05/15/2013 5:42PM

Pimlico: Track bias a key to cashing on Preakness Day

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Whether they play Pimlico regularly or not, many horseplayers across the country will, for better or worse, make their biggest plays of the weekend on races there Friday and Saturday. Of course, the bigger races, including Friday's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and Saturday's Preakness, will have fields comprising largely shippers, but most of the races on the undercard will consist of local runners. And to get an edge in those races it helps to have an understanding of recent track trends.

[2013 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more]

A very dull rail strongly influenced the outcome of races on the main track at Pimlico for a period of about two weeks recently, starting on Thursday, April 25, and running through Sunday, May 5. That period encompasses eight cards, and during that time there were 52 races run on the dirt.

Through the first week, from the 25th through the 28th, there was not a single winner who was on the rail for the duration of the race, outside of a 4 ½-furlong dash for 2-year-olds. The second week of the bias, from May 2nd through the 5th, there were a total of three winners who bucked the trend, racing along the inside for the majority of their trips. But all three of those winners were favored. In fact, two of those runners were odds-on favorites, including Grand Mast at 3-10. When racing resumed last week, on Thursday, May 9, the bias seemed to have disappeared, and there was no apparent edge to any running style or on any part of the track through last weekend.

Granted, part of the reason for the preponderance of wide winners during the time the bias was in effect was because jockeys recognized the bias and made sure to avoid the inside whenever possible, but the fact remains that those horses caught along the rail for any considerable length of time were at a real disadvantage.

The turf course has played fairly for the majority of the meet, whether in sprints or routes. There have been some exceptions, however, including in the early part of the meet, when closers seemed to hold the edge in sprints on the grass.

On two days in particular - April 11 and April 14 - speed-types were at a distinct disadvantage. According to handicapper Brad Thomas, an astute tracker of biases, this is a common occurrence in the spring at Pimlico. According to Thomas, as the temperatures rise, the turf course gets more firm and becomes fairer to all running styles.

Handicappers this weekend might also want to track horses coming out of grass races on April 27 and 28, when those on the rail held the edge on turf course at Pimlico. The bias also served to aid those horses on the lead, as the pacesetters who were on the inside were on the best part of the course. But any runner on the fence, even off the pace, held an advantage. Those runners who were off the inside and ran subpar races can certainly be forgiven.

The long-range weather forecast, according to Accuweather.com, calls for a 35 percent chance of rain on Saturday. Pimlico, like most American dirt tracks, tends to favor speed when the track is not fast. But sloppy conditions many times lead to an outside speed bias, where front-runners off the rail hold the advantage. That was certainly the case on April 12, the last time the entire card at Pimlico was run over a sloppy strip. It can be difficult to figure which runners will get that type of trip, but if the rains do come bettors could benefit from trying to plot the race flow and anticipate which horses will be racing with any potential bias.

As far as the Preakness is concerned, Orb is obviously not going to mind some rain, as he clearly relished the off going at Churchill Downs. His running style, however, could be an issue if the track is sloppy and outside speed horses do in fact have an edge, since he clearly will be well off the pace again. A horse like Oxbow, who ran decently in the Kentucky Derby, could be in an ideal spot, as he has some tactical speed and should be right off expected pacesetters Goldencents and Titletown Five. How the earlier races are run will give handicappers a much better idea of how the track is playing, but it's something to keep in mind if the second leg of the Triple Crown is as wet as the first.

Forego137 More than 1 year ago
It's finally here," Preakness Stakes day". now lets go see Orb try to continue to make history. Good luck to all and enjoy the race .............
Fatthawk More than 1 year ago
Better watch out for Baffert's horse.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
I let the jockeys worry about that as i can't be expected to RIDE all the winners that I pick.... Useless article to the guy who places wagers.
Nick Arden More than 1 year ago
So you're a low information bettor I see.
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
This kind of info is the kind you need. Those who bet against track bias will tear up tickets and a lot of us do just that not knowing what the bias was previously and on the day we bet. Good info, Thanks...
wolves More than 1 year ago
ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR STRAIGHT SUPER HI 5........ 1 6 2 3 5
Mark More than 1 year ago
No horse has won the Preakness from post one since 1994 and before, that, 1960. I like the horse but I love history. Make it a five hundred dollar bet instead.
Sir More than 1 year ago
Who was in post 1 all those times? Even money favorites or 30-1 long shots?
Joseph Murratti More than 1 year ago
the 9...instead of the 3...TT hates the distance.
robert More than 1 year ago
Really good information, especially since does anyone outside Maryland closely follow Pimlico? I miss these sort of articles in DRF -- they used to be regular fare.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
So as we head into Saturday, basically there is no bias.
John More than 1 year ago
Great information and article. Thanks
Jan Larroche More than 1 year ago
1.4.5.6.7, super with 7 on top for the across, the other bet for the super! Good luck everyone, I am loving the jockey change, smaller field and discounting the check-up in the last race, he will take charge!
Douglas More than 1 year ago
I get the feeling that DWL happens to be leaning more towards WILL TAKE CHARGE : but not really sying a whole lot about it . Thus far : 1 - 5 - 7 - 2 - 4 are looking better n better !