The 144th running of the Preakness Stakes takes place on Saturday from Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore and with fast track conditions should be a wide-open race.  Unlike the Kentucky Derby where the track was sloppy, Pimlico should be in near pristine condition and the weather forecast calls for a beautiful afternoon.  This will be a much different race from the Derby as the field is narrowed from 19 to 13 horses.

Only a few horses from the Kentucky Derby will be racing in the Preakness and for the first time since 1996, the Kentucky Derby winner, (Country House) will not be racing in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.  This is such a rarity that it has occurred only four times in the last 59 runnings of the Preakness.  The original winner of the Derby, Maximum Security will also not be racing in the Preakness.  In one of the most controversial moves in the history of horse racing, Maximum Security was disqualified after he veered outside of his lane down the stretch at Churchill Downs.

Despite the absence of these horses, this should still be quite an exciting race.  The 5/2 morning line favorite, the 4 horse Improbable is a Bob Baffert trained horse, which gives him quite the edge in this race before it's even run.  Baffert horses have dominated the Preakness in recent years as he's looking for his fourth win in this race in the last decade, and eighth overall.  Baffert has also teamed up with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith again, who's been his ace in the hole as the two are looking for their fourth win in the last five Triple Crown races.

Distance shouldn't be a factor for these horses as the track is 1 3/16 miles long, shorter than the Derby.  However, the horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby, which include the favorite Improbable, are coming off of a short two-week turnaround.  One horse to watch out for in this race is the 7 Alwaysmining as he has won six straight races, all of which were in Maryland.  The 2 horse Bourbon War could pull it off or at the very least finish in the money as he has tremendous closing speed, and is known as a good finisher.

War of Will should be a dangerous horse coming from the 1 hole.  He had a shot to win the Derby but Maximum Security rode into his lane and that was that.  He drew the same post position in this race and could very well finish in the money, if not win the whole thing.  The 12 horse Anothertwistafate was the Lexington and Sunland Derby runner-up and seems to fit a course like Pimlico well.

This is how I see the race panning out, there is something about the 7 horse Alwaysmining that intrigues me, therefore in my expert opinion, he will win, followed by Baffert's horse Improbable (4) and Bourbon War (2).  If you're betting the trifecta, go ahead and box 7-4-2, and if you feel like putting a shekel on a superfecta because you never know, 7-4-2-1 would be my choice.  Happy Preakness Stakes day!