Jeff Nash Breaking Down the Preakness: Tune in to ESPN radio 97.3 FM on October 3, 2020 at 11:30 AM
The Locker Room with Billy Schweim
THE PREAKNESS – OCTOBER 3, 2020
WANNA GET LUCKY… with a longshot?
At long last, the final jewel in the Triple Crown series of horseracing. An event traditionally reserved in June for Elmont, NY and Belmont Racetrack. Not in the 2020 Co-Vid world we find ourselves. This year, we head to Pimlico Racetrack for the Preakness, four and a half months delayed from the originally scheduled event.
Notwithstanding the date shuffle, this year’s Preakness may be more exciting because it is, in fact, the last of the Triple Crown races. No longer that middle child, the Preakness offers a solid field of eleven entrants, including Haskell and Belmont Stakes winner 9-AUTHENTIC. Unfortunately missing from the race is arguably the best three-year old in the world, Tiz the Law. I say best, despite having lost to AUTHENTIC in the Kentucky Derby.
That leads to a discussion about what happened in the Derby that led to AUTHENTIC’s victory and Tiz the Law’s second place finish. Understanding AUTHENTIC’S win helps us handicap this race.
As stated, I still maintain that Tiz the Law is the better horse. It took a “perfect storm” series of events to place AUTHENTIC in the winner’s circle at Church Hill Downs on September 5th. I said in my Derby forecast that AUTHENTIC could wire the field IF no other horse challenged the frontrunner early in the race. That occurred due to a bizarre set of circumstances.
In the Derby, AUTHENTIC was expected to sit on the lead. Horses expected to challenge during the early going were Storm the Court, King Guillermo, THOUSAND WORDS, and NY TRAFFIC. Additionally, Honor A.P. was expected to push those few frontrunners. So, what happened? Storm the Court made a tactical decision to sit behind AUTHENTIC no matter the slow pace; King Guillermo scratched; THOUSAND WORDS tumbled in the paddock and had to be scratched just before post time; NY TRAFFIC reportedly lost a shoe during the race; and Honor A.P. got bumped out of the gate and began the race way too far behind the leaders (although made an impressive run thereafter).
Consequently, AUTHENTIC sustained no early pressure. The first quarter time was unusually slow for a Kentucky Derby providing AUTHENTIC with plenty of gas in the tank down the stretch to withstand all challengers, including Tiz the Law. Add to those factors that Tiz the Law had what is known as a “bounce’’ (momentary retreat from best form) off his stupendous Travers victory less than a month before the Derby. Even the great ones get tired.
The perfect storm led to AUTHENTIC’s Kentucky Derby win. Will that storm reappear on Saturday? That is the One Million Dollar purse question.
LET'S TAKE A LOOK...
The primary question you must ask yourself is: Do I over bet the presumptive favorite, AUTHENTIC, or do I look for a better odds payout?
9-AUTHENTIC looks tough to beat, at least according to the racing charts. He has beaten several of these horses and appears to be fit and ready to go. He has had two workouts since the Derby, both offering the best times of the morning, while breezing no less. His trainer Bob Baffert and jockey John Velasquez are the best in the business. His speed ratings in the past three races are above any other rating achieved by any other horses in the race. Concern about his pedigree not favoring long distance races was resolved by his Derby win at a longer distance than this race. Hmmm… how can he lose? Well, let’s see what he is up against...
1-EXCESSION: a $150K yearling purchase for the historic Calumet Farm trained by famed trainer Steve Asmussen who trains three – yes three – horses in this race for three separate owners. Now there would be nothing in this colt’s past performances which suggests that he is good enough to beat the field here, and certainly not AUTHENTIC… except for his last race more than six months ago. In that race, the Grade-2 Rebel Stakes at 83-1 odds, he came from twelve lengths behind the great Nadal (maybe THE best three-year old in the world, before his injury) and missed beating him by a length. Things in the game that make you say, “huh?” Yet, six months have passed and now this horse finds himself against a tough field. If he repeats that Rebel performance, this horse could find himself in the exotics.
2-MR. BIG NEWS: I look at this colt and remind myself why I always suggest betting the “ALL” when wheeling your exotic bets. This horse finished third in the Kentucky Derby, three lengths behind AUTHENTIC at 47-1. Traditionally a closer which bodes well in this race with all the early pace expected. However, if there is a “bounce” which I mentioned earlier, this horse is prime to have one off his personal best Kentucky Derby speed rating which was ten percent higher than any of his previous ratings.
3-ART COLLECTOR: Many will look to this colt as the horse primed to beat AUTHENTIC… and for good reason. Winner of five races in a row, including the Grade-2 Blue Grass Stakes, this colt came onto the scene late. It was disappointing he did not run in the Kentucky Derby, but is now fresh for this start. His speed ratings match up to AUTHENTIC. In his last three races, he ran with the leaders. What is most impressive is his final quarter times suggest this colt has another gear to motor home against any competition.
