BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike skipping over Pimlico Race Course, the 147th Preakness Stakes does not have the usual buzz surrounding a potential 14th Triple Crown winner.
But as the name suggests, there are only three of these horse races every year, and even if there isn't a horse with a chance to sweep the historic series, there's still plenty of interesting runners to watch and exciting narratives that could develop.
Here's a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes.
Post time is Saturday at 7:01 p.m.
Will Kentucky Derby runner-up Epicenter close the deal in a shorter race?
In the 1 1/4-mile Derby, Epicenter went off as the 4-1 favorite and had a good trip, saving ground out of the gate, staying close to the early speed and surging toward the front to set up a strong stretch run. The Not This Time colt fended off a strong challenge from another favorite, Zandon, and looked to be in position to win, until both horses were passed by 80-1 Rich Strike in the final sixteenth.
At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races. Against a smaller, weaker field, Epicenter is the 6-5 morning line favorite, and with a similar trip to the Derby, he should be in prime positions to get trainer Steve Asmussen his third Preakness Stakes victory.
Secret Oath and D. Wayne Lukas Look For Lucky No. 7
After a brilliant two-length win in the Kentucky Oaks, Secret Oath is taking on the boys in the Preakness, becoming the 56th filly to chase the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas hasn't been afraid to challenge his chestnut filly. In April, he ran the daughter of Arrogate in the Arkansas Derby, a key Kentucky Derby prep race, and she finished a game third, challenging eventual winner Cyberknife down the stretch.
If Secret Oath crosses the finish line first at Pimlico on Saturday, she would become the seventh filly to win the Preakness and first since Swiss Skydiver in 2020. Lukas, 86, would also earn his record-tying seventh Preakness Stakes win, joining Bob Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walden in the record books.
A Preakness without crowd restrictions
For the first time since 2019, tens of thousands of fans will descend on Old Hilltop for the Preakness. At the height of the pandemic, in 2020, the Belmont Stakes was run first at a shortened distance, followed by the Kentucky Derby in September and the Preakness Stakes in October. All three races were run without fans.
The traditional Derby-Preakness-Belmont order returned the following year, but with crowd limits.
Prior to the pandemic, the crowd at Pimlico surpassed 100,000 fans every year since 2010. We'll see Saturday how many people decided to come back.
Can lightning strike twice for trainer Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables?
The 2017 Preakness field had three of the top four finishers in the Derby, winner Always Dreaming, second-place Lookin At Lee and fourth-place Classic Empire. Gunnevera (seventh) and Hence (11th) also made the trip from Churchill Downs to Old Hilltop.
But the "wise guy" pick heading into the race was Klaravich Stables' Cloud Computing, trained by Chad Brown. After finishing second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, Brown bypassed the Derby with the lightly raced colt and chose to enter the Preakness as a new shooter. It paid off, as the 13-1 Cloud Computing let heavy favorites Always Dreaming and Classic Empire duke it out for most of the race before charging at the top of the stretch to pass the fading Derby winner and beat Classic Empire by a head.
Although Brown is one of the best trainers in the world, the 2017 Preakness remains his only win to date in the Triple Crown series.
He'll look to follow a similar path with another Klaravich colt, Early Voting. Like Cloud Computing, the 3-year-old by Gun Runner out of Amour d'Ete comes to Pimlico with only three races under his belt, finishing first in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes and second in the Gotham. Unlike Cloud Computing, it won't be a big upset if he wins. Oddsmakers have Early Voting starting at 7-2.
Could the Preakness get its own historic long shot?
Incredibly, Rich Strike, at 80-1, is only the second biggest long shot to win the Derby, behind Donerail, the 90-1 winner of the 39th Run for the Roses.
The Preakness hasn't been as kind to the biggest underdogs. Master Derby, the 1975 winner, has the largest payoff in the race's history, returning $48.80 on a $2 bet. Just behind him is the winner in 1925, Coventry, who returned $45.60 on a $2 wager. No other Preakness winner has had odds greater than 20-1.
In this year's nine-horse field, only three horses have odds of 20-1 or higher, Skippylongstocking (20-1), Happy Jack (30-1) and Fenwick (50-1).
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