2024 Preakness Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

2024 Preakness Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course is an annual highlight on the North American racing calendar. As the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown series for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, the 1 3/16-mile dirt race more often than not pits the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, held two weeks prior on the first Saturday in May, against contenders attempting to end his (or rarely, her) Triple Crown quest.

Of course, the Preakness is an historic race in its own right as a Grade 1 stakes, won by 13 horses that went on to take the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and the Triple Crown as well as a host of other elite athletes, many of which earned champion honors at the Eclipse Awards.

For 2024, the purse of the Preakness Stakes has been boosted to $2 million, and the race kicks off a three-race series of Grade 1 stakes at tracks owned by 1/ST with a $5 million prize granted to any horse that wins them all. The race will be held for the 149th time – one fewer than the Kentucky Derby despite the fact that the first edition in 1873 was held two years earlier than the first Derby, because there was no Preakness from 1891 to 1893. The Preakness will serve as the highlight of a sensational two-day series of races at Pimlico surrounded by tens of thousands of festive fans that flock to the Baltimore track for gambling, food, drink, fashion, and infield concerts.

On Saturday, May 18, Kentucky Derby upset winner Mystik Dan wheels back on two weeks’ rest to face a formidable field of opponents, led by Muth, winner of the Arkansas Derby in March when he defeated Mystik Dan by 6 ¼ lengths. The Preakness Stakes will be televised live on NBC and streamed on Peacock, with a scheduled post time of approximately 6:50 p.m. ET.

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Get to know the 2024 Preakness Stakes contenders below:

1. Mugatu (20-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Jeff Engler

Owners: Average Joe Racing Stables and Dan Wells

Career record: 12 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $80,570

Earnings per start: $6,714

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Pedigree: Blofeld – Union Way, by Union Rags

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mugatu was listed as the second also-eligible entrant for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and moved up to first after one horse scratched and Epic Ride drew into the race. He remained on the outside looking in, however, and now is pointed to the Preakness after earning a career-best Equibase Speed Figure in his 12th career start, a 96 when finishing fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Mugatu was no threat to the top four finishers in the Blue Grass as he made up some ground in the stretch but still checked in 7 ½ lengths behind winner Sierra Leone and a length back of fourth-place Dornoch. He had finished eighth and fourth in his two prior races before the Blue Grass – both listed stakes on Turfway Park’s all-weather surface – and his only career win came last November on an all-weather track at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Jeff Engler has expressed confidence in the way Mugatu has trained over the past month, but the fact remains that he is overmatched against this field based on his race record and speed figures. He’ll need to post a career-best effort to hit the board, and a best-case scenario could see him fill out the superfecta if a speedy horse such as Muth runs his nearest foes ragged and Mugatu passes a couple of them late.

Preakness History: Engler and Mugatu’s owners are making their Preakness debuts, and veteran jockey Joe Bravo will make his sixth appearance.

Bet Mugatu in the Preakness Stakes

2. Uncle Heavy (20-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Robert Reid Jr.

Owners: Michael Milam and LC Racing

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $323,580

Earnings per start: $64,716

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Pedigree: Social Inclusion – Expect Wonderful, by Tiz Wonderful

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Pennsylvania-bred Uncle Heavy missed the qualifying points cutoff limit for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve this year and instead will attempt to pull the upset in the Preakness. He’s a good bet to go off at high odds Saturday after finishing a distant fifth in his prior race, the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino, where he was compromised by an outside post, raced wide throughout, and then had to check in the stretch when another horse unseated his rider. In his race before the Wood, Uncle Heavy rallied to win the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes by a nose and earn a 96 Equibase Speed Figure. If Uncle Heavy can recapture that form and perhaps bump his speed rating up a few points, he has a shot at spicing up the trifecta or superfecta payout, although Pimlico’s speed-favoring track could work against his come-from-behind running style. Getting the services of reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride Uncle Heavy for the first time is a plus.

Preakness History: Ortiz has finished second twice in the Preakness from five prior starters, including aboard Blazing Sevens last year. This the first Preakness appearance for trainer Butch Reid. Co-owner LC Racing was part-owner of two prior Preakness horses in recent years.

