2020 Preakness Stakes Cheat Sheet

Kentucky Derby winner Authentic (left) and Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector headline the field for the 145th Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3 at Pimlico. (Coady Photography)

A Triple Crown season significantly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic concludes Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore with the 145thPreakness Stakes.

The $1 million Preakness, traditionally held as the second leg of the Triple Crown in mid-May following the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and before the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, will instead be held as the final leg in front of empty stands at Pimlico.

There will be no Triple Crown champion this year, and Belmont winner and Derby runner-up Tiz the Law will skip a rematch with Derby victor Authentic and point to the Nov. 7 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.

Authentic, however, will start in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, and headlines a competitive field vying for the Woodlawn Vase that includes stablemate and multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector, and the filly Swiss Skydiver, winner of the Alabama Stakes and runner-up in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

Due to its rescheduled date this year, the Preakness Stakes has been designated a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Longines Classic. The Preakness will be broadcast live on NBC during a telecast from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

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Follow America’s Best Racing’s Triple Crown page and social media feeds (TwitterInstagramFacebook) for the latest information on the Preakness as well as live streaming shows and feature stories.

Read on for information on all of the contenders in ABR's 2020 Preakness Stakes Cheat Sheet.

Coady Photography

1. Excession (30-1)

Jockey: Sheldon Russell

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 9 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $288,612

Earnings per start: $32,068

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Pedigree: Union Rags – Draw It, by Tapit

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt has not been seen since running second in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on March 14 at Oaklawn Park behind Nadal, a leading Kentucky Derby contender at the time. He rallied late along the rail and was making up ground on that pacesetting favorite in deep stretch, but lost by three-quarters of a length at gargantuan odds of 82.60-1. Excession had a knee chip removed shortly after the Rebel but resumed training at Churchill Downs in recent weeks for Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm and Steve Asmussen. His Rebel Stakes effort netted a career-best 100 Equibase Speed Figure – still well below the top figures for several other Preakness contenders – and overall Excession faces a very tough task making his first start in nearly seven months on one of the sport’s biggest stages. It’s very much worth noting that his only career win, his Rebel runner-up finish, and a third-place finish in a salty Fair Grounds allowance-optional claiming race all came on sloppy tracks, which makes him worth a second look as a trifecta filler if it rains on Preakness day (at this writing, the Oct. 3 forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies). Drawing the rail post position should be no hindrance as he’ll probably be positioned near the back of the field early on, and he should also have no trouble handling 1 3/16 miles as a son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags out of a Tapit mare. Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, with Curlin in 2007 and the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009 (both would eventually be voted Horse of the Year). He’s also finished third twice. Jockey Sheldon Russell finished 10th in his only prior Preakness start back in 2011. As for Calumet Farm, the legendary operation has a record eight wins in the Preakness, seven of them, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948), coming when owned by the Wright family during the mid-20th century. Oxbow gave Calumet its eighth Preakness win, and first under Kelley’s ownership, in 2013.

Coady Photography

2. Mr. Big News (12-1)

Jockey: Gabriel Saez

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Owner: Allied Racing Stable

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $468,553

Earnings per start: $58,569

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Giant’s Causeway – Unappeased, by Galileo

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of the late, great Giant’s Causeway outran his 46.50-1 odds in a big way and gave his connections and longshot players a momentary thrill in the Kentucky Derby when he swung five wide at the Churchill Downs quarter pole and started a rally. He was not able to sustain that move but continued on well through the stretch to finish a clear third behind Authentic and Tiz the Law and validate owner Chester Thomas’ late decision to start him in the Derby. Now, Mr. Big News comes into the Preakness no longer under the radar, and if he can build on his Derby effort he has a good shot to hit the board once again in a Triple Crown race. Arguably his best career race came on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park when he won the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Stakes in April, and that’s worth keeping in mind if there’s rain on Preakness day (the Oct. 3 forecast as of this writing calls for clear conditions). Like several other contenders, Mr. Big News will be dependent upon a fast early pace Saturday to set up his run, and it’s hard to see him toppling Authentic or Art Collector unless those two engage in a torrid pace duel and both tire late. He’s proven he belongs with the best of his age group, however, and should be considered for all exotic bets, including the exacta. This will be the first Preakness starter for Thomas’s Allied Racing Stable and for trainer Bret Calhoun, and Gabriel Saez will be making his second Preakness appearance after finishing 10th in 2009.

