The Preakness Stakes is Saturday’s main event at Pimlico, but it’s not the only compelling race on the card. The 14-race program begins bright and early and features several stakes events leading up to the Preakness.
I’ll focus on three races that make up 60% of Saturday’s late Pick Five. This sequence has a very low takeout and is absolutely worth your attention given the field sizes and potential payouts.
Looking outside in the Chick Lang
The Grade 3 Chick Lang is the first leg of that sequence. It’s drawn a fast field of 3-year-old sprinters, and my top pick is the last one in the program.
No. 9 Little Vic wanted no part of two turns earlier this year. It’s safe to assume his connections got Derby fever after two strong efforts in late 2021. However, he’s back doing what he wants to do, which is going short distances very, very quickly.
Most recently, Little Vic romped in an allowance race at Monmouth and earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure. I see the quick-wheel-back as a sign of confidence, especially since it seems like this is a colt who had some issues earlier in his career. Add in that the cushy outside post gives jockey Paco Lopez plenty of options, and he looks even more attractive.
I’ll bet Little Vic to win and use him in exactas above and below No. 1 Cogburn, No. 3 Doctor Jeff, and No. 7 Whelen Springs. Of the favorites, I’m most against No. 5 Old Homestead. He’s 3-for-3, but I think he’s a one-dimensional front-runner in a race full of speed. His likely price makes him an underlay.
- $15 win: 9 ($15)
- $3 exactas: 9 w/1, 3, 7 ($9, $24)
- $2 exactas: 1, 3, 7 w/9 ($6, $30)
James Murphy revolves around Ready to Purrform
If No. 5 Ready to Purrform is ready to run in his 3-year-old debut, he’ll probably win the 10th race of the day, the James Murphy Stakes. However, he hasn’t been out of the barn since November. Trainer Brad Cox can win with horses like this, and Lasix being added is a big plus, but I don’t think he’s a cinch.
I’ll use two others, and I’m most intrigued by a possible long shot. No. 2 Local Motive comes back to turf for the first time since August. His lone outing on the grass was a win in a restricted stakes race at Colonial Downs. That may not sound like much, but in a race with several contenders who are trying either turf or two turns for the first time, it matters. Add in his two-back win going a mile, and I think there’s plenty to like.
The other runner I’ll include is No. 7 Riot House. He’s 2-for-2 this season, and both races have come going two turns on turf. He’s got plenty of tactical speed and attracts Luis Saez, who should have him in prime position going into the far turn.
I’ll box these runners in exactas. At his likely price, Local Motive hits me as a value play, so I’ll lean on that one a bit more. If I’m right, I’ll be rewarded handsomely.
- $3 exacta box: 2, 5, 7 ($18)
- $1 exacta key box: 2 with 5, 7 ($4, $22)
- $5 win: 2 ($5, $27)
Movin’ on up in the Sir Barton
The Sir Barton, named after horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner, has drawn 10 3-year-olds. The subhead is a big clue, and if you think that’s the last old sitcom reference in this section, you’re wrong.
No. 6 Mr Jefferson is my top pick, and his 6-1 morning line price is juicy. He did everything but win the Federico Tesio, when he rallied from eighth of nine and nearly got there despite rating well off of a slow early pace. I think he’ll get more speed to run at in his second start off a brief freshening.
In addition to a win bet, I’ll key Mr Jefferson above No. 1 Ethereal Road, No. 4 The Addison Pour, No. 8 Unikee, and No. 9 Brooklyn Diamonds in smaller exactas. If my top pick gets home, we may not be able to afford a deluxe apartment in the sky. However, we’ll be able to afford plenty of pieces of the pie.
- $15 win: 6 ($15)
- $3 exactas: 6 w/1, 4, 8, 9 ($12, $27)