Preakness Draws Nine With No Triple Crown at Stake; Epicenter Favored

Posted on: May 17, 2022, 09:54h. 

Last updated on: May 17, 2022, 10:13h.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Epicenter is the heavy favorite after drawing the eighth post Monday afternoon for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

Epicenter, shown here working out at Churchill Downs earlier this month, is the 6-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. (Image: Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

The Steve Asmussen-trained colt got 6-5 morning-line odds after officials drew post positions for the second jewel in the Triple Crown, which will be held at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.

Epicenter went off as the post-time favorite in the Derby on May 7, and it looked as if he and Zandon battle down the stretch to the finish line. However, 80-1 shot Rich Strike caught up to the pair in the final furlong, and took the race from both of them in the final strides.

Late last week, Rich Strike’s owners announced they would forego a shot at the Triple Crown and prepare for the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in the trilogy, which will be run on June 11 in New York.

A field of nine will run in the Preakness, a 1-3/16th-mile race. Post time is scheduled for 7:01 pm ET.

Asmussen: ‘Ideal’ Draw for Epicenter

Asmussen, the top trainer in the nation in terms of wins the past two years, said he had no problems with Epicenter drawing an outside post.

It’s a nine-horse field, plenty of run-up to the first turn,” he said. “Several fresh horses and us coming back in two weeks, I think it’s absolutely ideal. You could say we’re half as nervous as the draw for the Derby, when you go from 20 runners to nine. I think that makes it that much more beneficial to everybody as far as post-position draw goes.”

Epicenter is one of three Kentucky Derby horses in the field, with Simplification and Happy Jack being the others. Filly Secret Oath ran the day before, winning the Kentucky Oaks.

Of the fresher horses, the one that stands out most is Early Voting. Trained by Chad Brown, the Gun Runner progeny ran a strong Wood Memorial on April 9 at Aqueduct, but was denied a wire-to-wire win thanks to Mo Donegal’s late charge.

The Preakness will be just the fourth race in Early Voting’s career. He won his first two starts before the Wood Memorial.

Early Voting will break from the fifth post, much to Brown’s delight.

“I wanted to be somewhere in the middle, so that will work,” he said.

Is Two Weeks Off Too Short?

With Rich Strike bypassing the Preakness, the question won’t be whether the Derby winner can back up his tremendous rally from two weeks ago. Rather, the question that will likely get discussed the most is whether the current format of the Triple Crown should be tweaked.

The way it’s set up now, there are two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness, and three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. Most horses prepping for the Kentucky Derby take four weeks or more between races.

Rich Strike’s owner Rick Dawson said he and trainer Eric Reed had some discussions about entering the second jewel. But there were concerns about his recovery time between races.

While two horses have won the Triple Crown since 2015, there have been some in racing circles calling for a longer break, like a month, between the races. They say that would give horses sufficient rest between races and could make it easier for a horse to win a Triple Crown.

Of course, the downside is that a Triple Crown contender would also face horses that are equally, if not more, rested.

One horseman resisting the push is trainer Graham Motion, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom.

“…It’s meant to be a challenge, it’s not meant to be easy,” Motion posted on Twitter last week. “I was surprised how well Animal Kingdom went into the Preakness. but was a little unlucky, you need that too! All horses are different.”