Coady Photography

3. Art Collector (5-2)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Thomas Drury Jr.

Owner: Bruce Lunsford

Career record: 9 starts – 5 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $664,380

Earnings per start: $73,820

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Bernardini – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After unfortunately missing the Kentucky Derby due to a minor injury, the Preakness is a worthy second prize for this talented Louisville-based colt who probably would have been the second betting choice behind Tiz the Law in the Derby. All systems are go for Art Collector, who’ll be putting a perfect 4-for-4 record in 2020 on the line at Pimlico: he’s been training well at Churchill since recovering from his foot issue, and he’ll be matching up against Authentic on a dirt track that actually may be more conducive to his forwardly placed running style than Churchill Downs. He enters the Preakness off of an eight-week break, and was last seen toying with an overmatched field in the Runhappy Ellis Park Derby, a race he won by a geared-down 3 ¼ lengths. Prior to that, he bested top-class filly and Preakness foe Swiss Skydiver by 3 ½ lengths in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in July, with subsequent Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG and E and KU winner Rushie third. Art Collector should be put into the race early by jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on Saturday and it would not be a surprise to see him take the lead and force a decision by Authentic’s jockey, John Velazquez, to either duel for the pace or sit back. How these two elite speed horses square off in the early stages of the Preakness will go a long way toward determining the race’s outcome. This will be Hernandez’s third Preakness after finishing sixth and ninth in two earlier starts, and the first Preakness for owner Bruce Lunsford and trainer Tom Drury Jr.

Coady Photography

4. Swiss Skydiver (6-1)

Jockey: Robby Albarado

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Peter Callahan

Career record: 10 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,192,980

Earnings per start: $119,298

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Daredevil – Expo Gold, by Johannesburg

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This elite filly’s presence in the 145th Preakness adds a jolt of excitement to the race, as she joins Authentic and Art Collector as prime win candidate. She comes to Pimlico off of a game runner-up finish to longshot Shedaresthedevil in the Longines Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4, where she loomed a threat in midstretch but could not close the deal and finished a length and a half back. In retrospect, Swiss Skydiver may have shown some after-effects of her prior race during the Oaks, as she shipped to Churchill Downs off of a dominant 3 ½-length win in the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes on Aug. 15 at Saratoga. Prior to the Alabama, she finished a clear second behind Art Collector in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in July, and that race was preceded by three straight graded stakes wins against fillies during the spring and early summer. Swiss Skydiver is clearly among the most talented 3-year-olds regardless of gender, and a good Preakness showing would further burnish her credentials for an Eclipse Award at year’s end. Like Authentic and Art Collector, she prefers to race close to the early lead, and it will be incumbent upon jockey Robby Albarado to keep enough of her stamina in reserve for what projects to be a very competitive stretch run. Trainer Ken McPeek has had five previous Preakness starters; his best showing came in 2017 when Senior Investment finished third. Albarado won the 2007 Preakness on eventual Horse of the Year Curlin; he’s also finished second once and third once from nine prior starters.

Coady Photography

5. Thousand Words (6-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $327,000

Earnings per start: $46,714

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Saturday is reset time for this talented Bob Baffert-trained runner, who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby minutes before post time after he reared up and fell in the paddock and also injured Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes. He was a Derby “buzz horse” leading into the run for the roses based on his win in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 1, which came after three consecutive losses and re-established his status as a leading 3-year-old. Thousand Words led throughout in that 1 1/16-mile race and held off now-retired Honor A. P. by three-quarters of a length, but in his two stakes wins last winter (the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes) he sat just off the early pace. That might be the preferred strategy in the Preakness since stablemate Authentic has more formidable early speed, as does Art Collector. Thousand Words couldn’t close the deal in his two races at 1 1/8 miles, which is a concern, although his 11th-place finish in the Oaklawn Stakes won by Mr. Big News back in April is a toss-out since he stumbled at the start and was never involved. He’s a bit of a question mark in the Preakness, but if he can repeat his effort from the Shared Belief he should be in the mix and with a chance to win when the field turns for home. If either Thousand Words or his stablemate Authentic wins the Preakness, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert will become the all-time leading trainer in the classic with eight victories. His previous seven came with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).  Florent Geroux will be making his fourth Preakness start; he finished third last year on Owendale.

6. Jesus’ Team (30-1)

Jockey: Jevian Toledo

Trainer: Jose D’Angelo

Owner: Grupo Seven C Stable

Career record: 10 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $146,640

Earnings per start: $14,664

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Tapiture – Golden Memories, by Suave

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Tapiture colt was supplemented to the Preakness by owner Grupo Seven C Stable following three consecutive stakes starts against many of the horses he’ll face again on Saturday. He finished a well-beaten fourth in the July 18 TVG.com Haskell Stakes to Authentic, second by 2 ¼ lengths in the Aug. 15 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park to Pneumatic, and then a game third behind Mystic Guide and Liveyourbeastlife in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Sept. 5 at Saratoga. In the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, he took the lead in early stretch but was outfinished by the winner and runner-up, both of whom rallied from behind. Earlier in his career, Jesus’ Team won two consecutive starts against far lesser competition in March and May at Gulfstream Park by setting the pace, but in his three stakes tries he’s assumed a stalking position, and trainer Jose D’Angelo told Preakness media officials that the same strategy will be employed in Saturday’s classic. Jesus’ Team’s recent Equibase Speed Figures match up well with the rest of the Preakness field and he’s worthy of consideration as a trifecta or superfecta filler, but his win chances are remote. Jockey Jevian Toldeo finished ninth in his only Preakness start back in 2016 .

Coady Photography

7. Ny Traffic (15-1)

Jockey: Horacio Karamanos

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owners: John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley

Career record: 10 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $565,470

Earnings per start: $56,547

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Cross Traffic – Mamie Reilly, by Graeme Hall

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After four consecutive in-the-money finishes in Kentucky Derby preps topped by a nose defeat to Authentic in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes in July, Ny Traffic disappointed in the Kentucky Derby itself, checking out in the backstretch and fading from a stalking spot to finish eighth, 13 ¾ lengths behind Authentic. He was on the fence for the Preakness until posting a sharp four-furlong workout at Churchill Downs on Sept. 27, and now will travel to Pimlico as a contender that will probably track close behind Authentic, Art Collector, and possibly Swiss Skydiver in the early stages. If he can rebound from the Derby, Ny Traffic has shown enough grit to compete when the stretch running begins, although even in his best races while prepping for the Kentucky Derby he could not reach the winner’s circle. This is the first Preakness for young trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and jockey Horacio Karamanos. Co-owner Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King campaigned 2005 Preakness Stakes winner and subsequent Belmont Stakes winner and champion Afleet Alex, whose incredible, disaster-averting run in the Preakness Stakes is one of the most memorable horse racing events of this century.

Coady Photography

8. Max Player (15-1)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp.

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $463,500

Earnings per start: $77,250

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Honor Code – Fools in Love, by Not For Love

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Solid as they come, Max Player enters the Preakness as a known quantity – a horse that competes well with the best of his age group but lacks the explosiveness needed to break through in a Grade 1 race. He’ll be the only contender to start in all three Triple Crown races in 2020, and he returned after a 4 ½-month break and a win in the Withers Stakes to run a solid but nonthreatening third behind Tiz the Law and Dr Post in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 20 to kick off his summer. Max Player then finished third again, grinding through the stretch late, in the Runhappy Travers Stakes won by Tiz the Law on Aug. 8 prior to his Kentucky Derby run where – you guessed it – he picked off some tired horses in the stretch to check in fifth, defeated by seven lengths. He ships in from Louisville for Steve Asmussen as a horse that should definitely be used in superfectas and trifectas, as he has no stamina issues to be concerned with whatsoever and, as noted above, can be counted on to give a good effort. One intriguing change for the Preakness concerns his jockey: Paco Lopez, known as an aggressive rider, will be aboard Max Player for the first time, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps his mount closer to the front through the backstretch before calling for his rally. Lopez will be making his Preakness debut on Max Player. Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen's Preakness success is discussed in Excession's profile.

Coady Photography

9. Authentic (9-5)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing

Career record: 6 starts – 5 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $2,871,200

Earnings per start: $478,533

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Flawless, by Mr. Greeley

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Authentic answered a big question about his stamina in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on Sept. 5. He had come into the Derby off of a nose win in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes where he found the finish line just in time after losing a clear lead in the stretch, leading to concerns about whether this son of top sire Into Mischief could carry his speed a mile and a quarter. Authentic set honest fractions on the lead in the Derby and then gamely turned back a challenge from heavy favorite Tiz the Law in early stretch en route to a 1 ¼-length victory. Now, Authentic will race on a track at Pimlico and at a slightly shorter distance of 1 3/16 miles that should be right up his alley. He’s been training lights out at Churchill Downs since the Derby and appears ready to fire another big race in the Preakness, but although Tiz the Law is skipping the race, Authentic will still face a very tough field led by the comebacking Art Collector, who shares the same forwardly placed running style. Still, Authentic is a deserving favorite to capture the third leg of this reconfigured Triple Crown and all but lock up the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. Bob Baffert’s stellar Preakness record is discussed in Thousand Words’ profile. Authentic’s co-owners Jack and Laurie Wolf (Starlight Racing) and Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables) were part of the ownership group who campaigned Baffert's most recent Preakness champ and the 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, Kumin doing so through his Head of Plains Partners entity. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is seeking his first win in the Preakness; he has finished second twice in nine prior starts, aboard Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Itsmyluckyday in 2013. 

Eclipse Sportswire

10. Pneumatic (20-1)

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $256,850

Earnings per start: $51,370

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Teardrop, by Tapit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Preakness bettors looking for a good-odds play to spice up exotic tickets should consider this lightly raced and improving colt, who skipped the Kentucky Derby to target this race. He comes into Saturday’s classic off of an impressive victory in the 1 1/16-mile TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 15, defeating Preakness foe Jesus’ Team by 2 ¼ lengths. Prior to that, he won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park earlier this year, finished a good third behind Maxfield and Ny Traffic in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in May, and then competed into early stretch before tiring late to finish fourth in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets in late June. He took a good step forward in development in the Pegasus after nearly a two-month break following the Belmont, and the ceiling is high for this Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred by top sire Uncle Mo. He also has a good stalking running style for the Preakness, and jockey Joe Bravo, making his fourth Preakness start, should put him in a position close behind the early pacesetters and in front of the closers to maximize his chances of winning. Pneumatic is a logical horse to use in Preakness exactas and trifectas, but he also gives Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen the best upset chance among his three starters. Asmussen's Preakness success is discussed in Excession's profile.

11. Liveyourbeastlife (30-1)

Jockey: Trevor McCarthy

Trainer: Jorge Abreu

Owner: William Lawrence

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $110,035

Earnings per start: $13,754

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Ghostzapper – Ellie’s Moment, by Kris S.

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After racing with little distinction in New York and Florida through his first five starts, Liveyourbeastlife has made substantial improvement when stretched out to route races, finishing third in a 1 1/16-mile Belmont Park allowance-optional claiming race in July, winning a 1 1/8-mile Saratoga allowance in August, and then finishing a game second to Mystic Guide in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, also at 1 1/8 miles, on Sept. 5 at Saratoga. He pressed the pace in his first two routes this summer but rallied from back in the pack in the Jim Dandy, saving ground through the backstretch and sweeping five wide in the stretch before coming up three-quarters of a length short. In the Preakness, he’ll face a pair of speed horses in Authentic and Art Collector that are far better than those he’s matched up against earlier, and therefore he could be coming from off the pace again Saturday. Other closers entered in the Preakness such as Mr. Big News and Max Player have a class edge on Liveyourbeastlife, but this colt is on an upward trajectory and if he takes another step forward he could hit the board at a nice price. He’s got a very good stamina pedigree as well, with Florida Derby winner and sire Brian’s Time and Grade 1-winning turf router Time and Motion among his relatives. Owner William Lawrence co-owned 2016 Preakness winner Cloud Computing with Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables. Trevor McCarthy finished eighth in his prior Preakness start in 2015.

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