Nyquist hasn’t been beaten and very well may be horse racing’s first repeat Triple Crown champion since Seattle Slew and Affirmed nailed back to back titles in 1977 and 1978. Of course, that’s not necessarily logical or likely, so horse racing bettors need to think a little outside the box heading into the 2016 Preakness Stakes.

For one, is Nyquist the best horse in this race, and is it a lock to take first to land a mere shot at sweeping the Triple Crown. The short, easy answers truly are “yes” and “probably”. Vegas suggests as much, naking Nyquist an overwhelming favorite (20/33) via Bovada.

The math doesn’t hurt Nyquist’s bid, either. We’ve seen the Kentucky Derby advance all the way to the Triple Crown unscathed in each of the last two years and over the past 50 years, we’ve seen 27 horses make it to the final leg of the race with a chance to make history. Only 12 actually pulled it off, but even if Nyquist isn’t to be the 13th, he at least has as good a chance as any other horse lining up for the Preakness Stakes, and probably a much better one.

Nyquist’s plight got a little easier with some of his competition dropping out – namely Gun Runner. Instead, a field of 11 to this point boasts little intense competition and just Exaggerator (who Nyquist has slapped around in four previous races) looks like the lone problem.

But this is what horse racing and betting is all about, right? If Nyquist isn’t the safe bet he seems to be and Exaggerator doesn’t end up being the one horse that can take him down, where and how do we bet? That brings us to the three best sleepers outside of the top two horses:

Stradivari (7/1)

Stradivari could actually be Nyquist’s biggest threat, just because no one knows what the upside is with this horse. The colt lost its debut race back in November, but has run well in its last two races, taking first in each. That kind of momentum can be scary, especially since it’s another contender that is very well rested heading into the Preakness Stakes.

The downside with Stradivari is two-fold. Not only does it lack great running experience, but it hasn’t gone up against a ton of veteran horses. In other words, it’s two big wins could mean a lot less than we would prefer. It also doesn’t have the best betting odds, currently tabbed as the third best bet to win this weekend. That can be a good thing, but considering it’s not the safest of plays with Nyquist and Exaggerator ahead of him, the return on the investment comes off as especially weak. Stradivari certainly is a dangerous sleeper, but not necessarily one worth putting a ton of betting stock in. One a $100 bet, Stradivari only returns $700 if he wins.

Collected (20/1)

Trained by Bob Baffert (trained American Pharoah), Collected is easily one of the top sleepers heading into the 2016 Preakness Stakes. Being a sleeper is one thing, but can Collected actually push Nyquist for the win? If being fresh has anything to do with it, the short answer might be “maybe”. Collected passed up the Kentucky Derby and with an elite trainer by his side, could be in a good spot to earn a surprise run in the second leg of the 2016 Triple Crown.

Baffert is the key reason why, as he’ll be going for consecutive Preakness Stakes wins for the third time in his career. Collected has a resume to back up the optimism, too, having registered wins at the Sham Stakes, the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes and the Lexington Stakes. The horse did have a bad showing in the Southwest Stakes back in February, but last won on April 16th and will be well rested coming into the 2016 Preakness Stakes. With 20/1 odds, Collected isn’t getting zero respect from Vegas, yet would return a nice profit, depending on your bet. A mere $100 bet on Collected could potentially return a solid $2,000.

Lani (40/1)

There might not be a better bet when it comes to upside and realistic hope, as Lani is a far better bet to pull off an upset than the worst current odds (Laoban at 50/1), yet can pull in a large cash prize if successful. The beauty here is Lani is actually a lot more dangerous than Vegas suggests, as he was decent enough with a 9th place finish at the Kentucky Derby and got into the mix in the first place after impressively winning the UAE Derby.

Lani is also a bit of a dark horse on pedigree alone as a Japanese horse. That shouldn’t kill it’s appeal, however, as he’s run well in most of it’s races, claiming three first place runs in all and the aforementioned top-10 spot in the Kentucky Derby. Lani isn’t a lock or even a top contender, but as far as sleeper and bettor appeal goes, few horses are more interesting as we draw closer to the 2016 Preakness Stakes. After all, when a $100 bet can return $4,000 you quickly pay attention to that type of upside when a horse actually may have the goods to back up the bet.

Got a sleeper of your own you love for this weekend’s race or think Nyquist will win again? Let us hear about it in the comments below!

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