It looked like a four-horse race for the Preakness Stakes. That was before Tuesday.
That was when Tiz The Law was removed from consideration for next month’s Triple Crown finale, leaving most of the chalky betting dollars to be split among Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and new shooters Art Collector and Thousand Words.
“Disappointing that Tiz will not be able to run in the Preakness,” lead owner Jack Knowlton wrote on Twitter. “Our primary interest is doing what’s right for the horse, and in this case he’s not ready. We look forward to training him up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7.”
This came as no surprise. Bettors were taking a real gamble that Tiz The Law would show up Oct. 3 at Pimlico. The Belmont and Travers winner is so much better with two months off — and so vulnerable with only one month. That was how little a break he’d had before finishing second as a 7-10 post-time favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
Now the money tilts to Authentic. Circa Sports responded quickly to Tuesday’s news, cutting him from more than 5-2 (+ 260) to about 8-5 (+ 165) in its Preakness futures. And there is no doubt about the intentions for him. Not only has trainer Bob Baffert committed him to Baltimore, but it was announced that jockey John Velazquez would wear Spendthrift Farm’s orange-and-purple silks for the race after he had been in the black and white of MyRacehorse.com for the Derby.
Tiz The Law had been holding down a price of more than 4-1 (+ 410) before his exit Tuesday. Risky as he was, enough bettors did not want to be left out just in case he was going to be entered. Circa opened him at more than 9-2 (+ 475) before the early money came in on him.
It is easy to crack wise and ask now what those bettors were thinking. The answer is simple and very much a part of futures betting. If Tiz had been drawn into the Preakness, those prices would have been big overlays. Anyone who got him at + 475 and Authentic at + 260 cannot be feeling too bad right now.
The same goes for any bettor who backed Art Collector or Thousand Words before Tiz was removed from consideration. The Blue Grass winner who suffered a minor leg injury during Derby week, Art Collector was cut from nearly 4-1 (+ 385) to about 3-1 (+ 305) on Tuesday. Despite making like a stunt double with his paddock pratfall on Derby day, the only scratch Authentic’s stablemate Thousand Words suffered was on the program. Coming up on four weeks fresher, he was cut from more than 9-1 (+ 950) to about 7-1 (+ 715).
Like Authentic, both Art Collector and Thousand Words are committed to starting the Preakness. Trainer Tommy Drury said so two weeks ago about Art Collector. Baffert was even quicker to confirm Thousand Words.
Now it is a question of what other shooters will come into the race to join Authentic and fellow Derby graduates Mr. Big News (12-1) and Ny Traffic (12-1). A decision still must be made on filly Swiss Skydiver (+ 1025) after she finished second in the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Oaks.
Among the new names to be considered, Mystic Guide (25-1), Liveyourbeastlife (25-1) and Jesus’ Team (25-1) finished 1-2-3 in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga the same day the Derby was being run in Kentucky.
Now it feels like a normal Preakness. Whether it is the third Saturday in May or the first Saturday in October, there is always the question of who is coming.
Since the race is not, however, only two weeks after the Derby, the whole idea that new shooters come in as fresher horses does not work this year. The argument still holds that a horse good enough to run for the roses would have done just that. Horseplayers must decide for themselves if, say, last month’s Pegasus Stakes winner Pneumatic (16-1) skipped Kentucky because it was too soon after his last race or because his schedule was purposely set up that way because the Derby was over his head. Does that then mean that horses like Pneumatic are out of their league in the Preakness?
Oh, yes. Or should that read “no”? Circa still has yes-no betting with higher limits — as much as $1,000 — for Authentic, Art Collector and Thousand Words. The “yes” prices naturally match the win odds. Anyone wanting to bet “no,” that Authentic will not win, must lay more than 1-2 (-210), Art Collector more than 1-4 (-415) and Thousand Words more than 1-12 (-1215).
As with any futures bet made before the race is drawn next week, they are all immediate action. That plays to the advantage of bettors who put money on the “no.” That also means anyone who bet “no” on Tiz The Law winning the Preakness is already assured of cashing at anywhere from -600 to -725.
While the “no” props, the long break after the Derby and the autumn running of the Preakness are all new, at least some things about the second-cum-final race of the Triple Crown are turning familiar. Eventually, bettors will just be handicapping a two-turn, 9½-furlong test at Pimlico as they would any other year.
Translation: Oct. 3 cannot get here soon enough.