Bet Uncle Heavy in the Preakness Stakes

3. Catching Freedom (6-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,127,350

Earnings per start: $187,892

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Constitution – Catch My Drift, by Pioneerof the Nile

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trainer Brad Cox told reporters May 12 that Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve fourth-place finisher Catching Freedom would return off of a brief two-week break and start in the Preakness Stakes. That announcement adds to the luster of Preakness 149, which now has six graded stakes winners in its 10-horse field, four of which – Mystik Dan, Muth, Imagination, and this colt – have been listed high in most 3-year-old rankings for months. Catching Freedom entered the 150th Kentucky Derby off of a rallying score in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and was sent off as the 8.47-1 fourth betting choice in a field of 20. Breaking one spot outside of Mystik Dan in the fourth post position, he settled in behind that foe for most of the race while saving ground and also benefited from that trip as he continued on strongly through the stretch, checking in only 1 ¾ lengths out of first. Catching Freedom rallied wide in both his Louisiana Derby win and his win in the Smarty Jones Stakes back in January, but he responded with a career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure when racing on the inside in the Kentucky Derby and it would not be surprising to see Preakness-winning jockey Flavien Prat navigate a similar trip Saturday, perhaps settling a bit closer to projected early leaders Muth and Imagination through the backstretch. This long-winded runner apparently came out of the Kentucky Derby in good order and is an upset threat to win the Preakness if Muth and Imagination get caught up in a speed duel and if Mystik Dan hasn’t recovered fully from his maximum effort in the Derby.

Preakness history: Brad Cox is seeking his first Preakness win, but the Eclipse Award-winning trainer had success with his first two starters, finishing third and fourth in 2019 with Owendale and Warrior’s Charge, respectively. Flavien Prat won the Preakness in 2021 aboard Rombauer, his only mount prior to this year.

Bet Catching Freedom in the Preakness Stakes

4. Muth (8-5)

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Zedan Racing Stables

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,504,100

Earnings per start: $250,683

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: Good Magic – Hoppa, by Uncle Mo

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: It’s a testament to this colt’s ability that he’s the morning-line favorite in a Preakness field that includes the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner. That status is based on both his overall record and his last race, a visually impressive two-length win over Just Steel on March 30 in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, in which Mystik Dan finished 6 ¼ lengths back in third. The Good Magic colt, along with all other Bob Baffert-trained horses, was ineligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby, and now he heads to Saturday’s classic well-rested and ready to fire. Muth won the Arkansas Derby the way he won both the American Pharoah Stakes last fall at 1 1/16 miles and the seven-furlong, one-turn San Vicente Stakes – by sitting just off of the pace and then taking over at will under regular jockey Juan Hernandez. He earned a 115 Equibase Speed Figure in the Arkansas Derby, the best in the Preakness field, and he should relish Pimlico’s speed-favoring dirt track in a race that, aside from stablemate Imagination, lacks early speed. If Muth breaks sharply, it would not be a surprise to see Hernandez let him grab the lead and then shift into cruise control through the backstretch; on the other hand, he could also let Muth draft behind Imagination for the first half-mile or so and give him his cue entering the far turn. Mystik Dan, Imagination, and Catching Freedom are certainly elite racehorses, and a few other Preakness entrants have enticing potential, but if Muth can repeat or improve on his Arkansas Derby effort he’ll be tough to beat.

Preakness History: Hernandez makes his Preakness debut as he and Muth attempt to add to Bob Baffert’s record of eight winners in this race following Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010), American Pharoah (2015), Justify (2018), and National Treasure last year. Amr Zedan owned Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby in 2021 but was disqualified due to a medication violation, an event that spurred Churchill Downs to ban Baffert and his horses from the Derby for three years and counting. Medina Spirit subsequently finished third in the 2021 Preakness Stakes.

Bet Muth in the Preakness Stakes

5. Mystik Dan (5-2)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owners: Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing, Daniel Hamby III, and Valley View Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $3,741,360

Earnings per start: $534,480

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Goldencents – Ma’am, by Colonel John

