Horse Racing

2024 Preakness Stakes Dark Horse Picks

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
2024 Preakness Stakes Dark Horse Picks

The 149th Preakness Stakes is coming up on Saturday, May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The second jewel of the Triple Crown, the race is one of the longest-running traditions in American horse racing. And, with a purse raised to $2 million for this year, it continues to draw some of the best three-year-olds in the country today.

Preakness Stakes 2024 initially drew a field of nine, though only eight are expected to run with the Wednesday-morning defection of Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth. Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan is now expected to be the favorite.

However, as so often happens in Triple Crown races, the Preakness also drew a handful of dark-horse candidates: horses who will not be favored in the Preakness Stakes odds, but who have every chance of taking down the second jewel of the Triple Crown on their best day.

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Read on for the best price horses to include in your bets on the 2024 Preakness Stakes.

1. Just Steel (Preakness Stakes odds: 15-1 ML)

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows how to win the Preakness: he won it with his very first starter, Codex in 1980. He has six Preakness Stakes winners now, with his most recent coming in 2013 with Kentucky Derby also-ran Oxbow. He returns to Baltimore in 2024 with one horse out of the Kentucky Derby, Just Steel, as well as Pat Day Mile (G2) winner Seize the Grey.

Between them, Just Steel appeals more as a Preakness Stakes dark horse. Seize the Grey does come into the race out of a win, but the distance may foil him in the end. After all, even though his pedigree reads on paper like a horse who will want to go long, his actual running lines read like a horse who flourishes in sprinter-miler conditions. And, with nine races under his girth already, that is enough to go on.

Whereas, Just Steel is a plucky sort who can run on and get a piece in two-turn races, which is more the profile of what you want to see from a horse coming into the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes. Though he battled on the pace and weakened to 17th in the Kentucky Derby, a different trip or a somewhat more reasonable pace could lead to better results for Just Steel.

If jockey Joel Rosario can get him to stalk and pounce, the trip he worked the one time he previously rode Just Steel, instead of locking him into a duel with Seize the Grey or Imagination? Just Steel could have enough left in the tank to get a piece in the Preakness, just like he did in the Smarty Jones, the Southwest (G3), or the Arkansas Derby (G1).

The rain in the forecast for Preakness Stakes day also does not hurt Just Steel. Though he has yet to win over an off track, he has hit the board in both of his tries over off going, including a second-place finish in the Southwest at Oaklawn behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, who he faces again in the Preakness Stakes.

2. Uncle Heavy (Preakness Stakes odds: 20-1 ML)

Trainer Robert Reid laid Uncle Heavy off from the Withers to the Wood Memorial (G2), a two-month break. He finished only fifth in the Wood, though he had legitimate excuses, including being further back than usual, dealing with a wide trip, and being near a horse who fell in the lane.

Uncle Heavy drew better for the Preakness Stakes: the no. 2 gate, instead of the 12-hole that he had in the Wood. He also gets a jockey upgrade to Irad Ortiz, who has a lot more experience riding big races than previous rider Mychel Sanchez. If Ortiz can get Uncle Heavy within a few lengths of the lead, as he was in the Withers, he has every chance of returning to his best form.

Furthermore, the weather bodes well for Uncle Heavy. Both his wins in the Wait For It against Pennsylvania-breds and in the Withers (G3) against open company came over wet tracks: Parx was rated good for the Wait For It, and Aqueduct was rated muddy for the Withers. This suggests he can handle whatever kind of rain-affected going is thrown at him. So, no matter how wet Preakness day gets, he has a good chance of taking to the footing.

3. Seize the Grey (Preakness Stakes odds: 15-1 ML)

Like Just Steel, Seize the Grey hails from the D. Wayne Lukas barn. And, if speed holds well, he might be able to outrun his odds. He hadn’t shown a lot of speed since early in his career, but jockey Jaime Torres resurrected that frontrunning style in the Pat Day Mile (G2) and it resulted in a graded-stakes win.

Torres returns to the irons for the Preakness, and may be able to work out the same trip. The biggest question for Seize the Grey is the distance. Even though his pedigree is full of excellent distance influences—he is a son of Arrogate out of a Smart Strike mare, after all—his race form suggests he may be better as a sprinter-miler type. But, if that pedigree somehow blooms in the Preakness or the track is just playing for speed, that gives Seize the Grey a chance at a big price.

The track conditions may also work in Seize the Grey’s favor. He broke his maiden on the front end over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs, and also closed for third in the Skidmore going 5 ½ furlongs, a distance likely too short for him.

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