1 American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014), Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010), 4-5*
Good: Well, there's the obvious fact that he won the Kentucky Derby with a trip that resembled I'll Have Another's triumph in 2012, right down to catching a horse that caught a perfect trip en route to a win with a wide post. It also helps that he has the tactical speed to make his own trip in most races. While the rail isn't the greatest spot to be in, unless it's a dead rail, he's still the one to beat. Also, since 1997, half the Derby winners have came back to repeat the effort in the Preakness. 9/17 once you factor in that Barbaro didn't get a chance to run the whole race in 2006.
Bad: Orb was impressive in winning his Derby. As were Fusaichi Pegasus and Animal Kingdom. All three of them lost to horses they beat two weeks before their Preakness defeats. Getting 4-5 odds on an inside post where he could be stuck inside of Dortmund and Firing Line isn't terribly appealing if everything goes against him. He only won by around 1 length despite getting things his way in the Derby, but that can be owed to a wide trip. He's my pick to win, though I won't bet him to win directly.
2 Dortmund, Martin Garcia (2010), Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010), 7-2
Good: Despite doing the dirty work in the Derby, he hung around for a solid third. It was reminiscent of Shackleford's run in 2011 before he won his Preakness. Only two horses the past 25 years have won the Preakness with more than 14-15 days off. It's often the ones that didn't win the Derby, but ran in it, that spoil the fun in Baltimore. A repeat effort of his Derby, other than him fading in the stretch, could see him home.
Bad: He's never really flattened out as much as he did in the Derby in the stretch before that loss. How much did that race take out of him? He figures to be second choice again to his stablemate, which means betting him to win might not yield too handsome of a return at the betting window. He couldn't have had an easier lead in the Derby on a track that wasn't unkind to speed and still got beat by two horses in the lane. I think he's the likeliest to beat the Pharoah, but that last start discouraged me some. My second choice here.
3 Mr. Z, Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas (1980, 1985, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2013), 20-1
Good: Lukas has won 5 Preakness Stakes' in the past. Oxbow ran a bit off the boil in his Derby before winning for him in 2013. Then again, Oxbow was against the bias in slop in his Derby, whereas Mr. Z didn't really threaten the top five or six in his. Stranger things have happened. He's seasoned in his starts, at least.
Bad: Seems odd that he would get sold the week of a race just to run against his ex-owner. Also, he's lost 12 on the trot. Hard to believe that he'd turn it around that drastically in this spot. The nickname "Deranged Lukas" comes to mind in placing this guy here.
4 Danzig Moon, Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse, 15-1
Good: His fifth wasn't horrible, considering the top three stayed in the top three in some order on Derby Day. There are worse things than having Julien Leparoux aboard. Since he's an Ontario bred, he could win the Queens Plate (Canada's Derby, more or less). So there's that.
Bad: Sitting sixth often wins a lot of Derbies, or at least gives you a good shake at the top three. From start to finish, he passed 1 horse and lost 4 lengths. Which suggests he may not gain ground on the top rivals in here. Not a fan of the fact that he only has 1 lifetime win, either.
5 Tale of Verve, Joel Rosario, Dallas Stewart, 30-1
Good: He exits his last race a winner at the Preakness distance, which no one else can claim (though American Pharoah did win the Derby at a longer distance). Joel Rosario has won a Derby (2013) and a Belmont (2014) in his past. Maybe he can complete a personal Triple Crown of sorts?
Bad: He really shouldn't be in here on form. His 1 3/16 mile win was clocked in over 2 minutes. Which is roughly three seconds slower than the Derby time that AP ran last out. Although Beyers are sometimes deceiving, he still runs about 10-20 points or more slower than the others. Would be a shock on the scale of winning a jackpot on a slot machine while the Cubs win the World Series on the same night if he won on Saturday.
6 Bodhisattva, Trevor McCarthy, Jose Corrales, 20-1
Good: He won the Tesio, Pimlico's local prep, and the runners from that race tend to fare well in this race; even if they don't win, sometimes they crack the top 3-4. The action on the top 3 from the Derby might make him an attractive 15-1 or higher if you like him to defend his home course well.
Bad: It's not like he's Blame going up against Zenyatta at Churchill here in terms of quality of wins or running style. His running lines suggest he's similar to the top 3, but not as fast or consistent as they are. It's also been 32 years since a Tesio winner won the Preakness. Don't think he'll be the one to end that dry spell.
7 Divining Rod, Javier Castellano (2006), Arnaud Delacour, 12-1
Good: His jockey won the 2006 Preakness, though that was more known for Barbaro's unfortunate breakdown. His Lexington win was impressive, even if what he faced wasn't the quality of the Derby field. Unlike the other contenders that aren't the 3 favorites, he has the tactical speed to keep up with them if the pace dawdles again.
Bad: Hasn't beat the top horses just yet. Couldn't keep up with Carpe Diem at Tampa, and he got trounced by the top 3 two weeks ago. No horse has won the Preakness on over 3 weeks rest besides Red Bullet in the past 25 years. Not sure he's the one to take advantage of that rest, though he could easily get a top 2-3 finish. My third choice in here, though I don't think he can win without a lot of help.
8 Firing Line, Gary Stevens (1997, 2001, 2013), Simon Callaghan, 4-1
Good: Always digs in for a fight, as he's never been worse than second in a race in his life. Finally beat Dortmund home in a race, though one more beat the both of them. Trainer and jockey are 25% when not with Firing Line and 33% with Firing Line together since 2014. A repeat effort of the Derby could see him home.
Bad: Didn't switch leads in the Derby, which is not a good sign for a distance runner. Also has twice as many seconds as wins. Sure, he's gritty, but you need an extra gear to win 9.5-12 furlong races. While his gears are consistent and solid, I'm not sure he can separate from the bunch unless he towers over them. And these are his peers, not his subordinates. No Derby runner-up has won the Preakness since Summer Squall in 1990. I also have a feeling he'll be second choice in the betting and might bounce, as he prefers rest between his starts, not just two weeks of it.
My preferred order of finish: 1-2-7-4-8-6-3-5