4-SWISS SKYDIVER: The lone filly taking a shot against the boys. Love the fact that this filly was purchased as a yearling for $35K and has since won $1.2 Million in ten starts, with five wins. Her speed ratings are through the roof. She runs her races like both ART COLLECTOR and AUTHENTIC, always at or close to the lead. In her one other start against the boys, she finished second to ART COLLECTOR in the Blue Grass Stakes. Always fun to watch the ladies beat the men at a race usually dominated by the colts. Not sure this filly has enough to do that here, but certainly a consideration, especially in the exotics.
5-THOUSAND WORDS: Trainer Bob Baffert’s “other” horse in the race. The primary being AUTHENTIC. This colt is a $1 Million yearling purchase who tumbled in the paddock before the Kentucky Derby and was forced to scratch from that race moments before post-time. Many thought he had a chance to win that race. He returns here apparently in good shape having worked out twice since the tumble. Baffert is adding blinkers to keep the horse focused, seemingly a good idea. Make no mistake, this is a good horse who may be coming into his own at the right time. I do note that he lost to AUTHENTIC by more than eleven lengths back in March. Since that time, however, his speed ratings have steadily improved. Sitting off the lead in this race may place him in perfect position to strike past tiring horses if the early pace does not do him in.
6-JESUS’ TEAM: In May you could have claimed this horse for $25K. Saturday, he runs against the best in the Preakness. Quite the jump. Still, this colt runs consistently well and has improved since that claimer. He has lost to AUTHENTIC in the Haskell and some others running here. It would take a leap for him to be competitive against this talented field.
7-NY TRAFFIC: Our NJ/PA-based entrant. This colt came into the Kentucky Derby with hopes of an upset. That did not happen because he reportedly lost a horseshoe during the race. Did that make a difference? He was sitting second behind AUTHENTIC down the backstretch when he suddenly lost ground, eventually finishing a dull eighth, thirteen lengths behind the winner. His jockey that day, the local champ Paco Lopez is now riding another horse. I did not believe this colt could beat the favorites in the Kentucky Derby, and I am not sure he has the talent to do it here. We can assume, however, that he will run a better race than at Churchill Downs, assuming he can keep his shoes on.
8-MAX PLAYER: Trainer Asumssen’s second entrant. This horse, now ridden by jockey Paco Lopez, intrigues me. He is the only horse in this field that has run in the Belmont Stakes, Travers, and Kentucky Derby, losing to Tiz the Law twice and AUTHENTIC once. Never coming close. What makes this horse intriguing is that his running style is perfectly suited for what we expect to see in this race. This colt will sit mid-pack for most of the race, hope the frontrunners beat each other during the early going, then charge home in the stretch. Interesting option. Certainly an exotics play and maybe…
10-PNEUMATIC: Sired by champion sire Uncle Mo, this horse won an impressive prep for this race at Monmouth, on the heels of his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. We can assume that this horse is fit and ready to run a big race. Ridden by Monmouth favorite Joe Bravo, we can expect this colt to sit off the speed and lead and put it in gear down the stretch, like MAX PLAYER above. I will note, however, that this colt has been beaten by MAX PLAYER and NY TRAFFIC in past races. So, he will have to improve form to beat them and improve significantly to run past those horses and AUTHENTIC or ART COLLECTOR.
11-LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE: The winner for best horse name goes to this colt. Purchased for $200K as a two-year old in training, the colt is being ridden by Maryland local jockey Trevor McCarthy who knows this track well. His speed ratings to date do not match that of the top competition here. However, if you are looking for a horse with improving form, look here. Last race in the Grade-2 Jim Dandy stakes, this colt rocketed down the stretch to just miss the winner with an extremely fast final quarter time. Bounce or great form? Will be a nice price if he does find a new level and wins. Big IF though.
HOW THE RACE WILL BE RUN:
The early speed will determine the outcome of this race. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, we can expect frontrunner AUTHENTIC to be pushed by others. During the early going, the frontrunners pushing AUTHENTIC will be ART COLLECTOR, SWISS SKYDIVER, THOUSAND WORDS, NY TRAFFIC, and PNEUMATIC. Mid-pack will be JESUS’ TEAM and LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE. Behind the others and saving ground will be EXCESSION, MR. BIG NEWS, and MAX PLAYER.
Who can sustain a fast pace?
AUTHENTIC will need to prove he is THAT good to do so. He may and it would not surprise me. But at short odds, I am looking to others for the win.
ART COLLECTOR can certainly repeat his effort in the Blue Grass Stakes where he sat third behind leaders who burnt each other out. In that race, he rocketed past the leaders to win by three. My only concern is that he has never run this long a distance (albeit bred to do so). And in my effort to be overly picky, this colt has not run his fasted final quarter times in races that have had a fast-early pace.
