At last month’s Kentucky Derby, the horse racing world was reminded that overwhelming favorites do sometimes lose big races. Just ask those who bet Tiz the Law to win at less than even money.
They watched jockey John Velasquez lead Authentic (who went off as the third favorite at 8/1) wire-to-wire to get the win for trainer Bob Baffert.
Saturday, we turn to the 145th running of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, to be run on a 1 3/16-mile course around the tight turns at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. The field is 11 horses. Post time is 5:31 p.m.
Dry weather is expected, with temperatures in the 60s. NBC’s television coverage runs 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The day features 12 races (six on the turf), the first at 11 a.m. All of the horses entered in the Preakness will be racing at Pimlico for the first time.
Unusual Preakness Stakes circumstances
Traditionally, this race features the Kentucky Derby winner taking the second step in the three-step process toward winning the Triple Crown. But because this season’s schedule has been turned upside down as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, the Preakness represents the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. (Tiz the Law won the first leg, capturing the Belmont in June).
Recent history shows the Kentucky Derby winner to nearly always be favored (typically) two weeks later in the Preakness. Three of the past six Kentucky Derby winners also won the Preakness. This is the sixth time Baffert has brought a Kentucky Derby winner to Baltimore, and he’s yet to lose with any of them.
For Authentic to join the list, he will need to defeat two other talented horses who skipped the other two Triple Crown races — Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver — and up-and-comer Pneumatic, who skipped the Kentucky Derby.
Preakness odds at PA betting apps
|Post Position||Horse||Jockey||Morning Line Odds|
|3||Medina Spirit||John Velazquez||9-5|
|4||Crowded Trade||Javier Castellano||10-1|
|5||Midnight Bourbon||Irad Ortiz Jr.||5-1
|7||France Go de Ina||Joel Rosario||20-1|
|8||Unbridled Honor||Luis Saez||15-1|
|9||Risk Taking||Jose Ortiz||15-1|
|11||Concert Tour||Mike Smith||5-2|
The pace makes the race
The Preakness could very well be a story of the pace makes the race, but how it will actually play out is not clear. Expect Velazquez to send Authentic to the lead again, but who will go with him? I have no doubt that Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver have the speed to duel with him, or at least press him hard, and perhaps Ny Traffic and Thousand Words do too. But will they?
So many trainers and riders want to sit just off the leaders and make a move in the middle of the second turn that there could be five or six horses with the same strategy, and they could end up conceding Authentic the lead.
Also, Authentic is fast enough that the decision needs to be made to press him before the race starts, not as a result of the wait-and-see approach that is quite common these days. Otherwise, Authentic will have everyone else playing catch-up. Authentic ran a good Kentucky Derby and earned a 105 Beyer, but he is far from unbeatable (although he’s been working great at Churchill).
Breaking down the field based on opening lines
Authentic (9/5 opening line) is 4-1-0 in five starts this year, but with more speed entered in this race, he likely will have challenges from the start by Art Collector and the filly Swiss Skydiver. Authentic saw no such challengers at Churchill Downs. The horse has trailed only three other horses for any length of time during his six-race career.
Art Collector (5/2) defeated Swiss Skydiver in early July at the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland but had to scratch days before the Kentucky Derby because of a hoof injury. Art Collector has trained without incident in recent weeks, and his spectacular workout, his best ever, at Churchill Downs on Sept. 19 shows he’s ready to go. Art Collector’s last three races earned him Beyer ratings of 100-103, and they were three completely different races. He is clearly a contender.
Swiss Skydiver (6/1) will be running at her ninth different racetrack in her last nine races. Her jockey will be Robbie Albarado, whom many say is past his prime and who is just 1-29 in Triple Crown races. However, Swiss Skydiver ran a 102 in the Alabama, and the slight regression to 99 in the Kentucky Oaks likely was the result of her trip. So expect her to run in the 102-103 range on Saturday.
Thousand Words (6/1) acted up 10 minutes before the Kentucky Derby, threw his exercise rider and had to scratch due to injury. A talented horse trained by Baffert, he’ll move toward the starting gate on Saturday, and we could see what he’s capable of against a top field.
More challengers to consider in the Preakness
Mr. Big News (12/1) is another horse that cannot be dismissed. He placed third at the Kentucky Derby at 46/1.
Max Player (15/1) returns to the track and is the only horse to have entered all three Triple Crown races. He also raced in the prestigious Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga, where he placed third to Tiz the Law. A late-running horse in a race that does not favor closers, he did not finish better than third in those previous three high-quality races.
Ny Traffic (15/1) is a fighter and almost ran down Authentic in the Grade 1 Haskell this summer, but he couldn’t improve on that in the Kentucky Derby, losing by more than 13 lengths.
Pneumatic (20/1 opening line) was fourth in the Belmont and is an improving horse with tactical speed who could be sitting on a career-best effort, some say, after an impressive run last time out at Monmouth Park. But will it be enough to pull off an upset? The wide post at No. 10 is a negative, but when Authentic (post No. 9) steers left at the start, Pneumatic can follow him.
Preakness storylines, value horses to watch for
Jesus’ Team (30/1) is a $25,000 claiming horse who is now entering a Triple Crown race. Good story. His speed figures in his past four races are respectable.
Excession (30/1) has a local rider, Sheldon Russell, on board. This closer is one of three entries for trainer Steve Asmussen. Excession last raced in March, finishing a surprising second at 82/1 in the Rebel Stakes (G2), losing to highly regarded Nadal by only 3/4 of a length.
Liveyourbeastlife (30/1) could be a good value bet. If you are betting superfectas, he’s worth adding, because he could very well grab fourth and should have long odds.