How to bet the Preakness Stakes: Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica’s expert picks, best bets

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“Bear Bets” are real wagers that Chris “The Bear” Fallica is actually making.

All eyes will be on Kentucky Derby winner Mage at the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course on Saturday. 

Thirteen horses have achieved the sport’s ultimate prize by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Will Mage remain in contention to become the 14th?

Let’s take a look at the race from a betting perspective. 

Here is a breakdown of all the horses, some fun nuggets you can talk about with your friends, and, of course, my favorite bets to make for Saturday.

To keep it simple, I’ll lead with my picks first. After that, keep reading to learn about each horse and some fun Derby nuggets. Also, if you need a little primer on how to bet on the ponies, here’s an introduction to horse racing that should help.

My betting card

Primer on all the horses (position, horse, jockey, trainer, odds)

1. National Treasure (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert); 4-1 

After being banned from entering horses in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert is back. He has won this race seven times and has the third choice on the morning line here. 

National Treasure has a ton going for him. He’s on the rail, adds blinkers and is officially back in the Baffert barn.

Look for him to be right on the lead and play come and get me. And they just might not be able to. I expect a huge leap forward from the fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby. He’s my top pick in this race. 

2. Chase the Chaos (Sheldon Russell/Ed Moger Jr.); 50-1

This Gelding hasn’t finished in front of anyone decent in his eight-lifetime races, and the only time he faced graded stakes company, he was beaten about 17 lengths by Practical Move. He’s hopeless, but I hope the connections enjoy the party! 

3. Mage (Javier Castellano/Gustavo Delgado); 8-5

I’m mad at myself for not moving this one up more after my top pick in the Derby — Skinner — was scratched. He possessed so many things I love in a horse on the Triple Crown circuit. He can absolutely win again as this race has seven new shooters to the Triple Crown race, but only two look like they are a threat on paper. 

I’d expect Mage to be in a great stalking spot off National Treasure and maybe First Mission, and then it’s just a question of how he responds when asked for his best run by jockey Javier Castellano. 

He’s got a great chance to enter the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. 

4. Coffeewithchris (Jaime Rodriguez/John Salzman Jr.); 20-1

This local horse isn’t fast enough to make the lead, nor do his past performances suggest he wants to pass horses in the stretch. He has the look of a horse that will just go around the track and hope to cash a third- or fourth-place check.

5. Red Route One (Joel Rosario; Steve Asmussen); 10-1 

He was once 3-1 in the 2022 Street Sense at Churchill Downs, which had eventual Derby runner-up Two Phil’s in it, so he’s been well-regarded by bettors in the past. 

Overall, he’s got very little speed but does have a nice closing kick, so I can see him passing some horses late. But I just don’t think the pace up front will be fast enough where he can win.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has historically done very well in this race, so I would not be surprised if he made a good late run to finish in the top four. 

6. Perform (Feargal Lynch; Shug McGaughey); 15-1

If you look at the Jan. 28 race at Florida’s Gulfstream Park, Perform was 6-1 in a maiden race won by a 12-1 shot. That horse? Mage. 

Yes, that Mage who just won the Kentucky Derby. 

Perform has gotten better as the races have gotten longer, and should be in a nice stalking position throughout. If you’re looking for a long shot, this is the horse I would play, and I certainly will use him in my exactas and trifectas. 

7. Blazing Sevens (Irad Ortiz Jr./Chad Brown); 6-1  

This one looked like he was poised for big things as a 2-year-old when he broke maiden in dominant fashion at Saratoga, then won the Champagne Stakes at Aqueduct.

But it doesn’t look like he’s taken any steps forward as a 3-year-old. It took him some time to get going, and he clearly needed the race in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park after a five-month layoff. Then he was well behind the top two finishers in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his second start of the year. 

Even in the third start off a layoff, I’m not sure he’s fast enough to run with National Treasure — who he finished behind in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile — nor is he good enough to beat Mage. He’ll take money up until the race, and if he beats me, well, I’ll live with it. 

8. First Mission (Luis Saez/Brad Cox); 5-2 

He’s considered by most as Mage’s main rival and should be right off National Treasure in the second position from the start. 

He beat eventual Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm in the Lexington Stakes and possesses the second-highest Beyer Speed Figure in the race behind Mage’s 105 in the Derby. 

My one big concern is if he gets hung a bit wide from post position 10 and that causes him to run a lot farther than National Treasure or Mage, potentially weakening him for the stretch run. He can certainly win, but I like National Treasure and Mage better. 

BEAR BYTES (fun talking points with friends)

Trainer Bob Baffert has won this race seven times, the last being Justify in 2017. Each of his seven winners was 3-1 or shorter in the wagering. 

Trainer Chad Brown has won this race twice since 2017. Neither of his two winners was a top-two betting choice. 

The only favorite to win the Preakness in the last seven runnings was Justify winning in 2018. Fun fact, but the last two favorites to win the Preakness both won the Triple Crown (also American Pharaoh in 2015). 

Jockey John Velazquez has ridden the favorite three of the last six years. He’s finished third on Medina Spirit in 2021, second on Authentic in 2020 and eighth on Always Dreaming in 2017.

Each of the last four winners of the Preakness were at least 6-1 and at least the third betting choice. Rombauer was the fifth choice in 2021 and Swiss Skydiver was the sixth betting choice in 2020. 

The last time the favorite won and the second choice ran second in the Preakness was 1981 when favored Pleasant Colony won, and Bold Ego finished second. Note there have been instances since then where the second choice won and the favorite ran second, like in 2012 when the second choice, I’ll Have Another, beat favored Bodemeister. 

The only time the first horse to cross the finish line in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness was sent off at double-digit odds was in 2011 when Animal Kingdom won the Derby at 21-1, and Shackleford won the Preakness at 13-1. Mage just won the Derby at 15-1. 

Trainer Steve Asmussen has trained the Preakness runner-up each of the last two years — Epicenter in 2022 and Midnight Bourbon in 2021. 

Chris “The Bear” Fallica has covered sports for nearly three decades. While college football has been his focus, he also enjoys the NFL, Soccer, Golf, Tennis, MLB, NHL and Horse Racing, with an “occasional” wager on such events. Chris recently won the inaugural Circa Football Invitational and finished in the Top 10 of the Golden Nugget Football Contest. He’s a multiple-time qualifier for the NHC Handicapping Championship. Remember, “The less you bet, the more you lose when you win!” Follow him on Twitter @chrisfallica.

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