How to bet the Preakness Stakes: Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica’s expert picks, best bets

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“Bear Bets” are real bets that Chris “The Bear” Fallica is making.

All eyes will be on Kentucky Derby winner Mage in the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday.

Thirteen horses have achieved the sport’s ultimate prize by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Will the Mage continue to fight to become the 14th?

Let’s take a look at the race from a betting perspective.

Here’s a breakdown of all the horses, some fun nuggets to talk to your friends about, and of course my favorite bets for Saturday.

To keep it simple, I’ll go with my picks first. After that, read on to learn about each horse and some fun Derby nuggets. Also, if you need some information on how to bet on poinyes, here is one introduction to horse racing that should help.

My betting card

Introduction to All Horses (Position, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds)

1. National Treasure (John Velázquez/Bob Baffert); 4-1

After being banned from entering horses in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert is back. He has won this race seven times and is third choice on the morning line here.

The National Treasury has a lot going for it. He’s on the rail, adding turn signals and officially back in the Baffert barn.

Look for me to be on top and play, come get me. And they might not be able to. I expect a big jump from fourth place in the Santa Anita Derby. He is my top pick in this race.

2. Chasing Chaos (Sheldon Russell/Ed Moger Jr.); 50-1

This gelding has not finished in front of anyone decent in his eight lifetime races, and the only time he faced graded stakes company, Practical Move beat him by 17 lengths. It’s hopeless, but I hope the connections enjoy the party!

3. Mage (Javier Castellà/Gustavo Delgado); 8-5

I’m mad at myself for not moving this one higher after my top pick in the Derby, Skinner, was scratched. He had so many things I love about a horse on the Triple Crown circuit. He can absolutely win again as this race has seven shooters new to the Triple Crown race, but only two look like a threat on paper.

I would expect Mage to be in a big chase spot alongside National Treasure and maybe First Mission, and then it’s just a matter of how he responds when jockey Javier Castellano asks him for his best run.

He has a great chance going into the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown.

4. Coffeewithchris (Jaime Rodriguez/John Salzman Jr.); 20-1

This local horse is not fast enough to take the lead, nor does his past performances suggest he wants to pass horses in the stretch. He has the look of a horse that will just roll around the track and hope to cash a third or fourth place check.

5. Red Route One (Joel Rosario; Steve Asmussen); 10-1

He was once 3-1 in the 2022 Street Sense at Churchill Downs, which had Derby Two Phil’s finish, so he has been well regarded by punters in the past.

He has very little speed overall, but he has a good closing kick, so I can see him passing some horses late. But I don’t think the initial pace is fast enough to be able to win.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has historically done very well in this race, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a good late run to finish in the top four.

6. Act (Fairgal Lynch; Shug McGaughey); 15-1

If you look at the Jan. 28 race at Florida’s Gulfstream Park, Perform was 6-1 in an opening race won by a 12-1 shot. That horse? Mag.

Yes, this Mage who just won the Kentucky Derby.

Performance has improved as the runs have gotten longer, and it should be in good needle position throughout. If you’re looking for a long shot, this is the horse I’d play, and I’ll definitely be using it in my exactas and trifectas.

7. Blazing Sevens (Irad Ortiz Jr./Chad Brown); 6-1

This one looked poised for big things as a 2-year-old when he broke the maiden in dominant fashion at Saratoga and then won the Champagne Stakes at Aqueduct.

But he doesn’t seem to have taken any steps forward when he was 3 years old. It took him a while to get going, and he clearly needed the run in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park after a five-month layoff. He then finished well behind the top two finishers in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his second start of the year.

Even in the third start of a layoff, I’m not sure he’s fast enough to run with National Treasure, who finished behind in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, nor is he good enough to beat Mage. He’ll take money all the way to the race, and if he beats me, well, I’ll live with it.

8. First mission (Luis Saez/Brad Cox); 5-2

He is considered by most to be Mage’s main rival and should be right in front of National Treasure in second place early on.

He beat eventual Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm in the Lexington Stakes and owns the second-highest Beyer speed figure in the race behind Mage’s 105 in the Derby.

My big concern is if he gets hung up a bit from position 10 and that makes him run much further than National Treasure or Mage, potentially weakening him for the run. It can certainly win, but I like National Treasure and Mage better.

BEAR BYTES (fun talking points with friends)

Trainer Bob Baffert has won this race seven times, the last being Justify in 2017. Each of his seven winners went 3-1 or less in the stakes.

Trainer Chad Brown has won this race twice since 2017. Neither of his two winners were top two bets.

The only favorite to win the Preakness in the last seven runnings was Justify’s win in 2018. Fun fact, but the last two favorites to win the Preakness went on to win the Triple Crown (also American Pharoah in 2015).

Jockey John Velázquez has ridden the three favorite for the past six years. He has finished third in Medina Spirit in 2021, second in Authentic in 2020 and eighth in Always Dreaming in 2017.

Each of the last four Preakness winners was at least 6-1 and at least the third betting choice. Rombauer was the fifth choice in 2021 and Swiss Skydiver was the sixth betting choice in 2020.

The last time the favorite won and the second choice finished second in the Preakness was in 1981 when favorite Pleasant Colony won, and Bold Ego finished second. Note that there have been cases since then where the second choice won and the favorite finished second, such as in 2012 when the second choice, I’ll Have Another, beat the favorite Bodemeister.

The only time the first horse to cross the finish line in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness was sent off at double-digit odds was in 2011 when Animal Kingdom won the Derby at 21-1 and Shackleford won the Preakness with 13-1. Mage just won the Derby at 15-1.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has trained the Preakness runner-up the past two years: Epicenter in 2022 and Midnight Bourbon in 2021.

Chris “The Bear” Fallica has covered sports for nearly three decades. While college football has been his focus, he also enjoys the NFL, soccer, golf, tennis, MLB, NHL and horse racing, with an “occasional” bet on these events. Chris recently won the inaugural Circa Football Invitational and finished in the Top 10 of the Golden Nugget Football Contest. He is a multiple-time qualifier for the NHC Handicap Championship. Remember, “The less you bet, the more you lose when you win!” Follow him on Twitter @chrysphallic.

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