Magic Man’s Preview and Picks for the 2018 Preakness Stakes

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Justify wins 144th Kentucky DerbyAs we head into Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, could it be safe to quote this following line? “Second verse, same as the first.”

This line can be quoted two-fold. The first reference is to the Kentucky Derby winner Justify as he attempts to keep hopes of another Triple Crown alive in the Preakness. The second reference is to the weather for the Preakness. It is expected to be sloppy with a lot of rain forecast at Pimlico, just as it was for the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

Oddsmakers have Justify at a morning line of 1-2 which is a bit too much in my estimation. Yes, he proved me wrong in the Derby as I tried to beat him but I give you some things to ponder as part of my horse-by-horse preview of the Preakness. Hopefully what I provide above all is a winning combination as I attempt to bounce back from my loss in the Kentucky Derby.

Without further adieu here now is my preview of the 2018 Preakness.

RACE 13 Preakness S. (Grade I) POST TIME – 5:48 p.m. CDT

P# PP Horse   


A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Quip (KY) 3/C L F Geroux 126 R Brisset 12/1
2 2 Lone Sailor (KY) 3/C L I Ortiz, Jr. 126 T M Amoss 15/1
3 3 Sporting Chance (KY) 3/C L L Contreras 126 D W Lukas 30/1
4 4 Diamond King (KY) 3/C L J Castellano 126 J C Servis 30/1
5 5 Good Magic (KY) 3/C L J L Ortiz 126 C C Brown 3/1
6 6 Tenfold (KY) 3/C L R Santana, Jr. 126 S M Asmussen 20/1
7 7 Justify (KY) 3/C L M E Smith 126 B Baffert 1/2
8 8 Bravazo (KY) 3/C L L Saez 126 D W Lukas 20/1


Of the four new shooters for the Preakness, he looks to be the most highly regarded despite his 10-1 morning line. He was an upset winner of the Tampa Bay Derby two starts back and ran a bang up second in the Arkansas Derby. His connections skipped the Derby in a strategic move and they hope it works out.He has never run over a sloppy track in which he will in the Preakness. His rail draw despite the short field might prove tough as he likes to break close. Looking at this group, there really is not a lot of speed signed on as was in the Derby two weeks ago. If he gets out clean, he has a punchers chance to win but at the very worst he probably will be in my exacta box.

2-Lone Sailor
You look at his Derby and you have to wonder. Had this horse gotten a cleaner trip maybe he finishes better than he did. It is interesting that his connections decide to head here to Pimlico which is notoriously a speed favoring course but I caution you to not eliminate him that quick. Closers have not really won here but if you play exactas, trifectas or superfectas, then closers do very well. Having said that there is not a lot of speed here which in theory should compromise his chances. Yes, he attracts Irad Ortiz for the mount but could he be the sucker bet of this Preakness at least on the win end? As for the exotics he will be in consideration but will he make my final four?

3-Sporting Chance
Suffered a horrific trip two weeks ago in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard as he was extremely wide but still managed a fourth place finish. He did run third to Good Magic two starts back in the Blue Grass and that one ran second in the Derby two weeks ago but he is 30-1 for a reason. This is the 1st of two runners for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and although this guy has never run a terrible race he looks a cut below the main body of contenders. He seems like an immediate throwout and I will do so but for those that go deep for superfectas he could be used at the very back end of that ticket.

4-Diamond King
The winner of the Federico Tesio last month over this strip is another 30-1 outsider but look who takes the mount here. Javier Castellano who gave up a whole day of mounts at Belmont to take this horse gives reason to look at this horse. His form is solid with 4 wins in 6 starts but as consistent as he is he just does not look fast enough or quite frankly good enough to contend. So he is one I will throw out in here.

5-Good Magic
Last year’s 2-year-old champion ran a resolute second in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and there was debate to whether he would run back here. Chad Brown who is this horse’s trainer has done well in the Preakness with Cloud Computing pulling off a 13-1 upset a few years ago. I find it a bit puzzling that despite what he does here they are not considering the Belmont. That tells me one thing. His breeding suggests that any long distance should suit him but let’s see what happens. As for his chances you cannot throw him out. He has a real shot to turn the tables on Justify and to me is a must use in any exotics.

