Preakness Preview: Handicapping Pimlico - May 13, 2013

Matt Carter

May 14th, 2013

The Triple Crown moves to Baltimore and Pimlico Race Course this weekend and its a track that many may not be familiar with except for this one weekend every year. So how does the track play? Does it favor speed and inside posts? Let's take a look.

First we are going to look at dirt sprints that are six furlongs, which is the distance of several stake races on Friday and Saturday. This meet, through the 12th, there have been 89 races across all class levels and there are some interesting stats. Front runners with the lead at the half have won 34 times and if you expand that to horses that were on the lead or less than a length away, it is a stunning 56 or 63%. Only eight times has a winner come from five lengths back making the track friendly to those runner who do their best running on or close to the speed.

Post positions are also important going six furlongs especially when there are full fields. There have been nine races at six furlongs with 10 or more runners and the horses who ran out of posts 2, 3 and 7 through 10 have won all nine. With any number of horses, the rail is not the place to be having only won 7 of the 89 races.

Moving up in distance to two turn races at Pimlico and we see that so far this meet, post position does not matter, but the lengths of the winner behind the speed may surprise some. Only 22 times, 72 races, has the horse with the lead at the half has gone on to win, that's a percentage drop of 16% from sprints. In fact, more horses have won from greater than a length back, 42, than have within a length, 30. The best place to be in route races during the current meet has been from a length to five lengths off the pace. Those backing Orb can breathe a sign of relieve.

On the turf course where they run five furlong races and then races at a mile to nine furlongs.

Turf sprinting may be the fairest run race of them all. In 32 races this meet, eight have been on the lead and seven have been from more than five lengths back including one at 15 lengths behind at the half. Any horse has a chance when they go five so pay close attention to the actual pace scenario of the race. If there is a lot of speed, look for the closer.

Looking at posts, with 10 or more runners, horses breaking from posts seven and higher have won nine times in 17 races and only one horse has won from the rail. Keep this in mind for handicapping the pick 4 on Friday as there are two five furlong turf sprints in the sequence.

Turf routes are our final stop on the course handicapping and it shows that only five of the 24 winners, there has only been eight and eight and one-half furlong races, have been on the lead at the half. The average lengths behind for the winner at the half call is three and one half lengths. Already this meet two horses have win from 13 and 13.5 lengths off the pace. While outside posts may have an advantage in turf sprints, they certainly do not in turf routes. Posts one through five have won 16 of the 24 races and post seven has won three of the remaining eight. A front running favorite in an outside post may be the biggest bet against on the card.

Of course, these are only trends and don't take into account how track maintenance may play with the surface before and throughout the day. Pay close attention to each race to see if there are biases for pace and placement. Sometimes these tracks can play differently on big days. Also there is a chance of rain for the area this weekend, but we at least know Orb loves to frolic in the mud.

Stay tuned for more handicapping of the stakes races on Friday and Saturday at Pimlico throughout the week.