Updated May 20, 2022 - 11:22 am
Michael “The Wizard’’ Kipness has been a professional horse racing handicapper since 1986. The Las Vegas resident analyzes the nine-horse field for Saturday’s 147th Preakness Stakes, designating each horse as a contender or a pretender.
Visit Wizardraceandsports.com for his full card selections and wagering strategies for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day (14 races) and Preakness Day (14 races).
Post position, horse, jockey, morning-line odds:
1. Simplification, Velazquez, 6-1
Wheels back in two weeks after a fourth-place finish at 35-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby. Rallied from 15th place to miss by 3½ lengths, racing wide throughout. Benefited from the blistering fractions. Expect Velazquez to have him more forwardly placed in the early going, saving valuable ground from Post 1 before making his move. Never fails to give 100 percent. Fringe contender because of the lack of quality depth in the field.
2. Creative Minister, Hernandez Jr., 10-1
With only three career starts, he and Early Voting are the least experienced runners in the field. His connection forked over $150,000 this week to supplement him to the Preakness. He’s shown steady improvement in each start. He lost by a neck in his debut sprinting, then put together back-to-back victories, stretching out to two turns with Lasix added. Gets no Lasix on Saturday and far stiffer competition. Trainer Ken McPeek won the 2020 Preakness with Swiss Skydiver. Fringe contender.
3. Fenwick, Geroux, 50-1
Broke his maiden two starts back at Tampa, going wire to wire. Last time out facing Grade 1 competition in the Blue Grass, he was beaten by 36 lengths. A victory in the Preakness is more unlikely than Rich Strike winning the Derby. Pretender.
4. Secret Oath, Saez, 9-2
The lone filly in the Preakness wheels back in 15 days after a two-length win in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks. She faced second-rate males in the Arkansas Derby, finishing third after a troubled start. Winner of five of eight, Secret Oath faces a much tougher task meeting first-rate males in the Preakness on short rest. I expect her to run well, but the main competition is simply better than she is. Trainer Wayne Lukas has won this race six times. But I don’t see a seventh victory Saturday. Fringe contender.
5. Early Voting, Ortiz, 7-2
Comes into the Preakness as good as hands can make him, and those hands belong to the training maestro Chad Brown. Beaten by a neck in the Wood Memorial by Mo Donegal, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Returning from a two-month layoff in the Wood, he was nailed in the shadow of the wire after setting a pressured quick pace from the start. His connections wisely passed the Derby in favor of the Preakness. Speed is his forte, and that would have been a detriment in the Derby as the fractions would have done him in. Far different scenario in the Preakness, where he’s the dominant pacesetter and the one to catch. I expect a career-best performance. Contender.
6. Happy Jack, Gaffalione, 30-1
After his maiden win in his debut in January, he’s been beaten by double digits in his past four starts, including a 19-length drubbing in the Derby. Pretender.
7. Armagnac, Ortiz Jr., 12-1
Happy Jack finished in front of him in the Santa Anita Derby. Both his wins have come wire-to-wire and running on Lasix. No Lasix and no early lead in the Preakness. No chance. Pretender.
8. Epicenter, Rosario, 6-5
The clear favorite ran too well to lose the Kentucky Derby in the shadow of the wire to Rich Strike, who posted one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Only a masterful ride from Sonny Leon aboard the 80-1 shot and a blistering pace snatched victory from Epicenter. Jockey Joel Rosario gave Epicenter a terrific ride. He fended off several challenges during the stretch run, but in the end, he could not fight off the upset winner. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Preakness in 2007 (Curlin) and 2009 (Rachel Alexandra), would not wheel Epicenter back in two weeks if he didn’t think he came out of the Derby in great shape and has worked well into the Preakness. Expect Rosario to have Epicenter sitting no worse than third into the backstretch. He will attack Early Voting when he feels it’s the right time. These two could hook up for an epic stretch battle, which could lead to a 1-2 finish between the two favorites or set it up for a horse to snatch both of them from behind. Contender.
9. Skippylongstocking, Alvarado, 20-1
Enters the Preakness in vastly improved form after a decisive win two starts back at Gulfstream and a third-place finish last time out in the Wood Memorial. Draws a tough outside post, so it’s imperative that Alvarado avoids being hung out too wide in the early going. Last raced 42 days ago and working well into the Preakness. Makes him a fresh horse who could hit the board at huge odds for top young horseman Saffie Joseph. Fringe contender.