As he has done for so many years, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert held court outside the Pimlico Stakes Barn Wednesday morning after his 2020 Preakness Stakes horses had come back from the track.
Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic was jogged clockwise over the muddy surface along the outside rail at 8:30 a.m., some 90 minutes after stablemate Thousand Words galloped a circuit on the course under Humberto Gomez. Both horses were shipped from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to Maryland on Tuesday.
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After breezing a half-mile in a bullet 47.60 seconds at Churchill Downs Monday, Authentic had a very light morning of exercise Wednesday
“He just went out there for a little jog. He looked good,” Baffert said. “Coming off that plane yesterday, he was like a keg of dynamite. He has so much energy, that horse. He’s just so full of himself."
Video Bob Baffert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Authentic, who is owned by Spendthrift Farm LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC and Starlight Racing, has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Preakness, the last leg of the Triple Crown this year.
Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Thousand Words was scratched about a half hour before the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 when he reared up and fell while being saddled for the race. The Pioneerof the Nile colt turned in a sharp work Saturday at Churchill Downs that convinced Baffert that he was ready for the 145th Preakness. He will wear blinkers again after two races without that piece of equipment.
“He worked on Saturday so we gave him a little gallop around there,” Baffert said. “It’s a wet track and it’s hard tell what’s going on. He went nice and moved over the track. The main thing is you want your horses to look sound and healthy. He went nice."
Video Authentic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Authentic gave Baffert his record-tying sixth Derby victory. Though each of his previous five Derby winners also won the Preakness, Baffert, 67, noted that the situation was different this year with the Covid-19 changes that juggled the Triple Crown schedule. The Belmont Stakes was run in June, the Derby on Labor Day weekend and the Preakness at the beginning of October.
“Two weeks, though. It was two weeks. We’ve got a month now,” Baffert said. “I would have loved to run two weeks later because he was just full of himself two weeks afterward. It’s just giving horses time to freshen up. You have new shooters now. It’s so turned around now.
“I feel real good about it. I think he’s going to run his race. He hasn’t regressed. He looks great.”
Baffert said he would have preferred that even though the Triple Crown had to be delayed because of the pandemic that the races were run in the same order, with the Belmont following the Preakness.
“But it would have conflicted with the Breeders’ Cup for the 3-year-olds,” Baffert said. “I still think it would been a great scenario. I just feel fortunate that we even have this. It was looking pretty bleak (during the Covid lockdown).
“It doesn’t feel like Preakness, but it will the day of. It’s like the Kentucky Derby. It didn’t feel like Derby that day, but when that gate came open it felt like Derby," Baffert continued. "That’s the way it is. When that gate comes open it’s going to feel like Preakness. That’s what it’s all about. All you are hoping for is that your horses show up and when they turn for home you’re hoping you have something to root for. That’s it. That’s all you can ask for.”
Baffert is tied with 19th century trainer R. W. Walden with a record seven Preakness victories. While the dates are far different and the usual raucous scene will be quiet because spectators are not permitted, Baffert said he is happy that the 2020 Triple Crown was not cancelled.
“It would have been horrible if we didn’t have the Derby, the Preakness,” he said. “The Belmont was sort of different, more like the Dwyer. The Derby and the Preakness, at least we got to run them. And we have beautiful weather.
“I love coming to Baltimore, even though it’s pretty quiet right now. The environment here is just so nice. It’s a beautiful stakes barn. I’ve seen the same people here the last 15 to 20 years and they are glad to see us come in."
SWISS SKYDIVER – Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver was among the first Preakness contenders to take to the sloppy main track at Pimlico Wednesday morning.
“She likes to go in the early set. She likes to get in and out. We sent her out to gallop, but we just took her around twice the wrong way,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “We’ll gallop tomorrow."
Video Swiss Skydiver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Swiss Skydiver, a multiple graded-stakes winner against 3-year-old fillies, will meet the boys for a second time this year in the Preakness. The daughter of Daredevil, who finished second behind Art Collector in the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, is rated at 6-1 in the Preakness morning line. McPeek’s other options were the Spinster (G1) against older fillies and mares on Oct. 4 or the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1)on turf Oct. 10, both to be run at Keeneland.
Video Robby Albarado: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
“If they had written a 3-year-old filly race at a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter, a Grade 1, it would have been a no-brainer. We’d probably be in that,” McPeek said. “In the case of running against older fillies and mares, we’ve got a lot of time to do that. In the case of running on the grass – I think she’d like it; I think she could have won the QE II– you only get a window of time to run against straight 3-year-olds and that’s here and now.
“She continues to do good. She continues to impress us every day. She eats great. You can’t have fear. We’d like to get the big prize, and here we are.”
Swiss Skydiver, who was bought for $35,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale, has earned nearly $1.2 million while winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn, Santa Anita Oaks (G2) and Alabama (G1) at Saratoga. She finished second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill in her most recent start.
“It’s all gravy. She only cost $35,000. She’s done more than we’d ever dreamt and she, hopefully, continues to do that,” McPeek said. “That’s what keeps this game great. You can take a $30,000 yearling and run against a million-dollar colt and be competitive."
Video Ken McPeek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
MR. BIG NEWS – Allied Racing Stable LLC’s Mr. Big News galloped 1 1/2 miles at Pimlico shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday in preparation for a bid to improve on his third-place Kentucky Derby finish in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
“It was pretty dark. The track was obviously pretty wet, but he kind of likes the ‘off’ going. The track was in very good condition,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He seemed to love it. He settled in really good, made the trip very, very well. He got across the track great this morning and seemed to come back bouncing and happy."
Video Bret Calhoun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Mr. Big News, a son of Giant’s Causeway, came from off the pace to enter contention on the turn into the homestretch in the Kentucky Derby but was unable to overtake the 1-2 finishers, Authentic and Tiz the Law.
