ABR: Which Preakness Runners Should Relish a Wet Track? (2024)

Another year, another U.S. Triple Crown race clouded by a rainy forecast.

Like the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1)earlier this month, the Preakness Stakes (G1) has racing fans and bettors checking their weather app(s) regularly the week of the Classic race in hopes of a promising update.

Unfortunately, early forecasts call for a 50/50 chance of a rainy second jewel of the Triple Crown May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.

Perhaps, like this year's Kentucky Derby, the rain will hold off or clear out in time to get a fast and dry racetrack for the Preakness. But if the rain comes, it can pay off handsomely to be prepared.

The key part of this blog will be predicting which runners might benefit from some moisture in the track and identifying whose win chances might be compromised, but let's start with the basics: what is an "off" track?

In the simplest terms, an "off" is a racing surface rated anything other than fast.

We have previously used the quick explanation below of dirt track conditions you might see/hear on Preakness day:

  • good (track): a dirt track that is almost fast.
  • wet fast (track): a track that has moisture on the surface that has not had time to impact the base of the surface.
  • muddy (track): condition of a racetrack that is wet but has no standing water.
  • sloppy (track): a racing surface that is saturated with water and has standing water visible.
  • sealed (track): a dirt track that has been floated (packed down) and not subsequently harrowed.

The best predictor for which runners will handle an "off" track is past success. A racehorse who has won or run fast on a wet track is more likely to excel than a horse who has performed poorly.

The table below lists how this year's Preakness contenders have performed on an "off" track with their career record, top Beyer Speed Figure on a wet track, and best Equibase Speed Figure on a wet track. The best Beyer and Equibase Speed Figures from among the Preakness entrants are bolded as are the Preakness contenders with a win on a wet track.

Preakness Contender

“Off” Record


Top Wet


Top Wet


1. Mugatu (20-1)




2. Uncle Heavy (20-1)




3. Catching Freedom (6-1)




4. Muth (8-5)




5. Mystik Dan (5-2)




6. Seize the Grey (15-1)




7. Just Steel (15-1)




8. Tuscan Gold (8-1)




9. Imagination (6-1)




Kentucky Derby winner #5 Mystik Dan has a win on a wet track, and it also happens to be the fastest race of his career according to both speed-figure makers.

Of course, not all wet tracks are the same, and a good or sloppy track at Pimlico is different than the muddy track at Oaklawn Park on which Mystik Dan romped by eight lengths in the Feb. 3 Southwest Stakes (G3). Nonetheless, that race is a promising indicator that Mystik Dan might be tough to beat on an "off" track on Preakness day.

Likewise, #2 Uncle Heavy is 2-for-2 on a wet track, including a win in the 1 1/8-mile, Feb. 3 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack on a muddy track. He looked like a live longshot to me regardless of track condition based upon the fact that his last race was not nearly as bad as it looks on paper. He finished fifth, beaten by 11 lengths, in the April 6 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2)at Aqueduct, a race in which he was significantly compromised when a horse clipped heels and fell in front of him and cost him any shot of winning. If you cross that race out, his record looks much better, and his chances would very likely improve with a wet track.

#6 Seize the Grey also has a win on an "off" track, winning a sprint on a sloppy surface as a 2-year-old last summer at Saratoga Race Course, while #3 Catching Freedom and #7 Just Steel have posted top-three finishes on wet dirt tracks. Catching Freedom ran a quality race on a sloppy track when third behind eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Sierra Leone in the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & SlotsFeb. 17.

The Tomlinson rating is another useful tool for predicting whether or not horses will thrive on an "off" track. Daily Racing Form uses Tomlinson ratings to make an educated guess on how racehorses will handle wet tracks based on the performance of the horse's sire and broodmare sire's progeny on wet tracks.

For the Preakness field, the table below lists the contenders from high (best for a wet track) to low. These numbers are especially useful for horses who have no experience on "off" tracks, as is the case with four of the nine Preakness entrants: #1 Mugatu, #4 Muth, #8 Tuscan Gold, and #9 Imagination.

Preakness Entrant

Tomlinson (wet)

#6 Seize the Grey


#7 Just Steel


#9 Imagination


#8 Tuscan Gold


#1 Mugatu


#2 Uncle Heavy


#3 Catching Freedom


#5 Mystik Dan


#4 Muth


As you can see from the table, Mystik Dan has one of the lowest Tomlinson (wet) ratings in the field but has proven success on an "off" track. This is a good reminder that racehorses are individuals, and these ratings are simply one tool.

Based on the Tomlinson rating, morning-line favorite Muth would seem to be the one entrant whose chances might be most hurt by rain. He has no experience competing on a wet track and the worst Tomlinson rating in the field.

Imagination and Tuscan Gold likewise have no previous "off" track experience, but their Tomlinson ratings paint a more promising picture. Specifically, Imagination is by leading sire Into Mischief, whose progeny seem to really relish the slop, and he has terrific tactical speed that can be advantageous on wet surfaces. I'll move Imagination up significantly on a wet track.

The three prime beneficiaries of an "off" track could be Mystik Dan and Uncle Heavy based on past experience along with Imagination. Muth might very well handle a wet track with aplomb, but he's the one entrant I would bet against on an "off" track for the Preakness.

ABR: Which Preakness Runners Should Relish a Wet Track? (2024)


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