The Complete Dummies Guide AND Expert Picks for the 2017 Preakness Stakes

By Jason Lee
Published on May 15, 2017
A Dummies Guide to the Preakness Stakes

We get it. Horse racing is a huge sport that horse enthusiasts follow closely all year round. The problem is that most of us don’t identify as “horse nuts” and therefore couldn’t care less about horse racing all year EXCEPT during that Triple Crown thing we occasionally hear about or vaguely remember from watching the movie Secretariat or Sea Biscuit.

For those of you that are these self-proclaimed horse nuts, we’ve got some expert picks and insider predictions towards the bottom of the article. Unless you’re looking for a refresher on what is probably second nature to you, we recommend treating this like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book and skip down to the picks section.

For the rest of us who think Mare is a popular singer named John’s last name, or that Foal is something that doesn’t happen but still causes Lebron James to flop on the ground, stick with us. We’re not going to overload you with horse information or things you don’t want to know. We’re going to give you the basics and just enough to be able to hang with the horse nuts and more importantly enjoy the race. After we’ve got everyone up to speed, we’re going to drop some expert insider picks on the race so you can actually put your knowledge to work and make some cash money.

What is the Triple Crown?

Ok, so you’re probably asking why on Earth people go nuts about this race and a few others when there are thousands and thousands of races a year. It’s actually because the horses that run in this race are from a horse reality show called Real Horse Wives of Preakness County. Ok, fine. That may not be the actual reason.

The actual reason is that horse enthusiasts realized that for a sport to be more successful, it needs to have some sort of “Championship” or something for people to chase. Otherwise, you just have a bunch of random races with no real way of distinguishing which horse is the best at being a horse. Instead of developing a playoff system or a league, they decided that they would make it a distinguished honor if any horse could win all three of these races they cherry picked in a single year.

The three races are and have always been the following:

  • The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
  • Known by horse nuts as “The Run for the Roses”
  • Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore Maryland
  • Known by horse nuts as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans:
  • Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
  • Known by horse nuts as “The Test of the Champion”

Was there a big vote by the Horse Boards of America to make this official? No. Frankly, I don’t think that association actually exists mainly because we just made it up. Credit with coming up with the “system” goes to Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton. The original reference to the races by Hatton goes back to the 1930s, but it’s said they were informally referred to as that as early as 1923. Personally, we can’t confirm or deny the informal references because we are not 100 years old.

Things got “Facebook Official” in 1950 when the Triple Crown Trophy was commissioned and awarded to all past and future winners of the three races.

Only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown since 1919.

Yup, only 12. Now you can understand what a big deal this is. Beating the best in the world at anything three times in a row is impressive. We don’t care if it’s competitive yoyo-ing, the 100-meter dash, or being the world’s fastest horse; it is impressive and should be respected whether you like horse racing or not. Sorry for the tirade; we will get off of our high horse.

TL;DR (Too long; Didn’t Read. This is internet speak for you are too lazy to read all the words and just want the meat and potatoes) We’re including these in every section for some of you.
Triple Crown is a trophy awarded if the same horse wins three particular races in the same year. It’s basically “the big enchilada” or “the crowning achievement” of the horse racing world, kind of like winning the horse Superbowl. The three races are the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

So How Does The Triple Crown Work?

Thankfully, it’s simple to wrap your head around. The best horses in the world meet and run one race on the first Saturday of May. This is always the Kentucky Derby and is sometimes referred to as the first leg of the Triple Crown. If a horse does not win this race, it cannot win the Triple Crown. Once this race is over, only one horse has a shot at the Triple Crown that year (the winner of the race).

Fun Fact to Sound Cool: The Kentucky Derby is the only one of the three races to be run continuously from its inception. A.K.A the other two races weren’t run occasionally, but the Kentucky Derby has been run every single year since 1875.

Two weeks later, on the third Saturday in May, the Preakness Stakes is run. This is the race we will be talking about today. This is also referred to as the second leg of the Triple Crown. If the winner of the Kentucky Derby does not win this race as well, there will officially be no Triple Crown this year. This is a pivotal race because if the Derby winner also wins it, the hype is on and we now get to witness a one race shot for a horse to win the Triple Crown.

That one race shot is the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. This race is run the third Saturday following the Preakness which is usually early June because that is how calendars work.

Win all three races in one year, and you win the Triple Crown. The Preakness is the second leg of the three races.

The Preakness Stakes

We’re specifically looking today to get you up to speed on the second leg of the Triple Crown of 2017, the Preakness Stakes. Let’s hit you with the down and dirty data first:

  • Race Name: Preakness Stakes
  • Race Track: Pimlico Race Course
  • Race Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Length: 1 3/16 miles
  • Surface: Tile Flooring. Kidding, it’s dirt
  • Track: Left-handed (This means they turn left like NASCAR)
  • Inaugurated: 1873 (This means it started in 1873)
  • Race Nickname: The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans

The Black-Eyed what? The nickname is because the winner of the race is given a blanket of yellow flowers to resemble Maryland’s state flower which surprise, is known as the black-eyed-Susan.

The Preakness Stakes is a thoroughbred type race that is open to 3-year-old colts/geldings and fillies. Those are types of horses and if you aren’t sure what we mean by 3-years-old, this guide, and even a private tutor is not going to help you. The race takes under two minutes to run and currently has a purse (prize money) of $1.5 million.

Why should we be excited about this race?

The Preakness is the pivotal race in the drive to the Triple Crown. After the Kentucky Derby, there is always a chance for a horse to win the Triple Crown. After the Preakness Stakes, though, we know if there is a real contender or not.

