Today, some of the best horses of 2020 meet again for the third and final leg of the revised Triple Crown. That’s right – the Preakness is finally here after what has been an interesting year of horse racing. To recap, this is usually the second leg of the Triple Crown; the first being the Kentucky Derby and the last being the Belmont. However, due to coronavirus the Derby was pushed back to September, followed by what will be the Preakness on Saturday.
Back in June, Tiz The Law put on a show and dominated the Belmont Stakes with ease. Sadly though, after winning the Travers Stakes as a prep race, he was beaten by Authentic in the Derby. All hopes of a Triple Crown winner (whether you would have considered it legitimate or not) had been lost, which led to Sackatoga Stables’ decision to not run Tiz in the Preakness. Instead, Tiz will begin his preparation for the Breeders Cup Classic, which takes place on November 7th.
Even though Tiz isn’t racing, we still have an incredibly talented field for this year’s Preakness, including horses like Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver, who were unable to compete in the Derby. Authentic may be the favorite, but does that mean he has what it takes to beat the rest?
Let’s check out the 11 horse field for the 2020 Preakness Stakes.
#1 Excession (30-1)
Jockey: Sheldon Russell
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Best race: 2nd place in Rebel Stakes (G2)
The first of three Steve Asmussen trained horses is Excessive, a 30-1 shot who draws the inside post for this year’s Preakness. Excessive is one of the longest shots on the board and also is coming off of the longest layoff in the entire field. He hasn’t raced since the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in March, where he finished 2nd behind Nadal (who ran a phenomenal race) at one hell of a price; 82-1. It was by far this horse’s best performance, and Excessive put up a solid 95 Beyer speed figure. That being said, it was a race in the slop, and we all know what can happen in the slop…literally anything. Unfortunately, the weather forecast isn’t looking rainy at all this week at Pimlico, so I wouldn’t expect this one coming off the pace like he did in his previous outing. After such a long layoff, I’m thinking Brad Kelley and Calumet Farm (who have actually finished 2nd in the last two Preakness’) are just looking to get a horse in a Triple Crown race, and Excessive fits the bid.
#2 Mr. Big News (12-1)
Jockey: Gabriel Saez
Trainer: Bret Calhoun
Best race: 2020 Oaklawn Stakes Winner
Mr. Big News is coming off of a great 3rd place finish in the Kentucky Derby, where he recorded a personal best 101 Beyer. If you recall the Derby, Mr. Big News stayed off the pace for the majority of the race and then attempted to kick it into gear when going around the final turn, but simply didn’t have enough in him to get past Tiz The Law or Authentic. Although he ran great there, he didn’t run as well in the Blue Grass Stakes back in July, when he finished 6th and was beaten by the likes of Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver; two contenders that were absent from the Derby but will be running on Saturday. If he comes out of the gate just a little hotter, I think Mr. Big News and Gabriel Saez have a chance to snag another win should pace fall in the stretch. At 12-1, this is one I’ll be using in my exotics.
#3 Art Collector (5-2)
Jockey: Benjamin Hernandez
Trainer: Thomas Drury
Best race: 2020 Ellis Park Derby Winner
The second favorite in the race is Art Collector, a Thomas Drury horse who gets Benjamin Hernandez in the irons. The duo have crossed the finish line first in five consecutive races with what seems to be ease. I say “crossed the finish line first” because in their first victory, the horse was later disqualified after testing positive for a prohibited substance, but has since run clean under his new trainer. Art Collector very well could be the speed of the speed in this race, and so far a mile and an eighth hasn’t been too much for him at all; but the question becomes can he handle a little bit of added distance? We weren’t able to see Art Collector in the Derby sadly due to a slight foot issue, but we were able to see him in the Ellis Park Derby, where he beat Derby runners Attachment and Necker Island by 3¼. While both of those horses may have not ran well in the Derby, he also beat Shared Sense who ran a great run in his Oklahoma Derby victory this past weekend. I like this horse a lot especially with Benjamin Hernandez on top again, but it’ll be interesting to see how he competes against better competition like Authentic.
#4 Swiss Skydiver (6-1)
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
Best race: 2020 Alabama (G1) Winner
The last time a filly raced in the Preakness was back in 2014 with Ria Antonia, but it’s great to see another back in the lineup with Swiss Skydiver. She’s been running great this summer, with wins in the Santa Anita Oaks and the Alabama, as well as some great runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Oaks and the Blue Grass. Although she beat out Gamine in the Kentucky Oaks, she was unable to get past Shedaresthedevil, even as the rail opened right up for her. One thing to note though, would be the jockey change from Tyler Gaffalione to Robby Albarado. Gaffalione was hot this summer…Albarado on the other hand? Not so much. As much as I love my fillies, I think I’ll be fading Swiss Skydiver here.
#5 Thousand Words (6-1)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Best race: 2020 Shared Belief Stakes Winner
Baffert’s first of two in the race is Thousand Words, who scratched out of the Derby after flipping over in the Paddock before the race. Prior to the Derby he was coming off of a hot win in the Shared Belief Stakes in Del Mar, and a lot of handicappers had their eyes on this one. Of his seven lifetime races, there are really only two that weren’t great. He stumbled at the start of the Oaklawn Stakes and had just an overall bad run against the likes of Authentic and Honor AP in the San Felipe. That being said, his wire to wire victory against Honor AP in the Shared Belief was impressive, although I’m not exactly understanding the addition of the blinkers here, as two of her worst races have been run with blinkers on. He may be trending up, but Thousand Words won’t be the horse for me in this one as I prefer the other speed horses and don’t think he can handle this distance.
