Answer – they all won the Kentucky Derby, they all came back to win the Preakness Stakes, and they were all conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
It’s a remarkable fact that Baffert is undefeated when saddling Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness. His perfect record will be put on the line this Saturday when Authentic – his latest Derby champion – lines up in the starting gate for the $1 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
The 2020 Preakness has a little different feel than in the past. The race has been postponed from May 16 to Oct. 3 due to COVID-19, which means the historic 1 3/16-mile event will actually conclude the 2020 Triple Crown series. There’s also a larger gap than usual between the Derby and the Preakness – four weeks, rather than the traditional two weeks. And the Preakness has also been added to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
But such changes seem unlikely to affect the chances of Authentic. A brilliant front-runner with four graded stakes wins to his credit, Authentic elevated his game to a new level in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. After setting quick fractions of :22.92, :46.41, and 1:10.23, Authentic showed remarkable tenacity to turn back a challenge from heavy favorite Tiz the Law and prevail by 1 ¼ lengths. Even better, Authentic’s final time of 2:00.61 was the seventh-fastest in Derby history.
A repeat of his Derby effort will make Authentic tough to beat in the Preakness, though the circumstances at Pimlico could be a bit more challenging. Whereas Authentic was overshadowed by Tiz the Law at Churchill Downs, he’ll be a clear favorite to prevail in the Preakness, and there’s no guarantee he’ll secure an uncontested lead. There are several other speedy runners in the field, and it’s worth noting Authentic’s lone defeat came when he was beaten to the lead in the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. Applying pressure to the Kentucky Derby champ might be the only way to beat him in the Preakness.
For this reason, the most formidable challenger to Authentic is #3 Art Collector. Not only does this bay colt have serious talent, he also has the tactical speed to make things tricky for Authentic from start to finish.
A son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, Art Collector has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his 3-year-old campaign, compiling a perfect 4-for-4 record while facing tough company. Along the way he’s displayed a wide variety of running styles, winning while setting the pace, stalking the pace, and rallying from far behind.
Art Collector’s versatility was on display during the summer. In his graded stakes debut, he parlayed tracking tactics to defeat the elite filly #4 Swiss Skydiver by 3 ½ lengths in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Then in the Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, Art Collector led all the way to win easily by 3 ¼ lengths, with recent Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby winner Shared Sense among his beaten rivals.
Not only does Art Collector have tactical speed, he’s got finishing speed too, routinely blazing to the finish line in quick times. He figures to relish the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Preakness, and things could get very interesting if jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. asks Art Collector to run hard early while breaking from post three. If he winds up vying for the lead inside of Authentic, the Preakness could turn into a thrilling two-horse showdown between the standout favorites.
If there’s one potential chink in Art Collector’s armor, it’s that he missed the Kentucky Derby with a minor hoof issue and will enter the Preakness off a two-month layoff. The good news is, Art Collector has trained sharply over the last few weeks and appears to be entering the Preakness in strong form, alleviating some of the fitness concerns.
So how do we make money betting the Preakness? Authentic and Art Collector are deserving favorites, but both have small questions to answer. How will Authentic handle pace pressure? Can Art Collector deliver his A-game off an injury-induced layoff?
If they both run their best, Authentic and Art Collector should sweep the top two finishing positions, so bettors playing on a small budget should consider boxing them in the exactas. But if you’re keen to seek a big payoff, why not toss #8 Max Player into the mix for a trifecta? A consistent late runner, Max Player’s summer campaign included third-place efforts in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes, plus a respectable fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Max Player probably isn’t quite as fast as the favorites on a normal day, but he has the right running style to pick up the pieces if Authentic and Art Collector engage in a destructive duel for the lead. If one or the other falters, Max Player can steal a top-two finish for two-time Preakness-winning trainer Steve Asmussen.
Max Player’s stablemate #10 Pneumatic is also worth considering off an easy win in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, while the filly Swiss Skydiver brings strong form to the equation after romping in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks. We’ll add them both to the bottom of our trifecta tickets.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget: Exacta Box
$5 exacta box: 3,9
What to say at the betting window: Pimlico, 11th race, $5 exacta box, 3,9
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget: Trifectas
$3 trifecta: 3,9 with 3,9 with 4,8,10 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Pimlico, 11th race, $3 trifecta, 3,9 with 3,9 with 4,8,10
$2 trifecta: 3,9 with 8 with 3,4,9,10 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Pimlico, 11th race, $2 trifecta, 3,9 with 8 with 3,4,9,10
Good luck, and enjoy the race!