It’s kind of like if you are watching to see if someone can make three half-court basketball shots in a row. If they make the first one, that’s pretty cool and definitely impressive, but you know it’s still a long shot to get all three. When they drain that second one, though, whoa. It is officially on like Donkey Kong. People from all over the arena are going to stop what they are doing and rush over to see if that person can make the elusive three in a row.

You know who the biggest fans of the horse that won the Derby are in the Preakness? The people that run the third leg of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes. Imagine how many more people will watch that last race if they know that if a particular horse wins it, they will be witnessing history that has only been done twelve times before 2017.

The Preakness is also known for having the smallest field out of the three races which bodes well for the Derby Champion. This is because the two-week turnaround is pretty tough on the horses and a lot of teams feel it’s best for them to let the horses head up to the Hampton’s and Netflix and Chill a bit before the longer Belmont Stakes race in June.

The Preakness Stakes race is the second leg of the Triple Crown and is the pivotal race to see if we have a real contender or not for that year.

Details: TV Viewing Guide, Stats, Dates, and Times

Ok, so we all now understand what the Preakness Stakes race is all about and why it’s important and more importantly why we should get excited about it. Let’s get the down and dirty details about the race this year.

2017 Kentucky Derby Winner: Always Dreaming

Remember, this means that Always Dreaming is the ONLY horse that has a shot to win the Triple Crown this year.

The Favorite: Always Dreaming

For Triple Crown enthusiasts (which includes the rest of us who normally don’t get into horse racing), this is great news. The winner of the Derby this year is at least the betting favorite to win the Preakness Stakes this year. We’ll talk more about how big of a favorite in just a few.

TV Viewing Guide for the 2017 Preakness Stakes

  • Race Date | Saturday, May 20th, 2017
  • Race Coverage | 5:00 pm – 7:15 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST)
  • THE ACTUAL RACE | Shortly after 6:45 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST)
  • Channel | NBC
  • Additional Online Live Stream | NBC Sports Live Extra and the NBC Sports App

The reason we mentioned when the actual race is at is if you remember, the race only takes two minutes to run. This means that the 2 hours and 15-minute show has a lot of lead up to the actual race. Honestly, it’s totally up to you if you want to watch that stuff. Personally, we find it entertaining, and it helps to get the hype up for the actual race. If you’ve got things to do and just want to see the race, though, tune in at 6:45 pm EST.

Current Odds to win the 2017 Preakness Stakes

(These are sure to have changed by the time we posted this article and the time it took us to run to the bathroom).

Horse Odds
Always Dreaming EVEN
Irish War Cry +550
Classic Empire +650
Looking at Lee +1100
Battle of Midway +1100
Cloud Computing +1400
Conquest Mo Money +1600
Gunnevera +1600
Malagacy +1600
Practical Joke +1800

Insider Picks for the 2017 Preakness Stakes Race

Hello again to the seasoned horse fans that skipped their way down here. You did miss quite a bit of fun along the way, but that’s ok. The rest of us are now all caught up and fancy ourselves experts in the field, and we can all now proceed to the insider picks for this year’s race.

Always Dreaming

Look, we love underdog… or under-horse stories just as much as the next person, but that’s not going to be the case this year. Always Dreaming is coming in as a MASSIVE favorite and frankly we think that’s spot on. Let’s look at a few reasons why.

  • The horse performed extremely well at the Derby this year in garbage conditions. Frankly, we think the horse has more in the tank than we saw and may just annihilate the field this year.
  • The money on Derby race day poured in on the horse pushing it from the favorite to an even bigger favorite. This is usually a sign that the experts have a lot of faith in the horse. Always Dreaming opened for the Derby around 5-1 and closed around 9-2. Obviously, the experts and the big money were right; that says a lot about a horse.

If you’re feeling saucy, you can try betting against this horse this year; but frankly, that’s probably equivalent to setting money on fire. The horse is just too big of a favorite and should easily cruise in what will probably be a “boring” race to victory.

Classic Empire

It’s a bit interesting that this horse opened as the horse predicted to get second and has now slid below Irish War Cry. Classic Empire finished fourth in the Derby which is not all that impressive except if you look at the fact, the horse was crashed into coming out of the gate by McCracken, who was knocked into by Irish War Cry. Leave it to the Irish to fight dirty… We’re kidding. These things happen.

The point here, though, is the Classic Empire’s fourth place finish is probably not indicative of the strength of the run the horse put on. Frankly, we like Classic Empire for a second-place finish here; or if you’re bored and just want action, you could toss a few bucks for an upset victory, though, probably not likely.  $10 will win you $65 though and might be worth it for entertainment value only.

Looking at Lee

This horse was a long shot going into the Derby but had an impressive second place finish. It’s tough to get behind a long shot being able to pull off that sort of performance and then be rejuvenated enough to do the same thing two weeks later. A lot of people are jumping on the Looking at Lee bandwagon, but we think the horse comes out strong and then dies out towards the end of the race.

Our Overall Picks for the 2017 Preakness Stakes Race

  • Always Dreaming
  • Classic Empire
  • Irish War Cry


  • Always Dreaming
  • Classic Empire
  • Battle of Midway

Yes, we know these are somewhat “boring” and follow a pretty probable look, but sometimes that’s the nature of sports. We think that most experts are probably putting Irish War Cry in front of Classic Empire and Looking at Lee trickling into the mix instead of Battle of Midway. Personally, we just think Looking at Lee “blew its wad” in the Derby and isn’t going to be able to muster as strong of a run.

We also think that Classic Empire is a stronger horse than people are giving it credit for; especially thanks to its strong recovery run after getting smashed coming out of the gate at the Derby. The smaller field should eliminate this as a problem unless the Irish horse tries to shank it with a broken Jameson bottle.

All in all should be a fun race, but we think the winner will be decisive and the mixing up will happen from 2nd on back.

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