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trainer Ken McPeek announced May 11 that the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner would attempt to win the Triple Crown and run back in two weeks in the Preakness, and the public rejoiced at the news. Truth be told, this colt and his connections are easy to admire – McPeek and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. are longtime mainstays on the Kentucky racing circuit, his ownership group paid only a $10,000 stud fee to breed their mare Ma’am with Goldencents, and Mystik Dan himself is clearly one of the fastest racehorses in his age group. But is he the fastest? The Preakness should go a long way toward proving his mettle, as Mystik Dan will square off against a colt that defeated him by 6 ¼ lengths back in March and has been preparing for this race ever since. In that race, the Arkansas Derby, Mystik Dan did not get the dream rail trip he got when winning the Southwest Stakes in February and the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, but he still tried hard after having to swing four wide in the stretch and take aim on runaway winner Muth and second-place Just Steel. After the starting gate opens Saturday, Hernandez and his responsive mount should secure a good early position to stalk and then engage Muth and probable pace companion Imagination coming out of the far turn. Expect another game effort from Mystik Dan in the Preakness, and if his valiant nose victory in the Kentucky Derby didn’t take too much out of him, the second jewel of the Triple Crown is within reach.

Preakness History: Ken McPeek won the 2020 Preakness with the filly Swiss Skydiver… in October, when this race was third in the Triple Crown series due to postponements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. McPeek has also finished third twice from seven prior starters. Hernandez was aboard one of McPeek’s third-place horses, Creative Minister in 2022, and has also made three other Preakness appearances.

Bet Mystik Dan in the Preakness Stakes

6. Seize the Grey (15-1)

Jockey: Jaime Torres

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: MyRacehorse

Career record: 9 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $619,938

Earnings per start: $68,882

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Pedigree: Arrogate – Smart Shopping, by Smart Strike

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Seize the Grey joins Just Steel from D. Wayne Lukas’ barn for a quick turnaround trip to the Preakness after competing on May 4 at Churchill Downs. While Just Steel was part of the early pace in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve before tiring, Seize the Grey authored a career-best performance four races earlier on the card, rallying to win the Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by SAP by 1 ¼ lengths. He responded well to cutting back to a one-turn mile in the Pat Day Stakes after finishing a distant seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in early April, and proved best against a strong field of 3-year-olds, including runner-up Nash and third-place Vlahos. Seize the Grey has put together a solid career through nine starts, including a win in a 1 1/16-mile, two-turn allowance-optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park earlier this year and a third-place finish to Endlessly and West Saratoga in the 1 1/8-mile Jeff Ruby Steaks in late March when he was only a head out of second. Still, his Equibase Speed Figures have plateaued in the mid-90s range during his 3-year-old season, and that’s about 10-15 points lower than what will be required to win the Preakness based on the race’s history. Look for him to be rallying from a stalking spot under first-time Preakness jockey Jaime Torres with a shot to fill out the superfecta if the early pace turns out to be fast.

Preakness History: D. Wayne Lukas has six Preakness wins from a record 46 starters: Codex in 1980, Tank’s Prospect in 1985, Tabasco Cat in 1994, Timber Country in 1995, Charismatic in 1999, and Oxbow in 2013. “The Coach” has also finished second twice and third five times.

Bet Seize the Grey in the Preakness Stakes

7. Just Steel (15-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owners: BC Stables and Harry Schmueckle

Career record: 12 starts – 2 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $724,545

Earnings per start: $60,379

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Justify – Irish Lights, by Fastnet Rock

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Just Steel wheels back in two weeks for a start in the Preakness after finishing 17th in the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. He broke well and vied for the early lead in Derby 150 and stayed in contention through the backstretch, but then fell back midway through the second turn and ended up besting only three horses. That disappointing effort followed his career-best race based on speed figures, when he finished second by two lengths to Muth in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby on March 30. Just Steel earned a 112 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, 15 points higher than his previous best figure at age 3, and he finished 4 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher and subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan. It’s fair to question if that Arkansas Derby performance and speed figure was an outlier relative to this colt’s true talent level – he usually puts forth a good effort, but both of his wins have come in sprint races despite a stamina-oriented pedigree, and he has not really challenged the winning horse in his three runner-up finishes this year (second also to Catching Freedom in the Smarty Jones Stakes and to Mystik Dan in the Southwest Stakes). Joel Rosario, who rode Just Steel five times as a juvenile in 2023 and was aboard for both of his wins, gets the assignment for the first time this year. Expect Rosario to take Just Steel back off of the early pace and to settle him in a stalking position on Saturday.  

Preakness History: Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 88, has saddled a record 46 Preakness starters, winning the race six times with Codex in 1980, Tank’s Prospect in 1985, Tabasco Cat in 1994, Timber Country in 1995, Charismatic in 1999, and Oxbow in 2013. He’s also finished second twice and third five times. Rosario, who will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame this summer, has had nine prior Preakness mounts, finishing second four times and third once.