“He gave me a real thrill in the Derby. Between the three-eighths pole and the quarter pole, I got pretty excited. I knew the horses were running pretty quick up front and I thought there was a pretty good chance they might back up to us,” Calhoun said. “The way he was moving, I thought if they backed up and he continued moving like that, he had a chance to win the whole thing. It was a huge effort on his part. The winner and second-place horse ran outstanding races. They made all the pace, a quick pace, and kept on running.”
Calhoun reported that Mr. Big News came out of his big Derby effort well and has maintained his weight for his second Triple Crown start.
ART COLLECTOR – The 3-year-old son of Bernardini galloped over the sloppy racetrack at Pimlico Wednesday morning in preparation for his first start in the 2020 Triple Crown campaign.
Jose Garcia, assistant to trainer Tommy Drury, reported that Art Collector, who is rated second at 5-2 in the Preakness morning line, has quickly adapted to his new surroundings after shipping from Churchill Downs Tuesday.
Bruce Lunsford’s homebred colt, who missed a start in the Kentucky Derby due to a minor foot injury, will seek his sixth straight first-place finish in the Preakness. He is coming off victories in the Aug. 9 Ellis Park Derby and July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.
Drury is scheduled to travel to Baltimore Thursday.
Video Art Collector: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
NY TRAFFIC – The 3-year-old son of Cross Traffic galloped a mile Wednesday morning at Pimlico under Sabine Langvad, assistant to trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
“The track was sloppy, so it was a nice easy gallop,” said Langvad, who arrived at Pimlico from Churchill Downs with the gray colt Tuesday evening.
Ny Traffic, who is owned by John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley, finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby after being forwardly placed into the stretch. The NY-bred colt finished second, a nose behind Authentic, in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth in his previous start.
Joseph is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore Thursday.
MAX PLAYER, PNEUMATIC, EXCESSION – Darren Fleming, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s longtime assistant in the Midwest, is handling the stable’s trio of Preakness entrants this week. All three had their final workouts Monday and were out of their stalls in the Preakness Stakes barn at Pimlico before dawn Wednesday, their first morning in Baltimore.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pneumatic, who shipped in from Saratoga Race Course Tuesday, went to the track and galloped a mile under Roberto Howell. Meanwhile, Calumet Farm’s Excession and Max Player, who is owned by George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds, walked the shedrow under tack. Excession and Max Player were part of the group of Preakness runners that were flown from Louisville to Maryland Tuesday afternoon.
Fleming said he expects that all three will go to the track Thursday morning.
LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE – William H. Lawrence’s Preakness Stakes (G1) contender Liveyourbeastlife
After going out at 8:45 a.m. under exercise rider Kenneth Cruz, Liveyourbeastlife jogged one clockwise lap around the one-mile surface made sloppy from overnight rain. The original plan was for Liveyourbeastlife to gallop 1 1/4 miles, which Abreu hopes to get in Thursday.
“We just jogged him once around. It was a little wetter than I thought it would be today. That’s why I waited until 8:45 because I thought it would dry out a little,” Abreu said. “I’m going to plan on galloping tomorrow. Today the idea was to gallop him, but he’s dead fit. One day is not going to hurt him. He got a chance to get familiar with his surroundings.”
Abreu was pleased with the way Liveyourbeastlife has already adjusted to the new environment, even if the trainer — making his Triple Crown race debut — hadn’t quite gotten to that point.
“There’s a lot of nerves. I didn’t sleep last night,” Abreu said. “He had a good night. He ate up everything, which is good. He’s got a good attitude. He’s doing everything the right way right now.”
Abreu said he spoke briefly Tuesday with jockey Trevor McCarthy, who will be aboard Liveyourbeastlife in the Preakness from outside Post 11. Abreu said he will meet McCarthy Thursday morning before Maryland’s four-time champion rider, who owns three Pimlico meet titles, rides the afternoon card.
“I’m not going to give him too many instructions. He knows this track pretty well,” Abreu said. “When the agent called and told me, ‘We got you,’ I said, ‘Great!’ Yesterday he gave me a call. We spoke a little bit and he’s going to stop by the barn tomorrow. If he wants, he can get on him. That way he could feel him out. The horse is pretty straightforward, though.”
Liveyourbeastlife enters the 1 3/16-mile Preakness off a runner-up finish behind Mystic Guide in the Jim Dandy (G2) Sept. 5 at Saratoga, contested at 1 1/8 miles. The son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper dropped back to last in that race with three furlongs to run but came with a late run under Junior Alvarado that fell less than a length shy of the winner. Fellow Preakness contender Jesus’ Team was third.
“I’m pretty sure he could have won, but Junior didn’t know the horse. He admitted to me when he came back, he said I probably let him do too much from the quarter pole home,” Abreu said. “But, there’s nobody to blame. The horse came out of that race in pretty good shape.”
Lawrence, in partnership with Klaravich Stables, won the 2017 Preakness with Cloud Computing, trained by Chad Brown, the year after Abreu went out on his own after nine years as Brown’s top assistant. McCarthy’s only previous Preakness ride came on his 21st birthday in 2015, when he was eighth behind Triple Crown champion American Pharoah aboard Bodhisattva.
JESUS’ TEAM – Grupo Seven C Stable’s Jesus’ Team galloped once around the Pimlico racetrack Wednesday in preparation for joining the 2020 Triple Crown campaign in Saturday’s Preakness (G1).
The Jose D’Angelo-trained son of Tapiture, who was the first Preakness candidate to arrive at Pimlico Sunday afternoon, finished third in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga in his most recent start. He finished fourth behind Authentic in the July 18 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth.