Here’s what we know about the 2020 Preakness Stakes.
Authentic, Art Collector, and Swiss Skydiver will probably go off as the top three favorites it the race, and deservedly so. They’re probably the three best horses in the Preakness.
Here’s what we know about horse racing.
The best horses in a race don’t always win and the top three horses in any given race very rarely finish first, second, and third.
Let’s start with the question of why the best horses don’t always win. We can look to Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Authentic as a case in point. It can be argued that Tiz the Law is a better all-around horse than Authentic, yet Authentic beat Tiz the Law in the Derby. Why?
The best theories might offer that Authentic was simply better on Derby day because he didn’t come into the race off of efforts that were as taxing as Tiz the Law’s Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Runhappy Travers Stakes victories. Authentic also came in with the benefit of an extra two weeks of rest.
Additionally, there are race structure and pace dynamics to consider (always). Although he drew wider than Tiz the Law, Authentic was able to clear the field and take the lead then open up some early space on the opposition. While Authentic enjoyed a loose and uncontested lead (albeit a fast one), Tiz the Law was busy exerting himself in the second flight of horses, traveling wider and covering more ground.
All of those variables — spacing between races for each horse, a new set of pace dynamics, post positions — add up to make this year’s Preakness a unique puzzle of its own. Now, it’s Authentic who comes in with just four weeks of rest, coming off a peak effort, and there’s a distinct possibility that he’ll attract more pace pressure up front than he faced in the Kentucky Derby.
In the past 10 years, three post-time favorites won the Preakness. They were eventual Triple Crown winners Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015) as well as 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. Last year, the top two favorites finished sixth and eighth. In 2018, the horses who finished behind Justify were Bravazo at odds of 15.30-1 and Tenfold at 26.10-1. Not to put too fine a point on it but the year prior, Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finished third from last, while 13.40-1 shot Cloud Computing was at the top of a $2 trifecta ticket that paid $2,194.60.
While you might hear chatter that this year’s Preakness isn’t a great betting race because there appear to be three standouts in the race, I’d argue that this is a great betting race precisely because there appear to be three standouts in the race.
I’ve already outlined reservations about Authentic that will have me playing against him on Saturday. As for the other two, let’s start with Art Collector, who may ultimately go off as the favorite in the Preakness. You’ve got to consider that he was scratched (removed) from Derby consideration due to a foot injury that occurred while training in the lead-up to that race. His team has confidence that he’s fully fit to run — and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that they’d run him in the Preakness if he wasn’t — but are we to assume that the injury will be an absolute nonfactor in his ultimate ability to produce a top performance?
In his most recent race, Art Collector won the Runhappy Ellis Park Derby. Behind him in second was Attachment Rate, followed by Necker Island, with Winning Impression several spots back. How did those horses perform in the Kentucky Derby? Necker Island finished ninth, Winning Impression was 12th and Attachment Rate ended up second-to-last in the 15-horse field.
In the Blue Grass Stakes, Art Collector made easy work of Swiss Skydiver. A superstar filly, no doubt, she went on to win the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in her next start. But then (reference the point above about running maximum efforts in succession within a short period of time) returned just three weeks later in the Longines Kentucky Oaks. Not surprisingly, she was a bit flat late and couldn’t run down eventual winner Shedaresthedevil.
The Preakness will mark Swiss Skydiver’s ninth start in what has been an incredibly impressive campaign in 2020. I do have concerns though that she may continue to regress and is going to be way overbet in what would be a challenging spot for any horse, let alone a filly taking on some of the best male horses in the fall of their three-year-old seasons.
All of this is not to say that Authentic, Art Collector, or Swiss Skydiver might not win the Preakness. But I’m all but certain that at least one or two of the top trio might not finish in the top three. That said, I think there’s potential value to be found in playing exactas and trifectas. I’ll leave you to piece together the precise combination that matches your handicapping but some of the outsiders that I’m considering on my tickets are Thousand Words, Pneumatic, and Ny Traffic.