Why I'm Keying Justify in the Preakness Stakes Exotics

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 17th, 2018

It’s the question that all handicappers are asking right now—what’s the best way to make a meaningful profit betting on Saturday’s $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico?

With the impressive Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner #7 Justify the heavy favorite at 1-2 on the morning line, and with the most likely upset candidate #5 Good Magic listed at just 3-1, it could be tricky to put together an effective wagering strategy that plays Justify to win while simultaneously covering for the possibility of an upset. Unless a major longshot prevails, the payoffs just won’t be high enough.

So in planning how to bet on the Preakness Stakes, I think handicappers would be well advised to take a stand in one direction or another—either key Justify on top of essentially all tickets or play against him on every ticket, so that the reward will be meaningful if you’re correct.

I personally will take the former approach, since I believe that Justify will be very tough to beat. He was much the best in the Kentucky Derby, perhaps by even more than his 2 ½-length margin of victory implies since he pushed a very fast pace right from the start and still had enough left in the tank to turn back the late runners and prevail decisively. That was his fourth win from four starts, with every one earning triple-digit BRIS and Beyer speed figures.

Suffice to say, on paper, Justify towers over the Preakness field and should win once again if he runs anywhere near his best race. In my opinion, playing against Justify would be somewhat akin to playing a guessing game—you’d be taking a shot that he might regress, and since I have no strong reason to think he will, I can’t rationalize dedicating a good portion of my Preakness bankroll to cover for the possibility of his defeat.

The hard part is identifying the horses most likely to round out the trifecta and superfecta, which will be necessary since betting Justify to win (or even playing him in the exacta) won’t yield much of a reward. The Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic is an obvious candidate given that he also raced close to the fast Derby pace and loomed a major challenger at the top of the stretch before flattening out a little late. I’m also very interested in #8 Bravazo, who endured a very wide trip in the Derby, but nevertheless fought on with determination to finish sixth. I think he can come running late in the Preakness to finish on the board at a nice price. #6 Tenfold is also worth considering since he’s bred to relish the wet conditions expected on Saturday and wasn’t badly beaten when fifth with a wide trip in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) last time out.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$8 trifecta: 7 with 5 with 6,8 ($16) $7 trifecta: 7 with 6,8 with 5 ($14) $4 trifecta: 7 with 6,8 with 6,8 ($8) $2 superfecta: 7 with 5,6,8 with 5,6,8 with 5,6,8 ($12)

Good luck!