He only has three lifetime starts to his credit but two of them were wins and a solid 5th in the Arkansas Derby. His work pattern since that race suggests he is in line to run a big race and he gets his regular rider Ricardo Santana back aboard so there are some things to like. His figures are slowly climbing and if Justify flops then he is one of a handful who could take advantage. Now will he be on my exacta box?

So based on his impressive win in the Kentucky Derby along with Bob Baffert’s success in the Preakness and his 1-2 morning line, why bother to bet against him, right? I will add to this by stating that Baffert is 4-for-4 with Derby winners in the Preakness. That s a tough stat to overcome to be sure. He did come out of the Derby with what was reported to be a slight leg irritation and that is cause for pause but his connections say he is fine and should be ready to roll. I have seen this script before. Remember Big Brown in 2008 at the Belmont as he went for the Triple Crown. He had a mild crack in his hoof leading up to that race but his connections said he was good to go. Well we know what happened now don’t we? I am not suggesting that Justify could suffer the same fate or am I? Surely I would not throw him out like I did in the Derby…or will I?

Had a very tough trip in the Derby two weeks ago as he was bumped out at the start and was wide throughout yet he managed a respectable sixth place finish. He gets a rider switch to Luis Saez and is the second of the Lukas two-some in the Preakness. Let me throw this nugget at you. The last Derby horse to run sixth and win the Preakness was Oxbow back in 2013 and he was trained by the one and only D. Wayne Lukas. Digging deep, I actually like this horse a lot more than I did in the Derby and here is why. Throw out his Louisiana Derby as he just was not himself that day. His Kentucky Derby as said was rough so to me the shorter field suggests no excuses here. I think he will be forwardly placed if not on the lead. Of the possible speed horses, I get the feeling this is the one who will be on the lead. No way will there be ridiculous fractions like in the Kentucky Derby so he is one I am very much considering not just for the exotics but for the win as well.

My Selections

1st: 8-Bravazo
You cannot make a big score using Justify on top but as I suggested in my analysis of him he is no sure thing hence why I am going to take a chance with this horse to pull off a big upset. Could this be Oxbow all over again? I have a feeling it may be and if I am right the rewards will be glorious and plentiful

2nd: 5-Good Magic
His connections seem to be all in by running here and he ran a bang up second in the Derby two weeks ago. I liked him that day so why bail off now right?

3rd: 7-Justify
I would be a complete fool to throw him completely out but as far as winning I am going to try and beat him. Call me a hater but if you read my synopsis of him he is by no means a sure thing.

4th: 1-Quip
The rail draw slightly scares me but he is one I am going to use in the exotics because he game and talented. The only real question is if he can handle the sloppy track that is expected on Saturday. If he gets out clean and handles the track, he has a shot here.

If Bravazo wins the Preakness, I will regain my stature as the Magic Man as a lot of handicappers are not as brave as I am. I missed the exacta box two weeks ago and if form holds I cannot lose the Preakness and Belmont. I have hit both exactas the last two years. Ed Daniels, this bodes well for you my friend; I plan on joining the Three Tailgaters with Ed, Ken Trahan and Rick Gaille.

Before I go I want you all to keep Rick in your prayers. He is fighting cancer and had a setback this week but  my prayers are with you, Coach. You can beat this dreaded disease and once more, we are all with you in this fight. I will be back soon to look ahead to the Belmont but as always may your winners be plentiful and your wallets be fat.

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George Pepis

Horse Racing Analyst

George Pepis provides racing analysis during each Fair Grounds racing season. He also shares commentary and selections for major stakes events and prep races around the country. In the past, George has hosted sports talk programming on WGSO 990am in New Orleans. He has served as both play-by-play and color analyst on Louisiana high school football radio and internet broadcasts.

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