Another one of the longest shots on the board is Jesus’ Team at 30-1. Let’s be honest, outside of the Haskell back in July, this colt really hasn’t faced the best competition. He came in a solid 4th in that race, behind the likes of Authentic and NY Traffic, along with Dr Post who is a horse that has struggled as of recently. Jesus’ Team has potential to compete, but I don’t think he has what it takes to beat out some of the talent here as he is yet to do so. He’s run some solid races, but nothing here stands out and gives me a reason to pick him over others.
#7 NY Traffic (15-1)
Jockey: Saffie Joseph
Trainer: Horacio Karamanos
Best race: 2nd in the Haskell Stakes (G1)
NY Traffic was a surprising let down for many in the Kentucky Derby. Before the race, this was a horse that gave Authentic a run for his money in the Haskell, out-ran Pneumatic in the Matt Winn, and had a couple narrow losses to both Maxfield (a top Derby contender had he not gotten hurt) and Wells Bayou. NY Traffic is a Saffie Joseph trained horse that likes to be on or near the lead early, which is likely where I expect him to be in this race as well. Oddly enough, Paco Lopez is off him as Horacio Karamanos, a less aggressive rider, gets in the irons this time around. This is a tough horse to read. In my eyes, if he puts up a run like he did in the Haskell, he without a doubt has what it takes to beat a favorite like Authentic. Hell, had the Haskell been just slightly longer, NY Traffic would have won it. That being said, I’m not sure the added distance truly helps him here at all, and the fact that he hasn’t been able to finish against better is a turnoff.
#8 Max Player (15-1)
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Best race: 2020 Withers Stakes (G3) Winner
Paco Lopez hops on board of Steve Asmussen’s second horse in this race with 15-1 Max Player, a horse that has had some promising runs this summer but is yet to beat the heavy favorites. Distance should not be an issue at all for Max Player, as he has some of the best late pace of the field and could potentially clean up the scraps should speed fall in the final stretch. Don’t let the numbers completely fool you; yes, Max Player has been beaten by over five lengths in his past three outings, but we’ve seen that he saves some gas in the tank for the end. If you go back and watch the Derby, you’ll notice that he doesn’t break well at all out of the gate and is forced to make up a ton of ground in the end. If he wants a chance at winning this one, he’ll need to break better – not necessarily for the lead, but mid pack should suit him well. I don’t usually back Paco Lopez much, but his aggressive riding style could benefit Max Player here, and at 15-1 this closer is not one I can pass up on in my exotics.
#9 Authentic (9-5)
Jockey: Johnny Velazquez
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Best race: 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1) Winner
Ahh…Authentic, everyone’s favorite Kentucky Derby winner! Well, not everyone, but definitely over 4,200 of his owners thanks to MyRacehorse. I have a little bit of beef with Authentic for the sole reason of him beating one of my favorite horses, Tiz The Law. Not only that, but I’m also not a big Baffert fan; so at least we were able to see Authentic knock Bob’s ass to the ground after winning the Derby. Anyways, this horse has won five of his six races and the only race he didn’t lose was the Santa Anita Derby, where he had a slow start out of the gate. This is a horse that many people doubted when going into the Derby, me included. Could a son of Into Mischief really wire to wire 1¼ at Churchill? Apparently so! Baffert has proven the doubters wrong with Authentic, even if it took a photo finish over NY Traffic in the Haskell to win. He has some great early pace, has improved Beyer’s each time out, and has had some absolute bullet workouts recently…However…I don’t think he’s my choice for the winner. If Baffert beats me again, so be it, but I can’t convince myself to take him at 9-5 against this competition.
#10 Pneumatic (20-1)
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Best race: 2020 Pegasus Stakes Winner
Asmussen’s final horse, Pneumatic, is coming off a good win in the Pegasus and gets jockey Joe Bravo back in the irons here. While I can’t knock that win at Monmouth, I should note that he was the heavy favorite and beat Jesus’ Team (the 30-1 shot in this Preakness), nothing crazy impressive. Pneumatic has somewhat less experience than the others and is yet to snag a stakes win, which is a big head scratcher to me. To be fair though, he’s been beaten by tough competition and still had some decent runs behind, but the son of Uncle Mo isn’t too much on my radar in this one.
#11 Liveyourbeastlife (30-1)
Jockey: Trevor McCarthy
Trainer: Jorge Abreu
Best race: 2nd place finish in Jim Dandy Stakes (G2)
After breaking his maiden in his debut race, Liveyourbeastlife has gone on to win just one out of seven races, the one being an allowance race at Saratoga this past August. After that win, he took on the Jim Dandy Stakes and finished second behind a good but not great Mystic Guide. While I do believe he’s outclassed in this race, at 30-1 I think he has potential of hitting the board should we see speed fall. Hear me out – his three best races have been his last three races, which were his only three going two turns. This is a horse that likes to come off the pace, we heard that from his trainer Jorge Abreu after the win at Saratoga and it’s certainly not wrong. He’ll need to run his absolute best, but I’m interested to see how this extra sixteenth of a mile treats him in comparison to the speed horses here.
There are a few ways to play this race depending on your outlook…but here’s the way that I will *likely* be playing it.
$10 WPS on 8 ($30 total)
$10 EXB 3,8 ($20 total)
$5 TRIB 2,3,8 ($30 total)
$1 SPRB 2,3,8,9 ($24 total)
Total cost of all tickets: $104
Fading Authentic just slightly here and hoping we can bring Max Player home down the final stretch. Best of luck to everyone betting, and enjoy the race!