How low will odds for Always Dreaming go?
by Frank Vespe
How low will Always Dreaming’s odds go in the Preakness?
If past is prologue, quite low, indeed.
On Saturday Always Dreaming became the ninth Kentucky Derby post-time favorite to wear the blanket of roses and, remarkably, the fifth in a row. All eight of those Derby-winning favorites were the post-time favorite when they ran in the Preakness.
But they weren’t just favorites. They were favorites — as in, overwhelming, almost uniformly odds-on, favorites.
The octet — Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), Smarty Jones (2004), Street Sense (2007), Big Brown (2008), Orb (2013), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), and Nyquist (2016) — were roughly 7-2, on average, in the Derby. Their odds ranged from a low of 2.30-1 (Fusaichi Pegasus and Nyquist) to a high of 5.40-1 for Orb.
But bettors must have loved what they’d seen on the first Saturday in May, because by the time the gates opened at Pimlico on the third Saturday of the month, those same horses had been bet all the way down to a little more than 3-5 (.66-1). Seven of the eight were odds-on, the lone exception being Street Sense, who had to deal with both the Derby place and show horses in the form of Hard Spun and eventual Preakness winner Curlin. Street Sense — who also was widely perceived to have benefited immensely from Calvin Borel’s “Bo-rail” ride — went off at 1.30-1 in the Preakness.
Big Brown had the shortest Preakness odds among this group, going off at 1-5.
Always Dreaming was a fairly tepid Derby favorite, going off at 4.70-1 — the longest-priced Derby favorite since Orb was 5.40-1 in 2013. But even if we restrict ourselves to longer-priced Derby chalk, the picture doesn’t change much. Always Dreaming’s three predecessors who went off at more than 4-1 in their Derby triumphs were, on average, 9-10 come post time in the Middle Jewel.
Interestingly, though, these hot Preakness favorites haven’t been a great bet. Four of the eight met defeat in the Preakness, among them Fusaichi Pegasus at 3-10 and, more recently, Nyquist at 7-10. Notably, three of the four who lost were closers who were 13th or worse after a half-mile in Kentucky but benefited from hot paces in front of them — hot paces that did not materialize quite as well in the Preakness.
What’s it all mean?
Well, for one thing, it probably means that Always Dreaming will likely be less than even-money when the gates open on May 20. If he is, he’ll be the fifth consecutive Preakness favorite to be odds-on, Bodemeister (8-5) in 2012 having been the last Preakness favorite above even odds. He’s likely to end up somewhere between 2-5 and 9-10 when all is said and done.
But will he win? Well, that’s a different question altogether.