1. Excession, Asmussen/Russell (30-1)
This graded stakes-placed son of Union Rags has just 1 win in 9 starts. He hasn’t raced since a runner-up effort at 82-1 in the Gr. 2 Rebel Stakes in April. That afternoon he rallied from last in a field of 8 to finish within three-quarters of a length of the talented Nadal. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle 3 colts in this race and this guy figures as the longest price in the group. He has worked every six days and has a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00 3/5 Sept. 22.
2. Mr. Big News, Calhoun/G. Saez (12-1)
Fired a ‘Big’ shot in the Kentucky Derby when third beaten less than 4 lengths at 46-1 odds. That race was so much better than anything he’s ever run before that it’s difficult to imagine he’d repeat such an effort so soon. There is some early pace in the race and if things should get silly up front, he’ll come running. Breaking from the 2-hole should help jockey Gabriel Saez ride the rail and save ground in the early going. If he should find room on the rail off the final turn, he could get a slice of the pie. He has improved Beyer Speed ratings in each of 8 career races, usually a good sign.
3. Art Collector, Drury/B. Hernandez (5/2)
Denied a start in the Kentucky Derby due to a minor-but-untimely hoof issue, this son of Bernardini has finished first in 5 consecutive races—4 for current trainer Tom Drury, Jr. and 1 for previous conditioner Joe Sharp. Overall, he’s got 5 wins in 9 starts and over $660k in earnings, including the Gr. 2 Blue Grass and the Ellis Park Derby, both contested at one mile and one-eighth. In the Gr. 2 Blue Grass, Art Collector decisively defeated Swiss Skydiver, a filly he meets again here. His last 3 wins all earned triple digit Beyer Speed Figures. That’s impressive, especially considering that 9-5 Preakness favorite Authentic sports a 2-race win skein with 2 consecutive triple-digit Beyers. Art Collector has early speed and should be in the mix from the start. Detractors will argue that Art Collector hasn’t proven himself against Gr. 1 competition. That’s true. Of course, Preakness will be his first try at that level. It also will be interesting to see how jockey B. J. Hernandez handles ‘Collector in the early going. They’ll need to break well and go to the front to keep Authentic from crossing over to the rail. If all goes well, ‘Collector figures to ‘ride the pine’ until #9 Authentic comes calling. That’s when the real race will begin.
4. Swiss Skydiver, McPeek/Albarado (6-1)
This talented filly will challenge the boys in the 2020 Preakness renewal and she’s not without a puncher’s chance. Second in the Gr. 1 Kentucky Oaks last out by less than 2 lengths to Shedaresthedevil, trainer Ken McPeek is willing to roll the dice with this filly in the Preakness. She’s got early speed and figures to closely stalk the pace. That puts her in the thick of things from the beginning in a race where major contenders all will be forwardly placed. She gets a 3-pound break in the weights at 123. Her Thoro-Graph sheet figures suggest she’s fast enough to upset this field and her development pattern is encouraging. She’s also managed a triple-digit Beyer figure while winning the Gr. 1 Alabama at Saratoga. We’re not as enthused about connections waiting until almost the last minute to commit to this race, but she’s got some positives on her side. One negative is that she already tried males in the Gr. 2 Blue Grass Stakes and was second best to Preakness morning-line second choice #3 Art Collector. Overall, this field is deeper than that one was.
Slight Win Contender/Exotics Player
5. Thousand Words, Baffert/Geroux (6-1)
He made it as far as the saddling paddock for the Kentucky Derby when something spooked him, and he went all Mary Lou Retton on handlers. His Louisville pre-race backflip earned high marks from the judges but also a scratch card from the track vet. No worries, at least not for trainer Baffert who saddled the winner of the race in #9 Authentic. This son of Pioneerof the Nile won the first 3 starts of his career, including Gr. 2 and Gr. 3 stakes before serving up two absolute duds. Off from April until July, he returned to finish second behind highly regarded stablemate Uncle Chuck in the Gr. 3 Los Alamitos Derby and then went wire-to-wire to defeat Honor A. P. to win the Shared Belief at Del Mar. He’s not as quick early as others in here but he’s got enough pace to be within hailing distance. Under clever handling from jockey Florent Geroux, he just might get a cozy journey right behind the speed. Interesting that blinkers go on for this race following a winning effort. The colt wore blinkers for the last 4 races before the layoff.
6. Jesus’ Team, J. D’Angelo/J. Toledo (30-1)
This colt has parlayed a pair of Gulfstream Park victories—a maiden $32k claimer and a $25k non-winners of 2 lifetime--into a sequence of races that peaked with a second in the Pegasus at Monmouth behind #10 Pneumatic and a third in the Gr. 2 Jim Dandy behind Mystic Guide. There’s no doubt this guy has blossomed in the second half of 2020, but Preakness is a big step up the competition ladder.
7. Ny Traffic, Saffie/Karamanos (15-1)
Sent off at reasonable odds of nearly 13-1 in the Kentucky Derby, this son of Cross Traffic didn’t have an adequate late response. An eighth-place finish in Louisville snapped a string of 5 consecutive in-the-money finishes for the Joseph Saffie-trained runner who usually races just behind the early pace. He was a last-minute addition to the Preakness field, so one wonders how much serious preparation he’s had and if he’s fully recovered from his Louisville letdown. Since the Kentucky Derby he has had just 1 posted workout.
