It is arguably the least climatic Preakness Stakes ever, but it is still a Triple Crown race and 11 horses will go to the post Saturday in the final leg of the 2020 Triple Crown.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Preakness was moved from the middle race of the Triple Crown on the third Saturday in May, to the last in the series on the first Saturday in October.
The race is the 11th in the stakes-laden Pimlico card and is set for a 2:36 p.m. PDT post.
Heading the field is Authentic, the Kentucky Derby winner and the 9/5 morning line favorite. Among the other entries is Swiss Skydiver, the filly taking on the boys for the second time in her 10-race career.
Swiss Skydiver is 6/1 and is coming off a second in the Kentucky Oaks.
Let’s take a run through the Preakness field.
Authentic (Bob Baffert trainer, John Velazquez jockey, 9/5): Has won four of five starts and won the Derby running a race many thought he couldn’t, going wire to wire in a 1-1/4 race. Deserves to be the favorite here, as well as the horse to beat. Had one off-performance this year and it was still second in the Santa Anita Derby. The cooled some, but he came back and fired, winning the Haskell, then the Derby.
The Next Threats
Art Collector (Thomas Drury, Brian Hernandez, 5/2): Would have been one of the favorites in the Derby but scratched out. By simple logic, should be one to watch here. After waking up in late November last year, he has gone out and won five straight, including the Blue Grass and the Ellis Park Derby. The last four wins have shown the ability to go wire to wire, or to stalk and pounce in the lane.
Swiss Skydiver (Kenneth McPeak, Robby Albarado, 6/1): Took on the boys in the Blue Grass and finished second by three lengths, looking overmatched against Art Collector. Came back against the fillies, winning the Alabama at Saratoga and was then second in the Kentucky Oaks. A beautiful filly, but I think the boys are just further along.
Thousand Words (Bob Baffert, Florent Geroux, 6/1): After a fourth in the San Felipe, a prep race back in March at Santa Anita, he fell off the Derby watch and stayed there until he came back won the Shared Belief in at Del Mar in August and he did so in front running fashion, something he had not shown before. He hasn’t raced since then, but it’s Baffert and he’s shipping him cross country. You have to at least take a look.
Mr. Big News (W. Bret Calhoun, Gabriel Saez, 12/1): Was third in the Derby at 46/1, odds you won’t get near to here. There is a reason the horse was at such high odds in the Derby and that is because he has won only twice in eight starts and hit the board only four times. Before the Derby he was sixth in an average Blue Grass field. He turned in the typical high-odds performance in the Derby where he passed some tiring horses in the lane. Realistically, I give little chance here.
Ny Traffic (Saffie Joseph, Horacio Karamanos, 15/1): Has all of two runs in 10 starts and was a badly beaten eighth in the Derby, running out of gas in the stretch. Gained some attention in the Derby running second in the Louisiana Derby, Matt Winn, and the Haskell – all preps leading up to the Derby. Could be one to take a look at but I just don’t see him having enough to beat the top two.
Max Player (Steve Asmussen, Paco Lopez, 15/1): I had a lot of friends that really liked him heading into the Derby following a series of strong runs in preps, winning the Withers, then running third in the Belmont and the Travers. But once in Kentucky, he struggled in the Derby, finishing fifth following a late run. I couldn’t blame you if you wanted to take a look, but my money will be elsewhere.
Pneumatic (Steve Asmussen, Joe Bravo, 20/1): The fourth place run in the Belmont wasn’t bad as he was beaten by Tiz the Law, Dr. Post, and Max Player. He followed with a win in the Pegasus and if you are looking for a live long shot, peek here. Obviously, he has a lot of improvement needed to win this but has won three-of-five career starts and has every right to get stronger.
Liveyourbeastlife: Trevor McCarthy, Jorge Abreu, 30/1): Has won twice in eight starts and those were a maiden and an allowance race. Ran well to finish second in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga in his last start, but there is nothing here to make me think he has even a remote shot.
Jesus’ Team (Jose Fracisco D’Angelo, Jevian Toledo, 30/1): There were some solid runs in his past performances with a fourth in the Haskell and a third in the Jim Dandy, but you would need some divine intervention to even get close to the leaders.
Excession (Steve Asmussen, Sheldon Russell, 30/1): The last of the three Asmussen horses and figures to run last out of his three runners. When last seen he was second to Nadal in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. He was 82/1 and hasn’t been seen since that race in March. Has won one of nine starts and there is nothing there to think he’ll be anywhere near the front, other than when he loads in the gate first!
So, who wins: I had Authentic on my tickets in the Derby and without Tiz the Law here, I think he is easily the one to beat. But on any given day applies perhaps as well in horse racing as any other sport, so will be play exacta and trifecta boxes underneath. I can’t overlook Art Collector and Thousand Words so I will have them involved as well. Finally, for the fourth horse I need to find some value and will add Max Player as one that could find his way into the top three spots. The filly will take some play, which will give some better odds for my other three choices after Authentic.
By Dennis Miller