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Bourbon War is the pick to win the Preakness

The field of 13 horses for Saturday's race includes nine new shooters.

Preakness Stakes entrant Bourbon War is led off

Preakness Stakes entrant Bourbon War is led off the track after exercising on Thursday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Photo Credit: AP/Will Newton

BALTIMORE – Picking the Kentucky Derby winner can feel like a lasting achievement. Getting the Preakness right usually isn’t tough, because five of its past seven winners ran first or second in Louisville.

Historically, the Preakness is incredibly chalky, with Master Derby ($48.80, 1975) the highest win payoff in 143 runnings. Among the rare exceptions are Cloud Computing ($28.80, 2017) and Oxbow ($32.80, 2013).

With the first four Derby finishers absent, what’s a chalk player to do? My solution: Even when there is no box, think outside it anyway.

I eliminate horses before focusing on contenders, and there are many throwouts in this uninspiring field of 13. Of the nine new shooters, only Bourbon War intrigues me. I’m not fired up about the top two Derby veterans, Improbable (4th) and War of Will (7th), but they’re in my four-horse exacta box.

Improbable, morning-line favorite at 5-2, is a bad price, and I doubt he’ll stay 1 3/16 miles. He didn’t want to go 1 1/4 at Churchill Downs. War of Will (4-1) makes more sense, but he’ll be overbet because half the known world watched 20 replays of his horrible trip. I’m against Anothertwistafate (6-1) and Alwaysmining (8-1), and their odds should be much longer.

I landed on Bourbon War, with room to improve and a 12-1 morning line that’s much too high. He’s the best closer, and there’s enough speed (Always Mining, Warrior’s Charge, Improbable) to set him up. The brilliant Irad Ortiz Jr. can save ground from post 2 and move at the top of the stretch.

Bourbon War first, followed by War of Will, Improbable and closer Laughing Fox.

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