Naturally there are the obvious factors; only thoroughbreds of three years of age can enter as this race as well as the other Triple Crown legs are for the “classic” generation only. There is a weight limit set to 126 pounds for colts and geldings, or 121 pounds for fillies.
The only horse guaranteed a spot in the Preakness Stakes field is the Kentucky Derby winner, given that there will be a chance for that animal to complete the Triple Crown and this is an event every watcher wants to see.
Despite sponsorship, TV rights and all the other riches that come the way of Pimlico and the Triple Crown series, owners who want their horses to take part in the Preakness must pony up some of their own cash.
Owners have to dig deep to find $15,000 to pass the entry box and, if their horse makes the final cut they will face another $15,000 bill to be a starter.
Initially anyone with a qualifying three-year-old thoroughbred can enter into the Preakness and pay their initial $15,000 dues, however some years that may mean more than the safety limit of 14 horses intending to line-up on race day.
When this happens, the committee will have to cut down the field and this is done by looking at earnings gained in certain races, although first of all the Kentucky Derby winner is automatically added to the final field leaving the committee to rank the final 13 starters.
This is done by ranking the runners according to their earnings in graded stakes races or highest career earnings in non-restricted stakes races.
That is why in the States, it is particularly prevalent to have horses run in Grade One races for big money as early and as often as is possible, depending on the form and health of the horse. In England or Ireland for example, field sizes can be bigger and so trainers are often happy to run their classic contenders in smaller, less valuable races simply to get the right experience into them before the big day.
The “win and you’re in” program has been terrific for the Breeders Cup and is a tactic being adopted by racing authorities all around the world for such events as top Royal Ascot races or the Melbourne Cup.
That works best though when the field size can be large, or if there are multiple races such as the Breeders’ and so it doesn’t necessarily work here. That is of course except for the Kentucky Derby winner who will almost always line-up here and is the only guaranteed entry.
Look out for winners of the top early Grade One races for three-year-olds around the country as their owners may well be running them in order to get them qualified for this race as well as Belmont in June.
We’ve seen some great Preakness champions over the decades and we should be in for another spectacular race this time.
The TVG race experts will be on hand once the final field is known to give you a more in-depth analysis of the runners and inform you how to bet the Preakness. You can also bet the race here!