Horse Racing

2024 Preakness Exacta and Trifecta Picks

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
2024 Preakness Exacta and Trifecta Picks

The 2024 Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown and the signature race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, happens on Saturday, May 18. The race offers a huge $2 million purse and, after the Wednesday scratch of Muth, it will feature eight three-year-olds. This includes Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan to go 1 3/16 miles for both a huge purse and a place in horse racing history. The 2024 edition is the 149th running of the race, making it one of the longest-standing traditions in American horse racing.

However, the Preakness is not only an exciting event for the owners of the best three-year-olds in the country, but also for bettors.

Naturally, you can bet on which horse will win the Preakness Stakes at FanDuel Racing. Discover exciting 2024 Preakness Stakes promos to wager on FanDuel Racing and FanDuel Sportsbook and get up to $20 back on your bet as well as $10 back as wagering credit when betting on the Black-Eyed Susan starting May 17th!

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How to Bet Exactas and Trifectas

Before you start your Preakness Stakes betting, it is a good idea to learn what exactas and trifectas are, what strategies exist for betting them, and the costs and benefits of those strategies.

What are Exactas and Trifectas?

The classic win bet is just that: the bet cashes if your horse wins. Exactas and trifectas are just an extension of that: instead of betting on just the first horse to cross the wire, you are betting on the first few horses across the wire.

To cash an exacta, you need to have the first two finishers in the correct order. In a trifecta, you are betting on the first three horses to finish, in order. These are harder to get correct than just picking a winner. However, especially in races like the Kentucky Derby with huge fields, getting them correct can lead to a huge payout.

Horse Racing Exacta and Trifecta Betting Strategies

These are the basic strategies for betting exactas and trifectas.

Straight Exacta or Trifecta: One Combination

You can bet the exacta or trifecta straight, just one sequence or two or three horses. However, this is uncommon in practice. If you have a very strong opinion that one horse is likely to finish first and another horse is likely to finish second, a straight exacta can be the right move in a race. However, it is more common to bet multiple possible combinations, and the large payouts when a live long shot runs into the top two or three can make this a profitable strategy.

Boxed Exacta or Trifecta

The opposite of betting a single combination is by betting an exacta box or a trifecta box. In a box, you are taking a group of horses you think can finish in the top two or three and betting all possible combinations of groups of those horses finishing first or second for an exacta, or first, second, and third for a trifecta.

A box can make sense if you have a short list of horses you want to play, especially if most or all of them are long shots. But, the price escalates rapidly: for example, if you play a trifecta box, and you think there are seven horses with a chance at the top three, and you want to play every combination? There are seven possible horses who can win, then six possible horses behind each of those, then five possible horses who can be third behind those two. That’s seven times six times five—or, 210 combinations.

These are the common costs of exacta and trifecta boxes at the minimum bets offered by Pimlico Race Course:

# of horses
Exacta box combinations
$1 exacta box cost
Trifecta box combinations
$0.50 trifecta box cost
22 (2 * 1)$2n/an/a
36 (3 * 2)$66 (3 * 2 * 1)$3.00
412 (4 * 3)$1224 (4 * 3 * 2)$12.00
520 (5 * 4)$2060 (5 * 4 * 3)$30.00
630 (6 * 5)$30120 (6 * 5 * 4)$60.00
742 (7 * 6)$42210 (7 * 6 * 5)$105.00
856 (8 * 7)$56336 (8 * 7 * 6)$168.00

Another issue with boxing exactas or trifectas is that they usually do not reflect your actual opinion on a race. A boxed bet suggests that you have a similar opinion on each horse’s chances to finish in the top two or three, since you put the same amount of money on each combination. However, if you have a horse or two who you think are more likely to finish high, or even finish in a particular spot, you are essentially wasting money by betting just as much on extremely unlikely combinations as you are on the ones that involve the horse or horses you think will run well.

Using a Key Horse in Exactas and Trifectas

You can cover multiple combinations while focusing on stronger opinions by using a key horse. A key horse is just like it sounds: they are the key to your bet, and you are leaning on them to finish in a certain position.

