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Preakness Stakes Favorites
Most probable Preakness Stakes winner
By Brent Sedo
While there is never a sure thing in horse racing, both the odds at Bovada's racebook and many handicappers agree Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Breeders' Cup Juvenile champ Classic Empire are the top contenders in the field. When the gates open, expect Always Dreaming to be somewhere in the even-money to 2-1 range, and Classic Empire to be around 3-1 or 4-1.
Here are three reason why each could win the race and why they could be beat, with their current Bovada odds.
Always Dreaming (10/11)
Why he can win:
#1 - Late acceleration. He has what horse people refer to as an "excellent turn of foot" when they come into the top of the stretch, meaning he can turn a half-length lead into a three length lead very quickly.
#2 - Great tactical speed. Always Dreaming is fast enough out of the gate that jockey John Velazquez can put him anywhere he wants in the early part of the race, and then stalk just off any pace the front runners want to go.
#3 - He's on a roll. Since the beginning of the year, he's won four races in a row by more than 20 lengths combined. Right now he's the top three-year-old in the country.
Why he could get beat:
#1 Handling adversity. He's had a pretty easy go of it in those wins. Credit to horse and jockey for making their race, but it has yet to be seen how he'll react to getting pinned on the rail or having to duel with another horse in the stretch drive.
#2 - Fitness. Trainer Todd Pletcher is notorious for wanting to rest his horses between big races, and he'll only have two weeks between the Derby and Preakness. Pletcher didn't even give him a timed workout to try and keep him fresh.
#3 - Gets into a speed duel. While it's somewhat unlikely, there could be one or two others in the field who surprise by trying to go wire-to-wire, and he might be overly keen to try and keep up.
Classic Empire (15-4)
Why he can win:
#1 - He's a champion. He's won three of five Grade 1 races, and in one of those he didn't win, he lost the rider and got a Did Not Finish. He had all kinds of bad luck in the Derby and his fourth-place finish is better than it looks.
#2 - Form cycle. He missed one of his starts this spring so the Preakness will be his third start off a layoff after winnning the Arkansas Derby and running in Kentucky. That's often a significant handicapping angle.
#3 - Running style. He's not as quick out of the gate as Always Dreaming, but he has enough speed to sit two or three lengths off the lead from where Julien Leparoux can see the race unfold in front and decide when to hit the gas.
Why he can get beat:
#1 - Waits too long. One thing Leparoux can't do is let Always Dreaming get too far in front, and when the time comes to start running, Classic Empire is going to have to go.
#2 - Loses focus. Although it seems he has turned a corner, he has a back history of being a bad actor at times, like when he dumped his rider in the Hopeful Stakes last summer and on two occassions refused to train this spring.
#3 - He's second best. There's no question that Always Dreaming is a fast horse. Classic Empire is going to need his best race so far to beat him.
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