Preakness Win Could Put Epicenter on Track to be 3-Year-Old Champion
In some ways, Saturday’s Preakness is as many expected. Epicenter comes to Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course off a strong showing in the Kentucky Derby and is the heavy morning-line favorite.
The main difference is that Epicenter finished second thanks Rich Strike’s tremendous run in the final strides at the Derby two weeks ago. Without that 80-1 stunner, the talk now would be if Epicenter could win a Triple Crown.
That, obviously, is impossible now, and there will be no Triple Crown winner at all since Rich Strike’s connections decided to let the Derby winner stay on his routine and come back fresher for the Belmont Stakes three weeks from now.
So, why bring Epicenter back when he can’t win a Triple Crown? Owner Ron Winchell explained there’s a new goal for the 3-year-old stakes winner.
After the Derby, the number one thing was we got to turn the page and really look at making him the 3-year-old champion,” Winchell said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “I think the Preakness plays into that plan.”
What happens after Saturday remains to be seen, regardless of whether Epicenter wins. The Belmont is still a possibility, as is a plan to run the colt through the summer’s top races – like the Travers Stakes in Saratoga.
Who Can Beat Epicenter?
Epicenter headlines a field of nine for the Preakness, which is set to run shortly after 7 pm Saturday night. NBC will broadcast. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt will break from the eighth gate and is 6-5 on the Pimlico morning line.
Four horses, all breaking inside of the favorite, appear to be his top challengers in the mile and three-sixteenths race.
Early Voting’s handlers bypassed the Derby to get him ready for the second jewel in the Triple Crown. Sired by Gun Runner, he won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in February before finishing second to Mo Donegal in the Wood Memorial at the New York track on April 9. The Chad Brown-trained colt will break fifth and has morning-line odds of 7-2.
At 9-2 is Secret Oath, who comes off a win in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, she ran third against the colts in the Arkansas Derby, her only blemish in four starts this year. Secret Oath, who breaks fourth, seeks to become the seventh filly to win the race, which dates back to 1873.
The 86-year-old trainer has won the Preakness six times. Most recently with Oxbow in 2013. His first came 42 years ago with Codex. Four years ago, Lukas saddled Bravazo, who ran second to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify.
If Lukas has anything to say about it, Saturday won’t be a swan song for him.
I don’t know what I would do,” Lukas said earlier in the week. “I think my wife (Laurie) thinks I should keep doing it, too. I might be hard to live with. I get bored real easy if I’m not in competition. I might become a gambler, and that would be really bad because I am terrible at it. I have to have something to get up for. I need to do this. It’s the best therapy in the world.”
Breaking second will be Creative Minister, a 10-1 shot on the morning line. Trainer Kenny McPeek’s colt makes his steaks debut Saturday and comes off a strong showing in an allowance claiming race win in a Derby Day undercard race.
On the inside is Simplification, who has 6-1 morning-line odds. The Antonio Sano-trained colt won the Fountain of Youth Stakes in February and has since followed up with a third-place showing in the Florida Derby and a fourth-place finish two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.
Fixed-Odds Preakness Wagering Available in Vegas
Besides parimutuel wagering at tracks and through licensed advanced-deposit wagering platforms across the country, fixed-odds betting on the Preakness will also be available in Las Vegas,
Circa Sports tabbed Epicenter as a +101 favorite on Saturday morning. That means a $100 bet would net a $101 profit.
Early Voting is Circa’s second choice at +500, with Secret Oath at +625. Simplification is available at +800, and odds on Creative Minister are +825.
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