Bet Just Steel in the Preakness Stakes

8. Tuscan Gold (8-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owners: William Lawrence, Walmac Farm, and Stonestreet Stables

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $147,100

Earnings per start: $49,033

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Valadorna, by Curlin

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This well-bred colt is an intriguing longshot contender in Preakness 149 with plenty of upside having made only three prior starts. He won his second race and 3-year-old debut, a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race, by 6 ¼ lengths back in late January and then was elevated to stakes company almost two months later for a start in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby. Tuscan Gold outran his 11.20-1 odds in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby, overcoming an outside post to get a good position racing in third through the backstretch and then engaging pacesetter Track Phantom once the field turned for home. That pair was overtaken by closers Catching Freedom and Honor Marie, who rallied from well off the pace through the middle of the stretch, but Tuscan Gold kept fighting and edged Track Phantom for third by three-quarters of a length, finishing 1 ¾ lengths behind winner Catching Freedom. Both Catching Freedom and Honor Marie came back to run well in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (fourth and a troubled eighth, respectively), and a colt who finished sixth in the Louisiana Derby, Antiquarian, came back to win the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes May 11. Tuscan Gold bumped his Equibase Speed Figure from 83 in his allowance win to 96 in the Louisiana Derby, and a similar move forward can give this colt an upset chance in the Preakness. Look for Tuscan Gold to join Mystik Dan in the second flight behind Muth and Imagination through the first half-mile before jockey Tyler Gaffalione urges him into contention.

Preakness History: Gaffalione won the 2019 Preakness Stakes aboard War of Will and has had two other mounts. Trainer Chad Brown has tallied two wins in this race already from only six starters: Cloud Computing in 2017 and Early Voting in 2022. Brown-trained Blazing Sevens finished second by a head to National Treasure in last year’s Preakness. Stonestreet Stables co-owned two of the best Preakness Stakes winners of this century, both of which were honored as Horse of the Year as 3-year-olds: Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). Another of Tuscan Gold’s co-owners, William Lawrence, co-owned the aforementioned Cloud Computing in 2017 along with Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables.

Bet Tuscan Gold in the Preakness Stakes

9. Imagination (6-1)

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Dianne Bashor, Robert Masterson, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, and Tom Ryan

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 4 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $406,800

Earnings per start: $67,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Magical Feeling, by Empire Maker

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Imagination has yet to finish out of the exacta in six career starts, with two wins and four runner-up efforts, and three of those second-place finishes have come by a neck. He checks all the boxes as a quintessential Bob Baffert-trained threat to win a Triple Crown race: sterling pedigree (by top sire Into Mischief), high yearling price ($1.05 million) for a well-known partnership, high cruising speed coupled with stamina, and a fighter when challenged. That said, this spring Imagination has played third fiddle behind two other 3-year-old Baffert trainees that have been even more impressive: the currently-sidelined Nysos and Muth, who will join Imagination in the Preakness. Imagination successfully stepped up to stakes company in his two most recent starts, winning the 1 1/16-mile DK Horse San Felipe Stakes by a head over stablemate Wine Me Up in early March and then gamely battling Stronghold in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby April 6 before yielding by a neck (Stronghold subsequently finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve). It will be interesting to see where legendary jockey Frankie Dettori, who is making his Preakness debut, positions Imagination in the early stages of the race Saturday relative to Muth. Both of those runners prefer to be forwardly placed but don’t need to set the pace from start to finish to win, although Dettori will need to use some of Imagination’s speed to get out of the gate in good order and then attempt to move over and save as much ground as possible entering the first turn. Overall, Imagination is a win candidate in Preakness 149 and could offer decent value come post time thanks to the presence of Muth and Mystik Dan.

Preakness History: As noted, Dettori will make his first Preakness start after spending most of the spring seasons in his nearly 40-year career riding in Europe. Bob Baffert is the all-time winningest trainer in the Preakness with eight: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010), American Pharoah (2015), Justify (2018), and National Treasure (2023). He’s also finished second twice and third twice with 25 prior starters overall. The various owners in Imagination’s partnership have been part-owners of several prior Preakness winners, and all of them save Dianne Bashor and Tom Ryan are part of a group that own National Treasure, who is still in training.

Bet Imagination in the Preakness Stakes

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