The 2017 Preakness Stakes was always expected to boil down to two horses: Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Classic Empire, who finished fourth as the pre-race favorite. These are the two top horses in Saturday’s 10-horse field by a fair margin. At press time, Always Dreaming is the 5/6 favorite on the futures market at Bovada Racebook, while Classic Empire is 3/1.

The spotlight will shine even more brightly on these two thoroughbreds after Wednesday’s post position draw. They’ll be next to each other in the starting gate at Pimlico Race Course, Always Dreaming in post No. 4 and Classic Empire in post No. 5. It should make for a tremendous race; NBC will be on hand for post time at 6:48 PM ET.


Empire Games

The Preakness Stakes odds might be overstating the difference in quality between the two favorites. They were lumped in together with Irish War Cry and McCraken as potential Derby champions, but Always Dreaming (5/1 on the morning line) was able to win in the slop after Classic Empire (4/1) got bumped hard at the start. “Classic Empire really got clobbered,” trainer Mark Casse told reporters. “The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering.”

Sloppy conditions shouldn’t be a problem this Saturday. The weather forecast for Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees – cooler than it’s been recently in the Northeast. That should make Classic Empire a value pick in this situation, especially with the rest of the field carrying long betting odds into Pimlico. Lookin at Lee is the third-favorite for the Preakness at 11/1.


Lookin Sharp

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some value betting on the long shots. Filling out your trifectas and superfectas with these horses can be highly rewarding; Lookin at Lee finished second to Always Dreaming at the Derby, and has seven podium finishes in 10 career starts. Even a relatively unknown “shooter” like Multiplier (25/1) is worth a look after winning the Grade 3 Illinois Derby in April.

But if you’re looking to bet on the winner, you’re looking at the two horses in the middle of the starting gate. Always Dreaming deserves to be the favorite, winning all four of his races for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Pletcher has done a masterful job of handling this bundle of energy on the difficult Triple Crown trail. However, at these odds, Classic Empire could be the right choice at Bovada Racebook. May the best horse win.


*Odds as of May 19, 2017