2024 Preakness Stakes action report: ‘Muth and Mystic Dan are clearly the two favorites’

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With post positions drawn and Preakness Stakes odds now on the betting board, the inevitable annual question remains: Will a Triple Crown be won this year?

It’s all on Mystik Dan’s hearty horse shoulders at the moment. And the Kentucky Derby winner isn’t the favorite Saturday at Pimlico in Baltimore. 

Mystik Dan is the second choice behind Muth, who didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby.

“Mystik Dan is a great horse, coming off a dynamite win. But Muth is better-rested,” said Paul Zilm, a horse racing oddsmaker who’s been around the thoroughbred industry for 20 years.

Zilm helps break down odds to win the Preakness Stakes, as horse racing gears up for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Beating Bob Baffert

Part of the difficult calculus for Mystik Dan jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and trainer Kenny McPeek is facing off against the Bob Baffert-trained Muth, with jockey Juan Hernandez in the saddle.

Baffert is under suspension from Churchill Downs and, therefore, couldn’t field a Derby horse. But he’s got the 5/2 favorite Muth ready to roll at Pimlico. And Muth is definitely fresh.

He last ran in the March 30 Arkansas Derby, winning the 1 1/8-mile race. Mystik Dan was in that race, as well, taking third behind fellow Kentucky Derby entrant Just Steel. Baffert has since been biding his time with Muth.

“Mystik Dan is coming off a tough race, a hard race,” Zilm said of the three-horse photo finish at the Kentucky Derby, in which the colt edged Sierra Leone and Forever Young. “He expended a lot of energy, and he’ll have just two weeks’ rest.

“Muth is a horse who’s really good and didn’t have to go through that grind. It’s been six weeks since Muth’s last race. The freshness of Muth might prevail.”

Zilm spent five years at Circa Sports, leaving in March after helping craft Kentucky Derby odds. He pointed out that Mystik Dan has run on two weeks’ rest once, winning a 5½-furlong race — which is about three-quarters of a mile — on Nov. 12, then taking fifth in a 1-mile event Nov. 25.

“It’s a small sample size. But in the one opportunity to run back so quickly, Mystik Dan didn’t race very well,” Zilm said.

On The Plus Side

That said, the fact remains that Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby at 16/1 odds, topping 19 other horses in the first jewel of the Triple Crown. As the 5/2 second choice in Preakness odds, he’s right on Muth’s hooves.

Mystik Dan drew the No. 5 post on Monday, and Muth is right next to him, breaking from the fourth gate. And it’s only a nine-horse field.

“You’ve got the Derby winner and two other horses from the Derby and a bunch of new shooters,” Zilm said. “Oftentimes, if the Derby winner is a standout horse, the Preakness is the easier of the last two legs to win. In the Belmont, you’ll have horses that ran the Derby, then got a full five weeks of rest, ganging up on you.”

Zilm has a high opinion of both Mystik Dan and Muth, though he believes the right horse is atop the oddsboard to win the Preakness.

“If Muth would’ve been in the Derby, he’d have probably been the second choice, behind Fierceness,” Zilm said. “Bob Baffert, like him or not, knows how to get horses ready.

“Muth and Mystik Dan are clearly the two favorites, and they’re right next to each other. So, hopefully, those two get a clean break and a good race.”

Zilm sees the odds between the two tightening between now and Saturday’s 6: 50 p.m. ET post.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Muth is 9/5 and Mystik Dan is 2/1,” he said.

Others Worth Watching

At 6/1, the co-third choice in Preakness odds is Catching Freedom, who took fourth in the Kentucky Derby. As it turns out, Catching Freedom drew the third post, so he’ll break from just inside Muth and Mystik Dan.

“He’ a horse you can’t discount. If [trainer] Brad Cox is choosing to run him back, then he must be training good,” Zilm said.

Then there’s a new shooter in Tuscan Gold. The colt won a 1-mile event at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 31, then ran third to winner Catching Freedom and Honor Marie in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby on March 23.

“Tuscan Gold is like Muth. He didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby, so he’s a fresh horse,” Zilm said. “His speed figures to put him in kind of the same caliber as the upper horses in the Preakness. And trainer Chad Brown has done well with horses that didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s a horse that could improve and maybe win at a nice price. I have seen a few people I respect say they like Tuscan Gold. If you can lock him in at better odds early in the week, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that.”

Tuscan Gold is the 8/1 fifth choice to win the Preakness.

What About Bob’s Other Horse

Then there’s Imagination, another Baffert-trained thoroughbred. Therefore, Imagination also couldn’t run the Kentucky Derby, due to Baffert’s suspension. But the colt joins Catching Freedom as the 6/1 co-third choice in odds to win the Preakness.

“Imagination will probably attract some attention, as well,” Zilm said. “I don’t think he’s as good as Muth, but you can’t ignore him. He’s rested, as well.”

Imagination won the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 3 and ran second to Stronghold in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

“I don’t think Baffert shows up in Baltimore just to be in the race. I’m sure he’s got a feeling both his horses can do well. Imagination is not just going along for the ride,” Zilm said.

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.

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