One way of using a key horse is by betting for a horse to finish in a particular position in your exacta or trifecta. This is most often done by keying a horse to win (“keying on top”), though you can also key a horse in second or third. For example, if a horse finishes second often, keying a horse in second in exactas and trifectas can be just the right move.

Then, you just play the other horses you think can finish in the exacta or trifecta in the other spots where you do not have your key horse. You have fewer winning combinations since the key horse has to finish in the spot where you placed them, but also, you are putting your money on your opinion about that one horse.

# of horses
Exacta key combinations
$1 exacta key cost
Trifecta key combinations
$0.50 trifecta key cost
1 key + 2 others2 (1 * 2)$22 (1 * 2 * 1)$1.00
1 key + 3 others3 (1 * 3)$36 (1 * 3 * 2)$3.00
1 key + 4 others4 (1 * 4)$412 (1 * 4 * 3)$6.00
1 key + 5 others5 (1 * 5)$520 (1 * 5 * 4)$10.00

Finally, a good middle ground between a key and a box can be a wager sometimes called a “key box.” In an exacta key box, you are wagering on a situation that has your keyed horse finishing either first or second, with any of your other horses of interest in the other spot: it’s basically two separate key bets, one keying them in first and one keying them in second. The trifecta key box works similarly, except it’s like three key bets at once: one keying them in first, one keying them in second, and one keying the horse third.

# of horses
Exacta key box combinations
$1 exacta key box cost
Trifecta key box combinations
$0.50 trifecta key cost
1 key + 2 others4 (1 * 2 * 2)$46 (1 * 2 * 1 * 3)$3.00
1 key + 3 others6 (1 * 3 * 2)$618 (1 * 3 * 2 * 3)$9.00
1 key + 4 others8 (1 * 4 * 2)$836 (1 * 4 * 3 * 3)$18.00
1 key + 5 others10 (1 * 5 * 2)$1060 (1 * 5 * 4 * 3)$30.00

This can be a useful exacta or trifecta wager structure when you bet the Preakness Stakes. Though the smaller field means that the race is typically a little less chaotic than the Kentucky Derby, plenty can happen with even a field of nine and even the best horse on the day can finish second or third due to trip trouble, and in such a large field the risk versus reward ratio often merits the cost of covering situations in which your key horse finishes anywhere in the exacta or trifecta.

Preakness Stakes Field

Now that you know the ins and outs of playing exactas and trifectas, it’s time to meet the field. Though nine horses were initially expected to run, the field has been cut down to eight with the Wednesday-morning scratch of Muth. The likely favorite among the horses expected to run is Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan.

This is the official field for the 2024 Preakness Stakes, including the post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds for each horse.

1MugatuJeff EnglerJoe Bravo20-1
2Uncle HeavyRobert Reid, Jr.Irad Ortiz, Jr.20-1
3Catching FreedomBrad CoxFlavien Prat6-1
4MuthBob BaffertJuan HernandezSCR
5Mystik DanKenny McPeekBrian Hernandez, Jr.5-2
6Seize the GreyD. Wayne LukasJaime Torres15-1
7Just SteelD. Wayne LukasJoel Rosario15-1
View Full Table

Keep in mind that these are not the final 2024 Preakness Stakes odds. They can be a great guide for how Preakness Stakes betting is expected to unfold, but since final odds are determined by actual betting action on each contender in the pari-mutuel system, it is also smart to follow the odds.

Preakness Stakes betting opens on Friday, May 17. That is a great news for bettors, since it means extra time to track the odds live on FanDuel Racing, follow the Preakness Stakes betting odds trends, and find out who offers the right wagering value.

2024 Preakness Stakes Contenders

Consider these top contenders when making your wagers for the 2024 Preakness Stakes.

Exacta and Trifecta Key

The scratch of morning-line favorite Muth changes the betting picture a bit. With him in the field, it made sense to consider strategies either keying on him or on Tuscan Gold. With Muth out, Tuscan Gold comes into stronger focus.

