May 12 2014

Preakness Trends – Running Style Holds Key To Picking Top 3

UPDATE: Article was updated on April 25, 2015 to include information from the 2014 Preakness.

As we get nearer to the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown, it’s time to separate fact from opinion when it comes to the running style most suited to winning The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico racetrack.  So, we decided to go back eleven years and chart the running style for the first three finishers and how they ran in The Preakness Stakes that year.  Before we show the chart, let’s first define the running styles.

    • Early Speed – A horse that breaks quickly from the gate and establishes themselves either on the lead, or very close to it.
    • Stalker – A horse that sits behind the early speed horses, and is positioned no further back than mid-pack.
    • Closer – A horse that is mid-pack or further back early in the race, and did it’s best running in the later stages of the race.

Below is the chart showing the running styles for the top three finishers in The Preakness Stakes for the past eleven years.

Preakness Stakes Running Style for Top Three Finishers
Year Win Place Show
2014 Stalker Closer Stalker
2013 Early Speed Stalker Closer
2012 Stalker Early Speed Stalker
2011 Early Speed Closer Stalker
2010 Stalker Early Speed Stalker
2009 Early Speed Closer Closer
2008 Stalker Closer Closer
2007 Closer Closer Stalker
2006 Stalker Stalker Closer
2005 Closer Stalker Closer
2004 Early Speed Closer Closer
2003 Stalker Stalker Stalker

At first glance it is clear that “Early Speed” horses have been quite dominant in recent years, having finished 1st or 2nd in five of the last six years.  Yet, looking over the entire chart, you can see that was not the case for several years prior to 2009.  Let’s summarize the information in a count format over the entire twelve years.

Running Style Win Place Show Total
Early Speed 4 2 0 6
Stalker 6 4 6 16
Closer 2 6 6 14

This chart shows that the most consistent running style for placing “In The Money” in the past twelve Preakness Stakes is Stalkers, with Closers being a very close second.  With regards to Early Speed type of horses, this creates a bit of a dilemma for the handicapper.  Do you favor the more recent trends or the trends of a larger sample?

One thing is clear, when considering the horses to place in the lower rungs of exotic bets, Stalkers and Closers should be used on the majority of tickets.  In twelve years, Stalkers have accounted for 10 of 24 Place/Show finishers … and Closers have picked up 12 of 24 Place/Show checks.  Combined, that’s 22 of 24 horses in the Place/Show position that were either Stalkers or Closers.

Jockey World

This article brought to you by Jockey World (Home of Frankie Lovato’s 365 Days of Racing Terms)

When handicapping this year’s Preakness Stakes, take into consideration a lesson from the 2013 Preakness Stakes.  In the four races preceding the Preakness, the eventual winner, Oxbow had shown a tendency to be Stalker.  But, when no one else went for the early lead, cagey veteran Gary Stevens let Oxbow stride into it.  Reverting back to a running style that he had been comfortable with 4-6 months prior, he settled into an easy rhythm.  Below is a replay of the 2013 Preakness Stakes.

If you listened all the way to the end of the video, you heard some revealing comments from Gary Stevens.

I didn’t expect to go to the lead, but he (Oxbow) was so right today, he pulled me to the lead. His ears were up, telling me he was content. When I hit the 1/2 mile pole, I said to myself, are you kidding me? Is this happening?  The race was over at the 1/2 mile pole.  I was just walking the dog up to that point.

On paper (in the past performances)  there had appeared to be plenty of speed to insure a solid pace in the 2013 Preakness.  But, I always tell people the most important word in past performances is the word “Past.”  It represents history, and prior to the race every jockey and trainer involved in the race has studied the same history.  Changes in strategies and adaptations to race conditions are inevitable.

In the actual race, multiple horses that had shown a tendency to have “Early Speed” in prior races, did not do that in the 2013 Preakness.  Maybe they didn’t break well, or their riders wrangled them back to avoid a speed duel, or they didn’t like the surface of the Pimlico racetrack.  Whatever the reason, a horse with past early speed capability like Oxbow, with a jockey like Gary Stevens, had the ability to make an audible and take advantage of the present situation.

In looking at the charts presented above, it would seem logical to favor horses for the Win position that either have Early Speed or are Stalkers; giving an extra edge to horses like Oxbow that can adapt to either situation as the race unfolds.  On the other hand, Closers have managed to win only two of the last eleven Preakness Stakes.  So, while a Closer certainly has the potential to win this race, they are more apt to fill out the lower rungs of the exotic wagers.

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By Neal Benoit

4 comments on “Preakness Trends – Running Style Holds Key To Picking Top 3

  1. Gold, Neal… no other way to put it..Hope You’re Up and ‘Bout..need your crystal insights on Preakness 2015. but you’ve have allready gven us so many good lessons..please get well soon..

    Leroy Edwards on
  2. terrific info..I hope you are well..if u r taking blood pressure meds..start walking or riding a stationary bike and get off this poison..has helped me for what it’s worth..

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