Preakness Preview: Baffert Hoping to Break Tie with Authentic, Thousand Words
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of Curtis Kalleward of the Racing Dudes
BALTIMORE, MD - Bob Baffert will attempt to break his tie with fellow Hall of Fame trainer Wyndham Walden for most wins by a trainer (7) when he saddles both the recent Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic and his stablemate Thousand Words in Saturday’s $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1), the final leg of the 2020 American Triple Crown series.
For the first time in the race’s history, the winner of the Preakness will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Preakness is a 1 3/16-mile dirt route restricted to 3-year-old horses. The 2020 edition attracted 11 entries, including 1 filly.
Let’s look at the full field:
#1 Excession – The first of three entries from Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, he makes his first start since finishing second in mid-March’s Rebel Stakes (G2) behind Nadal, considered one of Baffert’s top Kentucky Derby prospects before an injury ended his career. The Union Rags colt has only 1 victory through 9 career starts, but he did hit the board in 5 of those.
#2 Mr. Big News – One of the few runners to make up any ground in the Kentucky Derby’s stretch run, he flew home to finish third at 46/1 odds. The Bret Calhoun trainee has become known for his bursts from the rear of the field and should be expected to flash his sharp turn of foot when the real running commences.
#3 Art Collector – The 5/2 second choice on the morning line will hopefully make his long-awaited debut on the Triple Crown trail after missing the Kentucky Derby due to a minor foot issue. The Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner is undefeated through 4 starts since joining the Tommy Drury Jr. barn at the beginning of the year and should present a stiff test.
#4 Swiss Skydiver – The Kenny McPeek trainee will attempt to become the sixth filly to win this race and the first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009. The 55th gal to enter “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” has won 4 graded stakes this year and was most recently second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) after dominating her rivals in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1).
#5 Thousand Words – He was a late scratch in the Kentucky Derby after flipping in the paddock and giving assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes a broken arm and other minor injuries. Florent Geroux, scheduled to ride him in the Derby, will attempt to safely mount the multiple graded stakes champ; he finished a personal-best third in last year’s Preakness aboard Owendale.
#6 Jesus’ Team – He seemed to turned the corner in March, breaking his maiden in his fifth start and repeating next out while running for a claiming tag in a pair of one-turn dirt mile races. He finished fourth in the Haskell while making his stakes debut, then crossed second in the Pegasus Stakes and third in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2).
#7 Ny Traffic – He finished second or third in 4 straight graded stakes tries, including missing in the Haskell by just a nose, before finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby. With regular rider Paco Lopez already committed elsewhere, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. will leg up local jockey Horacio Karamanos, perennially atop the leaderboards at Pimlico and nearby Laurel Park.
#8 Max Player – The second Asmussen entry is also the most recent addition to the Hall of Fame stable, transferring to be under his care prior to finishing a closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby. By making the gate, he’ll become the only horse to have competed in all three legs of the 2020 Triple Crown; he was previously third in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
#9 Authentic – The Preakness remains the only Triple Crown victory missing from the resume of his Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, but the 9/5 morning line favorite has plenty of history on his side, too: Baffert has won all 5 prior Preakness attempts with horses who won the Kentucky Derby (in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2015, and 2018). Authentic already punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup after taking the Haskell, another “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Classic.
#10 Pneumatic – Asmussen’s third threat enters having won 3 of his 5 career starts, including the Pegasus last time out over Jesus’ Team. His best prior finish against graded stakes rivals was a third in the Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs, but he’s progressed with each start and picks up new rider Joe Bravo, whose first Breeders’ Cup victory came in last year’s Distaff (G1).
#11 Liveyourbeastlife – Trainer Jorge Abreu has carefully handled this Ghostzapper colt, whose unorthodox 2020 saw him defeat older horses in a Saratoga allowance event before finishing a narrow second in the Jim Dandy. His dam, Ellie’s Moment, and two half-siblings were stakes victors, including Grade 1 turf winner Time and Motion.
The Preakness serves as race 11 and is the headlining event on an all-stakes, 12-race Saturday card at Pimlico. Including the Preakness, a total of 11 American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events will be held this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Pimlico, Keeneland, and Belmont Park.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com.
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