Even though Tuscan Gold has raced only three starts and has yet to win a graded stakes, that is less of a concern than it would be for most other trainers because Chad Brown has excelled with lightly-raced horses in the Preakness Stakes before. He won this horse race with both Cloud Computing (2017) and Early Voting (2022) in their fourth career starts.

The Preakness is also Tuscan Gold’s fourth start. Furthermore, the fact that Tuscan Gold comes out of a good third in the Louisiana Derby, while Brown’s two Preakness winners came out of New York preps, suggests that Tuscan Gold has been tested against classier horses already. He has upside to improve in only his second try in graded-stakes races. And, as a midfield-type runner who can make a relatively early move, he has a chance to carve out a decent trip, especially since the pace will not be sluggish.

The price is the consideration here: Muth is the most likely winner of the race, but he is also likely to be a heavy favorite, so with Muth as the key, you would have to keep your exotics slim: either key Muth in first and only first, or use very few horses around him. If you key Tuscan Gold, you are taking more of a risk, but at the price you can either use a few more horses or consider a key box strategy.

More Exacta and Trifecta Horses

Catching Freedom belongs on Preakness Stakes exotic wagers. Though he was a late entrant to the picture, only being put under consideration the Sunday before the race, his form appeals for several reasons. Though he does not always win, he has never failed to fire in any of his starts, whether the pace was modest or quick. He is a winner at the Preakness Stakes distance already. The scratch of Muth, however, may be a drawback, as it gives him a bit less speed to close into and get all the way there.

Just Steel disappointed in the Kentucky Derby, but there are reasons he can move forward in the Preakness Stakes. In the Derby, he got hooked in a pace battle. If the more experienced Joel Rosario, who has won with Just Steel twice already, can instead tap into his stalking style? This means Just Steel may be able to save some energy and crack enough exacta or trifecta at a big price.

A bomber to consider for deeper exotics is Withers (G3) winner Uncle Heavy. He won that race as well as a Pennsylvania-bred stakes over a wet track, so the possible rain leading into Preakness Stakes day is no problem for him. And, he has excuses for his fifth-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G2): he drew the parking lot, he did not get as close to the pace as he normally likes to sit, and he was racing near a horse who went down in the lane in the Wood. As the likely second-longest shot in the field? If he can run back to what he showed in the Withers, he can get a piece of the exotics at a huge price.

What to Make of the Kentucky Derby Winner

Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan may be an underlay. The Kentucky Derby showed that he has classic stamina, he showed maturity when fearlessly running up the rail, and he showed grit in holding on to win by a nose. However, he came up empty at Churchill Downs last fall when trainer Kenny McPeek wheeled him back to race on just two weeks’ rest. That is a good reason to be skeptical.

However, there is rain in the forecast for Preakness week. If that forecast holds, Mystik Dan may make more sense in wagers since his most brilliant effort to date was his eight-length triumph over Just Steel in the muddy Southwest (G3).

2024 Preakness Stakes Exacta and Trifecta Bets

All of these betting strategies focus on Tuscan Gold as the key horse. The major differentiator for how to attack the race is how the weather turns up. Should the track be dry, it makes sense to stand against Mystik Dan as the favorite. However, if the track turns up wet, Mystik Dan’s blockbuster victory in the Southwest Stakes moves his chances way up, and he (as opposed to Catching Freedom) becomes the other shorter-price horse to use alongside the longshot specials.

On a Dry Track

Here are recommendations for exacta and trifecta bets on the 2024 Preakness Stakes if the track turns up fast.

  • Preakness Stakes exacta bet: Key box #8 Tuscan Gold with #3 Catching Freedom, #7 Just Steel
  • Preakness Stakes trifecta bet: Key box #8 Tuscan Gold with #2 Uncle Heavy, #3 Catching Freedom, #7 Just Steel

On a Wet Track

Here are recommended exacta and trifecta bets for the Preakness Stakes if the dirt comes up wet on race day.

  • Preakness Stakes exacta bet: Key box #8 Tuscan Gold with #5 Mystik Dan, #7 Just Steel
  • Preakness Stakes trifecta bet: Key box #8 Tuscan Gold with #2 Uncle Heavy, #5 Mystik Dan, #7 Just Steel

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