the final declaration. With the draw having been delayed, there is some confusion, but the chasing horses will be strong no matter what happens from here.
Concert Tour and Mandaloun are the two runners with most to gain from the favourite’s potential absence. The West family-trained Concert Tour has the better record this year, but both could be in contention in what promises to be another thrilling renewal of the Preakness Stakes.