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Courier-Magazine’s Jason Frakes breaks down why Most Safety and Nation Space aren’t racing at Preakness.
USA TODAY

In spite of the talk nonetheless swirling round this 12 months’s Kentucky Derby end, there used to be a temporary hope within the aftermath of that race that the Preakness Stakes could be a chief beneficiary of the higher consideration on horse racing.

As a substitute, proprietor Gary West made up our minds to take his ball and pass house with Most Safety, the pony that completed first within the Derby however used to be disqualified for interference. And with de facto Derby winner Nation Space out of coaching whilst being handled for a minor sickness, it’s almost certainly going to be months prior to both horse will get a possibility at redemption.

However as scrumptious as a rematch would had been between Most Safety and Nation Space along side Conflict of Will, the pony that Most Safety interfered with round the second one flip at Churchill Downs, the 144th Preakness will as an alternative must logo itself as one of the wide-open runnings in fresh reminiscence.

Implausible participates in a morning exercise at Pimlico Race Direction. (Photograph: Mitch Stringer, USA TODAY Sports activities)

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Whilst the loss of celebrity energy isn’t nice for the game or most likely for NBC’s tv scores, it’s an intriguing and difficult race from a handicapping standpoint. Not like maximum editions of the Preakness, the place a horse who ran neatly within the Derby is the transparent favourite, simplest 4 horses from Kentucky stayed at the Triple Crown path.

They’re led by means of Improbable, the Bob Baffert trainee who ran a solid but unspectacular fifth (moved up to fourth via disqualification) and War of Will, who had a clear run at the top of the stretch after the bumping incident with Maximum Security but flattened out in the stretch to finish eighth (placed seventh). The other two Derby runners, Win Win Win and Bodexpress, were compete non-factors.

Improbable was made the 5-to-2 favorite on the morning line with War of Will the second choice at 2-to-1. Both of them figure to be overbet by the public because of familiarity and, in Improbable’s case, blind support for a Baffert barn that has won the Preakness seven times.

It’s certainly possible that these are simply the two best horses in an unusually weak Preakness field and will justify their short odds on race day. But as a bettor, it’s hard to find much value in a horse like Improbable, who laid just off a fast pace in the Derby, had no real traffic trouble and simply wasn’t fast enough to hit the board.

Luis Saez aboard Maximum Security leads the field at the start during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Photo: Jamie Rhodes, USA TODAY Sports)

With that in mind, I’m gravitating toward the horses who didn’t run in the Derby. Most of them, admittedly, missed the Derby for one reason — they ran poorly in prep races this spring and couldn’t accumulate enough points to get in the starting gate at Churchill Downs.

But two newcomers entered Saturday stand out as legitimate contenders: Owendale and Anothertwistafate, who ran 1-2 in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13.

For much of the spring, Owendale didn’t look like much of a Triple Crown prospect. Though he impressively won a conditional allowance race at the Fair Grounds in January, he was essentially eliminated from the Derby conversation after fading to eighth in the Risen Star stakes.

But a change in strategy paid big dividends in the Lexington, as jockey Florent Geroux took him off the pace after Owendale had shown early speed in his previous starts. And despite fairly slow fractions, Owendale was able to make a sweeping move around the far turn that carried him to the lead, winning by a commanding 1 3/4 lengths.

Owendale, who ran a 98 Beyer Speed Figure that day, has trained well since the Lexington, clocking a five-furlong breeze for trainer Brad Cox in 59 1/5 seconds on May 11. In other words, he’s shown he’s fast enough to win this race.

Anothertwistafate also ran well that day, losing some ground in traffic on the far turn before rallying to finish second. He should be laying close to the pace in the Preakness.

At 10-to-1 on the morning line, Owendale represents the best value in the field. Though it’s certainly possible his strong performance in the Lexington was a one-off, it was both a visually impressive performance and one that would place him in the race’s top-tier from a speed figure standpoint (Improbable and Win Win Win previously posted career-best Beyer figures of 99). If he repeats that effort or improves, he’ll be in strong position to win the Preakness.

Though a monster payout like the Derby is difficult in a 13-horse field, several long shots have a chance to hit the board. Among them are Signalman, who was one of the nation’s top 2-year olds last fall; the local horse Alwaysmining, who has won six in a row at nearby Laurel Park; and Warriors Charge, the other Cox trainee who has never run in a stakes race but dominated his last two races at Oaklawn Park.

If Owendale wins, throwing those horses into exactas and trifectas along with the two favorites could generate a nice score on the exotics.

Preakness predictions

1st – Owendale

2nd – War of Will

3rd – Anothertwistafate

(Using Improbable, Signalman, Alwaysmining, Warriors Charge in exactas and trifectas.)

Though it’s unfortunate and unusual for a Kentucky Derby winner to miss the Preakness — it’s only happened four times in the last 59 runnings — that doesn’t mean the race will be a dud.

Instead of the Maximum Security-Country House rematch everyone wanted, we instead get a unique betting opportunity. In a race that is usually good to favorites and horses who ran in the Derby, this seems like an ideal year to go against the grain.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken

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