SWISS SKYDIVER is tempting. And how great would it be if the lone filly beats all the best colts? I am not convinced she can. Great horse, no doubt. But is she as good as Rachel Alexander, the filly who not too long ago beat the boys? Maybe a bit overmatched here.
THOUSAND WORDS is also compelling, especially adding blinkers for focus. Could it be time for this $1 Million purchase to pay dividends? Maybe, but does not seem like this race with a hot pace sets up perfect for a win.
NY TRAFFIC is the horse with local connections and for that reason alone gives us a rooting interest.
PNEUMATIC would not surprise as a nice longshot. He is rounding into form and breeding suggests he will handle this distance. Just not sure he has the talent to overcome the best in the world.
EXCESSION, JESUS’ TEAM, and LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE have shown flashes of talent. However, it would require better form than in past races to beat the best here. Not impossible, but less likely than others.
3-ART COLLECTOR to win. Hard to ignore the fact that he has won five in a row and is well rested. He can sit just off the pace and not get entangled in a death-race for the lead.
My longshot is 8-MAX PLAYER. Love that Paco Lopez moved to this horse. His Belmont Stakes final quarter move was impressive. My primary concern is that his vigorous racing schedule may have tired this horse from showing his best form, which he will certainly need to win.
Cannot ignore 9-AUTHENTIC, the best horse on paper. Just concerned that the Kentucky Derby win will sap too much from him to repeat. 4-SWISS SKYDIVER because never ignore a talented filly against the boys. 10-PNEUMATIC, an Uncle Mo prodigy peaking at the right time.
3 to win.
3/8 boxed exacta.
3 with 4/5/8/9/10 exacta,
3/8/ALL boxed trifecta.
Key 3 with 8/9/ALL trifecta and superfecta.
Box 3/8/9/4 extra boxed trifecta and superfecta.
DANNY DIMES: Never loses a big race. His Derby pick was scratched.
Danny, and the rest of us, never got to see what Thousand Words could do in the Kentucky Derby. He is coming right back with him in the Preakness. This race could be all chalk with Authentic, Art Collector and Thousand Words taking the Top 3, or something unusual could happen. If it does, Danny is really fascinated with Liveyourbeastlife. There was another big race on September 5 for 3-year-olds, The Jim Dandy at Saratoga (usually huge in the middle of the Summer), and Liveyourbeastlife finished a very impressive second. He further likes the jockey switch to Trevor McCarthy, the four-time champion rider in Maryland who knows Pimlico like the back of his hand with three meet titles there. Will be a huge long-shot, but those little diamond-in-the-rough pieces of information are what Danny lives for in these races. Good luck!
JERSEY JOE: The legend! Thoughtful and precise.
My slightly preferred win pick is Art Collector.
I will use Art Collector, Authentic and Pneumatic on top in Exactas and Trifectas. Lots of other good choices underneath.
BRIAN THE BUG BOY: Nailed the Kentucky Derby. I mean as if he wrote the script.
A couple months late, but the 2020 Preakness Stakes has arrived! 11 entries will head to the gate going 1 3/16th miles. Unlike the Derby, there looks to be much more speed in the race and Authentic, the 9/5 favorite will likely have some company upfront. The lone filly in the race, Swiss skydiver, is an interesting entry in race for Kenny McPeek and although not my top choice, should challenge Authentic upfront along with NY Traffic and Art Collector. My pick for the Preakness Stakes is Mr. Big News. 12-1 morning line, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Gabriel Saez, is coming off a nice 3rd place finish in the Kentucky Derby at 46-1. Mr. Big News will try to close on this field and score an upset victory. He’s was a late bloomer in the Derby trail, not breaking his maiden until his 4th career start, but has strung together a few game efforts with pedigree to go the distance. If there is a speed duel on the lead, look for Mr. Big News to be flying late.
LEFTY LOUIE: Show me the money... again!
I see Authentic and Art Collector as the horses to beat. I am leery of the fast, but inconsistent Thousand Words. A Baffert horse is going to win this race, but it's going to be the 9 - Authentic. I see 3 - Art Collector to finish a close second. My bets: 9/3 boxed exacta; 9/3/ALL boxed trifecta. Box 9/3/5/7 superfecta.
HANDICAPPER PANCAN: Filly Dilly... the filly wins.
Right to the point... 4 - Swiss Skydiver, 3 - Art Collector, 9 - Authentic.
I GOT THIS MULLEN: Winning is for winners. Look no further.
9 - AUTHENTIC:
Coming off two terrific outings in the Derby and the Haskell Stakes. While I expect additional pacesetters today I still feel Authentic will prevail. Recent workouts are by far the best of this field.
3 - ART COLLECTOR:
Scratched from the Derby where he was a legitimate contender, he has resumed training and appears ready to contend for the lead from the gate.
7 - NY TRAFFIC:
NY Traffic was hindered by losing a shoe in the Derby. A fast closing second to Authentic in the Haskell, he will sit behind the top two and have a legitimate chance to win it all for a price.