Preakness Stakes Odds: Is Big Chalk Epicenter An Underlay?

An unidentified trainer rides Epicenter through a morning workout at Pimlico Race Course ahead of the 2022 Preakness Stakes
Image Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Can Epicenter win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday? Absolutely. Will Epicenter win the Preakness Stakes? It’s likely. Is Epicenter worth betting in the Preakness Stakes? Well that’s a more interesting question, but let’s just say the FDA’s dietary recommendations don’t include 8-10 servings of chalk daily.

Let’s take a closer look at 2022 Preakness Stakes odds for the second jewel in the Triple Crown, Baltimore’s finest outdoor party and home to incredibly ill-advised port-a-potty abuse.

Preakness Stakes Odds and Post Positions

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Simplification John Velazquez Antonio Sano 6/1
2 Creative Minister Brian Hernandez Jr. Ken McPeek 10/1
3 Fenwick Florent Geroux Kevin McKathan 50/1
4 Secret Oath Luis Saez D. Wayne Lukas 9/2
5 Early Voting Jose Ortiz Chad Brown 7/2
6 Happy Jack Tyler Gaffalione Doug O’Neill 30/1
7 Armagnac Irad Ortiz Tim Yakteen 12/1
8 Epicenter Joel Rosario Steve Asmussen 6/5
9 Skippylongstocking Junior Alvarado Saffie Joseph Jr. 20/1

The Big Favorite

Epicenter was your 2022 Kentucky Derby winner right up until the time he wasn’t. If that seems overly obvious, you need to rewatch how 80-1 bomb Rich Strike plowed through traffic like he was late for a court appointment. No, seriously, you need to rewatch it.

Open rail, long run, two bucks becomes $160, and if you were in line at the window to cash out after that one, we have one thing to say: Welcome, newly minted lifelong horse racing fan! We’ll see you at Gulfstream in the winter and Del Mar in the summer. 

But Rich Strike is out of Saturday’s Preakness, his handlers choosing to let him rest up for next month’s Belmont. And Epicenter is still here, boasting a 101 speed figure from Brisnet (sort of a catch-all assessment of how fast a horse ran) for his Kentucky Derby romp — that’s extremely competitive among this Preakness crew. 

Epicenter is tested, versatile and has run a mile and a quarter (unlike most of this group). He also has the full faith of trainer Steve Asmussen to come back and run two weeks post-Derby against a field of horses that isn’t as talented, experienced or both. So why are we all wishy-washy?

In three words: six to five.

“It seems like he’s going to be even money at best come post time,” said Ed DeRosa, vice president of content and product development at Horse Racing Nation. “Some really smart gamblers I’ve talked to think he’s going to be 4/5. I don’t see taking that price on him. A lot of times when dealing with chalk, the question you have to ask yourself is: Do I win long-term playing this horse that’s even money (or worse)? My answer is no, I do not.”

The Filly and The Fresh Face

An unidentified trainer ride 2022 Preakness Stakes contender Secret Oath during morning workouts at Pimlico Race Course
Image Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

All right. You can’t play Epicenter on the nose if you’re eyeing long-term profitably. Now what?

The second choice is Early Voting at 7/2, who finished second in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April. Then there’s Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath at 9/2. 

Both horses are capable, own notable wins, and pose a legit threat to Epicenter. And they’re both going to be middling value if you play them to win. Sorry. (There goes the public again, ruining your perfectly good wagering opportunities.)

Trained by octogenarian legend of the game D. Wayne Lukas, Secret Oath’s presence on the Preakness Stakes odds board will be catnip to bettors looking for a good story. She’s a filly running against the boys, guided by one of the best trainers ever to spend decades surrounded by horse poop in the predawn hours. However, only six fillies have won this race, and only two since the 1920s. Her sire, Arrogate, was a freak who denied California Chrome the 2016 Breeder’s Cup Classic. It’s catnip. Expensive, expensive catnip.

“If she’s in good position at the first turn, if she saves a little ground and stays out of trouble, she’s going to give her backers a thrill, the way she runs,” DeRosa said. “She is in the mix for sure. But with the story of Lukas and the filly against the boys, that attracts money. I just can’t back her as a play in the market given what her win price is.”

As for Early Voting, he’s an improving horse who’s thrown the highest speed figure (111) in the field. Bettors often look for the highest number on the program and start shoveling money in with both hands, like an extra Andy Jackson is going to make those hooves clip-clop faster. The morning line price of 7/2 is likely to settle lower come post time. 

Now This Price Is Right

Preakness Stakes horse Skippylongstocking goes for a run under an unidentified trainer during morning workouts at Pimlico Race Course.
Image Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Fine, all the obvious horses are overplayed. “What am I supposed to do, go lay 6.5 on the Celtics? Bet the Pittsburgh Pirates?” you’re asking yourself. Oh no. Oh dear, no. Can we interest you in a 20/1 shot?

With a 107 speed figure as the third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial, Skippylongstocking’s number is actually better than Epicenter’s. The Wood is a race worth eyeing, DeRosa says, and he’s determined to not get beat the same way he did in the Derby. 

“If you like Early Voting and you’re willing to take 3/1 or 4/1 on him, why not three times the price on Skippylongstocking?” DeRosa said. 

“I loved Tiz the Bomb in the Derby and the horse he beat in the Jack Ruby Stakes, who was third, was Rich Strike. I wasn’t creative enough where I thought, ‘Well, if I like a horse coming out of this race, maybe I should do something with all the horses coming out of [the same] race.’”

The Wild Card

If we learned anything from Taiba in the Kentucky Derby it’s that hotshot horses with eye-popping speed figs but little in the way of true racing experience don’t always live up to the on-paper hype. We’re not saying it’s Ryan Leaf syndrome, but if Taiba ever goes down on a burglary rap, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Creative Minister, who earned a 101 speed figure last out, fills the Taiba role in the Preakness, with only three lower-level races under his belt. 

So why look that way? A nine-horse field is much more manageable than the cavalry, 20-horse charge of the Derby. And Creative Minister made such a huge jump in performance between his last two races, we’re willing to gamble that we might catch a colt making a big leap in form at the right time. 

The DeRosa Play

Trifecta: Skippylongstocking (9), with Secret Oath (4), Early Voting (5) and Epicenter (8) with 4, 5, 8. It’s a $6 bet for every $1 you call, so playing this as a $5 trifecta would cost $30.

The Props Play

$15 exacta: Early Voting (5) with Creative Minister (10) and Epicenter (8). $30 bet.