With Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Justify an odds-on favorite (justifiably) for Saturday's Preakness (G1), contemplating who the best longshot to play in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown seems an odd task on the surface.
Keep in mind, though, there have been several odds-on Derby winners that have taken it on the chin in the Preakness the past 50 years, with a number of them failing to reproduce their Churchill form in off going at Pimlico for various reasons.
Picking a best longshot also doesn't mean trying to pick an upset winner. Finding the right horse to sneak into the Exacta or Trifecta can be highly rewarding in itself. Recall 28-1 chance Tale of Verve finishing second to American Pharoah in 2015 and 39-1 outsider Macho Again earning silver behind Big Brown in 2008.
One colt who has outrun expectations multiple times this season is BRAVAZO (#8). The Calumet Farm homebred qualified for the Kentucky Derby with a 21-1 upset of the Risen Star (G2) in February. On Derby Day, the son of Awesome Again finished sixth, eight lengths behind Justify, at odds of 66-1.
What makes him a candidate to close the gap? Well, he might not entirely close the gap on Justify, but he could on runner-up Good Magic. The reason Bravazo was 66-1 in Louisville was due to a poor final prep in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He's also known for throwing a few duds, and that was definitely one of them.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a six-time Preakness winner, has said Bravazo was likely not in peak fitness for the Derby. There was a relatively long six-week gap between the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby, and with Bravazo showing little in the former, Lukas has suggested the gap was more like the 11 weeks that separated the Risen Star and the Derby.
Bravazo's lone race in the slop was the Derby, but keep in mind both his parents won in those conditions. Awesome Again won twice in the slop by a combined 10 lengths, including a three-length score in the Jim Dandy (G2).
With a two-week turnaround that many modern Thoroughbreds don't appreciate and that many trainers purposely avoid, Bravazo should be much fitter for the Preakness and a potential exotics danger around his 20-1 morning line price.