No Triple Crown, no fans, out of order, but still a Preakness

September 29, 2020

By Ryan Dickey

For the second year in a row, the Preakness Stakes will have no impact on a Triple Crown bid.

That happens from time to time, when the Kentucky Derby winner is unable to contest the 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico following the “Run for the Roses”. But this year, the Kentucky Derby winner will run in the Preakness with no hopes of becoming the fourteenth Triple Crown winner.

Last year, Country House won the Kentucky Derby but never again returned to the racetrack.

Authentic won the 2020 Derby earlier this month, postponed from the normal first Saturday in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tiz the Law had his Triple Crown dreams dashed when he finished second to the Bob Baffert trained Authentic at Churchill Downs–the only track where Tiz the Law has failed to exit a race victorious.

The Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes, which was contested at the end of June–significantly shortened to nine furlongs from its traditional mile and a half distance. He will bypass the Preakness to train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

It would have been interesting to see the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners duke it out in the Preakness, but this race will have interesting storylines regardless.

Filly Swiss Skydiver will face the boys on Saturday at Pimlico. She finished second to fellow Preakness entry Art Collector the first time she ran against males in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland in July.

Mr. Big News, who surprisingly finished second in the Kentucky Derby behind Authentic and Tiz the Law will also contest the Preakness, when a cast of eleven head to the gate for the eleventh of twelve races at Pimlico. The finale is an Arabian race

The field with jockeys, trainers and morning line odds:

1 Excession (Sheldon Russell/Steve Asmussen) 30-1
2 Mr. Big News (Gabriel Saez/Bret Calhoun) 12-1
3 Art Collector (Brian Hernandez Jr./Tommy Drury) 5-2
4 Swiss Skydiver (Robby Albarado/Ken McPeek) 6-1
5 Thousand Words (Florent Geroux/Bob Baffert) 6-1
6 Jesus’ Team (Jevian Toledo/Jose F. D’Angelo) 30-1
7 Ny Traffic (Horacio Karamanos/Saffie Joseph Jr.) 15-1
8 Max Player (Paco Lopez/Asmussen) 15-1
9 Authentic (John Velazquez/Baffert) 9-5
10 Pneumatic (Joe Bravo/Asmussen) 20-1
11 Liveyourbeastlife (Trevor McCarthy/Jorge Abreu) 30-1

Excession, drawing the rail, is one of three Preakness runners for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Having won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin and in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra, Asmussen looks to add to his total of three American Classic victories. He saddled Creator in his 2016 Belmont Stakes triumph.

On the shelf for 203 days, Excession looks to make his first start since a second-place finish to Nadal in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn in March. The sophomore colt by Union Rags has not shown any early speed in any of his nine career starts.

Stakes winner Mr. Big News is coming off his biggest career payday, netting owners Allied Racing Stable $300,000 for his effort at Churchill Downs in the Derby as a 47-1 longshot. He employs a closing style that proved to be profitable to bettors that needed him to hit the board in the Derby. He could have some pace to run into on Saturday.

Art Collector comes in on a five-race win streak and has yet to lose since switching from the Joe Sharp barn to that of current trainer Tommy Drury. The Blue Grass and Ellis Park Derby winner missed the Kentucky Derby following a slight foot issue.

After trying the turf for his first three career starts, the Bruce Lunsford-owned colt has won five of six races on the dirt. He should figure prominently in the early pace scenario and is likely to be the second-choice in the win pool when the gates open at approximately 5:36 p.m. Eastern.

Brian Hernandez Jr. retains his mount aboard Art Collector, as he has become the regular rider for the colt.

Swiss Skydiver was a game second to Shedaresthedevil in the Kentucky Oaks and finds herself facing the boys for the second time this year. Like Art Collector, she should be among the early pacesetters. Peter Callahan’s Daredevil filly has earned $1,192,980 from 10 career races.

Trainer Ken McPeek will get the services of jockey Robby Albarado aboard Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness.

Thousand Words was to be a Kentucky Derby starter but exhibited some pent-up energy in the Churchill Downs paddock, reared, and fell over backwards. Uninjured, but jumping out of his skin, he was a scratch moments from the race.

Trained by Baffert, the Pioneerof the Nile colt won the Shared Belief in his most previous start. He has won four times in seven career starts, but notably, his last victory was of the gate-to-wire variety. He also won the Grade 2 Los alamitos Futurity while forwardly-placed last year, so he can be near the front of the pace.

However, with stablemate Authentic expected to get to the front early, Thousand Words will probably rate well off the early leaders.

Jesus’ Team has finished fourth, second and third in his last three races–all stakes contests including the Grade 1 haskell and Grade 2 Jim Dandy. A two-time winner from 10 starts, the Tapiture colt should find himself in the second tier of runners in the early stages of the Preakness.

Ny Traffic hopes to finish the Preakness with all four shoes and no lacerations that require a staple to heal, following trouble in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., the Cross Traffic colt lost his front right shoe in the Derby and suffered a laceration of his front left ankle. He finished a distant eighth.

His up-the-track finish snapped a streak of three straight second-place finishes, including the Haskell, Grade 3 Matt Winn and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. He may also gun for the lead in the Preakness, which should feature a brisk, contested early pace.

Max Player finished third in the Travers and the Belmont Stakes in his two starts prior to the Kentucky Derby, where he finished fourth. Previously trained by Linda Rice, he is probably the most dangerous of the Asmussen contingent on Saturday. If the pace is indeed hot, his closing style sets up perfectly for that type of scenario.

Many people questioned how Authentic could have won the nine furlong Haskell while appearing to tire late and following it up with a front-running victory in the mile and a quarter Derby after setting solid early fractions. Baffert seems to get his trainees ready for the big races and Authentic had plenty of energy left in the tank, evidenced by his post-race freak-out in the winner’s circle, where he spun around quickly, forcing Baffert to the ground.

Jockey John Velazquez will be in the irons again, as Authentic looks to win his fifth graded stakes race and third in a row following his Derby and Haskell triumphs. He will have some company up front on Saturday.

Pneumatic won the Pegasus at Monmouth Park in his most recent start. Joe Bravo will once again pilot this Asmussen charge on Saturday. Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, the stakes-winning Uncle Mo colt has won three times in five career starts.

Liveyourbeastlife rounds out the field for the Preakness. Local Maryland jockey Trevor McCarthy gets the call for trainer Jorge Abreu. Owned by William H. Lawrence, the Ghostzapper colt won an allowance race at Saratoga two back. He followed up that effort with a second-place finish in the Jim Dandy.

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