8. Max Player, Asmussen/P.Lopez (15-1)
Fifth in the Kentucky Derby last out, this son of Honor Code continues a streak of solid but unspectacular performances. He ‘churned on’ in the final Louisville stages passing some tired foes. That was the colt’s first start for Hall-of-Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, so it’s reasonable to assume further improvement is possible in Baltimore—although former trainer Linda Rice did well with him before that. He’s closed ground late in each of his 6 career starts. From this seat the grinder’s not a serious win threat, but he certainly could finish in the money at a decent price.
9. Authentic, Baffert/J. Velazquez (9-5)
This son of Into Mischief has a lot going for him. He’s the 2020 Kentucky Derby winner, knocking off favorite and top-rated 3-year-old Tiz the Law in the process. Authentic didn’t just win the Derby, he dominated it from start to finish under a splendid ride by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. This colt has another Hall of Fame resident working his corner and that’s trainer Bob Baffert, who’s attempting to win a record 8th Preakness Stakes. Baffert is 5-for-5 in Preakness Stakes with Kentucky Derby winners and also succeeded at Pimlico with Derby also-rans Lookin At Lucky and Point Given. Authentic has won 5 of 6 races and nearly $3 million. His only loss was to Louisville fourth-place finisher Honor A. P. in the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Derby. He drew the favorable #9 post and, as in the Kentucky Derby, has other speed horses drawn inside of him. He’s worked splendidly at Churchill between Derby and Preakness—2 bullets: 5 furlongs in :59 1/5 Sept. 19 and 4 furlongs in :47 3/5 Sept. 28. It will be interesting to see if Velazquez urges Authentic to overtake #3 Art Collector early, or if the jockey is comfortable stalking his main foe.
One to Beat
10. Pneumatic, Asmussen/J. Bravo (20-1)
This son of Uncle Mo enters Preakness off of a solid victory over Jesus’ Team in the Pegasus at Monmouth. That was this colt’s third victory and first stakes triumph in 5 starts. He won both of his first 2 races at Oaklawn Park in Feb. and April. He forced the early pace in the Gr. 3 Matt Winn before surrendering to much more experienced foes in Maxfield and #7 Ny Traffic. He also managed to finish fourth in the Belmont Stakes behind Tiz the Law, Dr. Post and Max Player. Those were solid performances for a lightly raced colt and suggest more is in the tank. Clearly, he’s moving forward right now. He posted a bullet five furlong on the Saratoga training track in 1:00 4/5 on Sept. 21. Trainer Steve Asmussen reports the colt is doing “extremely well.” Pneumatic will need to leap forward to win this race and that might be asking too much, but he’s an interesting exotic wager consideration at a big price. Breaking from the 10 post won’t make things easy and jockey Joe Bravo will need to find a way to save some ground.
Exotics at a Price
11. Liveyourbeastlife /McCarthy (30-1)
With 2 wins in 8 starts, this son of Ghostzapper appears up against it in Preakness. Drawing the far outside 11 post didn’t help. He was an encouraging second to Mystic Guide in the Gr. 2 Jim Dandy, as he closed from fifth in the six-horse field to miss by a mere three-quarters of a length at 14-1. Before that he won a Saratoga allowance race to end a string of 5 consecutive losses. While he appears to have turned the ship around, he’ll need some extra strong wind in his sails to go against this tide.
The Bottom Line
This race appears a battle between Kentucky Derby winner #9 Authentic and #3 Art Collector. #3 Art Collector should go for the early lead to maintain his rail position. #9 Authentic should sit just off that one in second. The pair likely will travel like that until jockey John Velasquez, aboard #9 Authentic, decides to challenge the leader. If they hook up before the final turn, one of them should still win and the other might get passed for second. If they hook up later, like in the stretch, they should run one/two to the finish.
If #9 Authentic demands the early lead and #3 Art Collector permits him to take it, the above scenario would be flipped. However, if #3 Art Collector doesn’t ‘go’ early, it’s possible he could be trapped inside by #4 Swiss Skydiver and that probably isn’t ideal. #4 Swiss Skydiver is a bit of a pace wild card. She and jockey Robby Albarado could ‘gun’ for the lead, but that wouldn’t help her chances. She not as naturally as fast early as #9 Authentic or #3 Art Collector and would need to be ‘used’ to make the lead.
Of course, the break has everything to do with what happens in the first quarter mile. #9 Authentic broke slowly in the Derby but had enough quickness to make up for it. Can he afford to do that against #3 Art Collector?
One to Beat
#3 Art Collector
Should Run Well
#4 Swiss Skydiver, #10 Pneumatic
Trifecta and Superfecta Adds
#2 Mr. Big News, #5 Thousand Words, #8 Max Player
Suggested $100 Superfecta Plays
$2.50 Superfecta ($50)
8th Race 3
9th Race 9
10th Race 2, 4, 5, 8, 10
11th Race 2, 4, 5, 8, 10
$1.50 Superfecta ($30)
8th Race 9
9th Race 3
10th Race 2, 4, 5, 8, 10
11th Race 2, 4, 5, 8, 10
$.50 Superfecta ($20)
2, 4, 5, 8, 10
2, 4, 5, 8, 10