Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem May 23, 2022

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May 23rd, 2022

A good Monday morning to you all! I hope everyone had a good Preakness weekend and got back all the money you lost on Rich Strike winning the Derby.

Speaking of the Derby, I spent the entire weekend at the races at Churchill Downs and had a splendid time. The best part was getting to talk to folks who listen to my podcast and talk about racing with them. I decided to spend the next six weeks up here in Louisville, so I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing more of you out at Churchill as the spring season goes on.

So my thoughts on the Preakness. Well, lots of thoughts so here’s hoping I can get them all out in an intelligible manner. Let’s start with the winner, Early Voting, who looked very much the winner from the far turn to the wire after getting a very good trip and ride from Jose Ortiz.

In the hours and minutes leading up to the Preakness Stakes, there was so much discussion about all the crazy low odds that horses like Fenwick and Happy Jack were on the board. Both horses looked like 30-1 or higher chances on paper so the fact that they went off at 13-1 and 11-1 was pretty shocking. One thing about parimutuel wagering though, if money comes in on one horse, the prices are going up on others. As it turned out, the horse who probably went off at higher odds than they should have been was the winner.

Now, it’s easy to say that in hindsight since we know the result, but truly, at any point in studying that race, did you see Early Voting at odds of almost 6-1? I thought he was a clear second choice in the race, but I understand why Secret Oath had her backers and went off just below him in the odds at 5-1.

Often we talk about how tough it is to find true overlays (horses whose odds are higher than their true chance), but it certainly seems as though Early Voting was one, and big congratulations to the bettors who capitalized on those juicy odds.

Much of the discussion both immediately after the race and into Monday was about Epicenter and his trip. Many people, including trainer Steve Asmussen, were critical of the fact that the horse was second to last early on as they ran through a moderate quarter up front in 24.32 seconds.

After watching the race a few times, to me it looked like a confluence of small events that led to Epicenter’s early position. I thought he actually got out of the gate fine, it was a clear and normal break as far as I can see. But then a few strides afterward both Skippylongstocking to his outside and Armagnac to his inside get away just a bit quicker.

As Amagnac goes for the early lead, Joel Rosario elects to drop in behind and start working his way to the rail. As he does that though, Happy Jack starts to go out a path or two as Early Voting clears him, thus squeezing Epicenter and shortly after that, bam, he’s back second last.

I don’t know truly what Rosario could have done differently in this spot given how things played out. I mean maybe send as hard as possible to stay up with Armagnac? It happens in horse racing all the time, you just don’t get the trip you want. I think Skippylongstocking kind of being glued to Epicenter’s outside early on was what ultimately forced him into the squeeze spot and the bad start. If Epicenter is the far outside horse, I think he avoids the squeeze and lands much closer up, albeit wide, as they go into the first turn. I suppose we’ll never know. 

It was certainly a little bit of an odd Preakness with no Kentucky Derby winner in the field, but after all the discussions of whether the Triple Crown series needs adjusting that happened all week, I was reminded of the fact that no matter the timing, each of these races are stand-alone classics. They just happen to be lumped together because of history and tradition. I don’t have a strong feeling either way and am open to people’s arguments for changing the Triple Crown or keeping it the same. Only time will tell.

Best wishes to everyone for a great week!