BALTIMORE, Md. – After his Preakness (G1) horses went to the track at Pimlico Race Course for their exercise Thursday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert joked about the schedule for the days ahead.
“We gallop tomorrow and then we start fretting,” he said with a chuckle, emphasizing the last word as “fret-innn.”
Though he will worry, Baffert has a strong hand to play in the 145th Preakness Saturday: Authentic, who won the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs Sept. 5, and Thousand Words, who has won three stakes in California. Authentic will have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez up when the 9-5 morning-line favorite breaks from Post No. 9. Thousand Words, winner of his most recent start, the Aug. 1 Shared Belief at Del Mar, is 6-1 in the morning line and will leave from Post No. 5 under Florent Geroux.
Authentic, owned by Spendthrift Farm LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC and Starlight Racing, galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday under Humberto Gomez when the track reopened at 8:30 following a renovation. Gomez guided Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Thousand Words out to the track around 7 a.m. and rode him to the backstretch for some added distance before starting a lap around the one-mile track.
“He goes straight off,” Baffert said. “We don’t back him up. We have to fool him. He’s a little quirky.”
Thousand Words was scratched from the Derby after he reared and fell while being saddled. The Pioneerof the Nile colt was not injured, but Baffert’s assistant, Jimmy Barnes, had to be taken to the hospital with a fractured right wrist.
Baffert said he is pleased how his runners have adjusted to Pimlico since being shipped from Louisville on Tuesday.
“Both horses are doing fine. They both look good out here,” Baffert said. “This track is so soft. You just don’t hear them. I’ve always loved this surface here. They are both training well. There are no excuses.”
Both colts were schooled in Pimlico’s indoor paddock before the second race Thursday afternoon. Baffert said he will follow his usual approach and saddle his Preakness horses in the paddock and not on the turf course.
Baffert is seeking his record-setting eighth Preakness victory and has often said that he enjoys the atmosphere surrounding the classic when it’s the second race of the Triple Crown series. Due to changes from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Preakness is the last of the three classics for 3-year-olds to be run. He lamented this year’s cancellation of the Alibi Breakfast, a Thursday morning tradition on Preakness week.
“We miss the breakfast, though,” he said. “I like that fried chicken. I don’t know if I can win a Preakness without fried chicken. I have to go find some.”
Baffert’s two starters will push his career Preakness total to 22 runners, passing Nick Zito into second place on the list of most starters for a trainer since 1909. D. Wayne Lukas is the leader with 44 starters.
Since making his Preakness debut in 1996 with Kentucky Derby runner-up Cavonnier, who was fourth at Pimlico, Baffert has participated in 18 Preaknesses. This will be his third-straight year and 10th in 11 years with a starter. The only year he was absent during that stretch was 2017.
Baffert won the Preakness both times he had multiple starters. In 2001, Point Given was the winner and Congaree was third. When American Pharoah picked up the second victory of his Triple Crown sweep in 2015, Dortmund was fourth.
Photo: Authentic schooling in the paddock. Credit: Maryland Jockey Club