Experts Pick New Preakness Favorite With Muth Out

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Experts Pick New Preakness Favorite With Muth Out
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Now that favored Muth is out of Saturday’s 149th running of the Preakness Stakes with a fever, the current field of eight has fans and bettors eyeing other contenders.

Steve Bittenbender, a gaming analyst and writer, had picked Muth to win on Saturday but has shifted his focus to Imagination, trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. Muth also is trained by Baffert. 

Imagination opened the week at 6-1 odds in the chase for the Preakness blanket of Black-Eyed Susans at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

This year, Baffert-trained horses were barred from the Kentucky Derby because of a Churchill Downs ban on the Hall of Fame trainer.

“Muth's departure is unfortunate, but it doesn't take trainer Bob Baffert out of the running,” Bittenbender said. “Imagination is a fresher horse having not run in the Derby. He'll likely draw some of the money they would have been bet on his stablemate, but I think he still should be a good value on Saturday.”

Experts Make Their Picks

Muth had opened the week as the 8-5 favorite in the number four post position, with this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mystik Dan, in the fifth post position at 5-2 odds.

In the Arkansas Derby earlier this year, Muth crossed the finish line in first place, beating third-place finisher Mystik Dan by 6 1/4 lengths.

But Muth has been scratched from the Preakness Stakes. Baffert said that decision was made after Muth registered a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, according to ESPN.

That leaves the favorite out of the running.

Bittenbender said he'd had his eye on Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, but the grueling race only two weeks earlier — a photo finish among three horses — is cause for concern. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. of Louisiana defied 18-1 odds in guiding Mystik Dan to the win at Churchill Downs this year. Hernandez is set to ride Mystik Dan at Saturday’s Preakness.

“Brian Hernandez rode Mystik Dan very well two weeks ago,” Bittenbender said, “but Mystik Dan coming back two weeks later is a concern to me against a fresher field.”

Another horse racing expert who gives Imagination a good shot at winning  the Preakness is Casey Lewless, sportsbook manager at two Penn Entertainment casinos, Boomtown and Margaritaville, in Northwest Louisiana.

Lewless told he thinks Imagination could set a winning pace.

“I expect him to go and try to set pedestrian fractions so he has something left in the tank,” Lewless said.

Lewless said Brad Cox-trained Catching Freedom also is worth a look in the Preakness. Catching Freedom began Preakness week at 6-1 odds, having finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby behind the three photo finishers — Mystik Dan, Sierra Leone and Forever Young. Sierra Leone and Forever Young aren’t running this year at the Preakness.

Preakness Start Times

Below are key times for Saturday’s Preakness.

  • 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. ET: Preliminary coverage on CNBC
  • 4:30 p.m. ET: Coverage begins on NBC with streaming on Peacock
  • 6:57 p.m. ET: Post time

Triple Crown Facts

The Preakness is the second leg of the Triple Crown. The first is the Kentucky Derby. The final leg is the Belmont Stakes, normally held at Belmont Park on Long Island but being run temporarily at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York while construction is completed at the traditional race course just east of New York City.

Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown, the first being Sir Barton in 1919.

With victories at the Preakness Stakes and June 8 Belmont Stakes, Mystik Dan would be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Justify in 2018.

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Larry Henry

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