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Jeremy Plonk: 5 Impacts of Muth's Preakness Scratch

by Jeremy Plonk

May 15, 2024

Handicapping shockwaves were felt Wednesday when 8-5 morning line favorite Muth was scratched from the 149th Preakness at Pimlico due to a reported fever. What impact will that have on the middle jewel of the Triple Crown?

Here are 5 important developments:

1. MYSTIK DAN BECOMES THE FAVORITE: Upset Kentucky Derby winners aren't always the chalk in Baltimore. Expect Mystik Dan to go postward a solid betting favorite, similar to the 7-5 price that last year's Derby upsetter Mage was when facing a field of similar repute.

2. VALUE PLAYS TAKE MATHEMATICAL BLOW: With 38 points from the morning line odds now redistributed among 8 remaining horses, you're looking at 4-5 points lower on each contender if evenly spread. That takes a 9-2 shot to 7-2 in the mid-ranges, but horses 10-1 are now around 6-1. If you were hunting for value, expect less on the win end and adjust accordingly.

3. IMAGINATION GOES FROM SIDESHOW TO FOCAL POINT: The 'other' Bob Baffert entrant, Imagination (pictured above), moves center stage in terms of the early pace and won't be dividing money on the tote had the more fancied Muth stayed in the field. His price shaves perhaps more than any runner in the field. His profile looks a lot like last year's Preakness winner National Treasure, Baffert's record eighth win in this race. The popularity of jockey Frankie Dettori also will impact the outlook from a storyline and toteboard perspective.

4. PACE MAY ACTUALLY QUICKEN: Muth was my projected front-runner with Imagination conceding the front to him given the post-position draws for those runners. The argument can be made that Imagination becomes lone speed, but my sense is that others will now be emboldened to get right into the mix without the intimidation of taking on two Bafferts up top, particularly the big horse. Look for Mystik Dan, now drawn beautifully with 3 horses to inside devoid any speed, to come up hustling like he did early in his career. And certainly one or both D. Wayne Lukas trainees, Seize the Grey and Just Steel, could be hustled into what looks like a welcoming scenario on paper. When everyone has the same idea ... things get crowded.

5. MULTI-RACE BETTORS HUNT OTHER SINGLES: Whereas many would have leveraged Muth as a single (lone play on a ticket) in bets like the pick 4 and pick 5, most ticket constructions and budgets now will have to find confidence in other surrounding races. It's unlikely the Preakness remains a single for most players. Race 10 Sir Barton Stakes favorite Corporate Power is the shortest price in the morning line in those key sequences at 9-5 and now could become a must-have for many players.