Earlier this month, Authentic took control of the lead en route to winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Now in the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, Authentic has the same chance to gun early and repeat his effort. But he takes on new shooters in Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver, among others.
History does favor Authentic’s running style. For the most part, Kentucky Derby winners with early speed fare well in the Preakness because capturing the Kentucky Derby demonstrates the capability of handling both a fast pace and quality horses.
The Preakness is carded as Race 11 with a post time of 5:36 ET.
1. Excession, 30-1 (Union Rags – Steven Asmussen/Sheldon Russell – 9: 1-1-3 - $288,612): Asmussen chose a tough spot for this closer’s return. Before the layoff, Excession did manage a surprising second at 82-1 in the Rebel Stakes (G2), losing to the invincible Nadal by only 3/4 of a length. With that said, the race set up beautifully for Excession to arrive at the last second. Nadal met different waves of attacks throughout the race, which led to him weakening by the stretch run. Before his Rebel runner-up, Excession could not make a dent in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) or Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds, finishing eighth and seventh. As a weak closer who will pick off tired horses, his best race likely puts him in mid-pack. Toss.
2. Mr. Big News, 12-1 (Giant’s Causeway – Bret Calhoun/Gabriel Saez – 8: 2-1-1 - $468,553): Mr. Big News gave a career-best effort in the Kentucky Derby, closing for a solid third after settling roughly in mid-pack. On the turn, he came within three lengths of Authentic and Tiz the Law, but he did not make up any ground in the stretch run as those two quality horses put on a show. Preakness history does not favor Kentucky Derby closers for the most part because they tend to benefit from a Derby pace setup and distance-challenged horses. To counter that argument, the closer Exaggerator did capture this race in 2016 after receiving a second pace setup in the Preakness. Another concern is that the public figures to overbet him off that closing third-place finish. But he is a superfecta threat again. Use underneath.
3. Art Collector, 5-2 (Bernardini – Tom Drury Jr./Brian Hernandez – 9: 5-1-0 - $664,380): After a minor issue came up, Drury chose not to enter this talented runner in the Derby. Since then, his tab shows three workouts, including four furlongs in 48 flat on Sept. 12 and a five-furlong spin in 59 2/5 on Sept. 19. The latter was the second-best time at Churchill Downs that morning for five furlongs. Also, Art Collector remains undefeated this year, with his most recent wins coming in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) over Swiss Skydiver and the Ellis Park Derby. He probably beat a suspect group at Ellis Park, but Shared Sense made an argument for the race’s quality by returning to win the Oklahoma Derby (G3) earlier this week. Art Collector shows a 124 and 123 TimeformUS Speed Figures for those two graded stakes wins, but he likely needs more this week to beat Authentic, who had a 129 for his front-running Derby score. If nothing else, his tactical speed at least keeps him close to Authentic if that one secures the lead again. But Authentic did not give in against Tiz the Law in the stretch. Why would he let Art Collector pass him? If Art Collector tries for an aggressive strategy by stealing the lead, then Authentic or Swiss Skydiver seem likely to wear him out early on. If Hernandez is not careful, Baffert might also attempt to double-team this colt with Thousand Words involved. But the talent is there and he seems probable to move forward off the 124 figure. The price is not a super value at 5-2, but he is capable of winning. Win contender.
4. Swiss Skydiver, 6-1 (Daredevil – Ken McPeek/Robby Albarado – 10: 5-3-1 - $1,192,980): McPeek deserves credit for running this filly against males. Most connections take the easy route and stick to fillies facing their own gender. But how does Swiss Skydiver reverse the Blue Grass result? She let Art Collector pass him in the stretch run with virtually no excuse. After the Blue Grass, Swiss Skydiver did capture the Alabama Stakes (G1) easily against fillies at Saratoga and then ran second in the Kentucky Oaks after failing to pass Shedaresthedevil in the lane. Now, she faces Art Collector again, as well as the Derby winner Authentic and other tough opponents. At most, she might hang around long enough for a piece, but winning sounds out of reach. This is a quality filly, but not one to use on top. Use underneath.
5. Thousand Words, 6-1 (Pioneerofthe Nile – Bob Baffert/Florent Geroux – 7: 4-1-0 - $327,000): This Baffert runner flipped over in the Churchill Downs paddock, forcing a scratch from the Kentucky Derby. Oddly, both this horse and Authentic were bursting with energy that day, as Authentic tried to take out Baffert in the winner’s circle. Prior to that untimely scratch, Thousand Words upset the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on the front end with the heavy favorite Honor A. P. a slow-closing second. In early July, he also ran second in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) to Uncle Chuck, who later ran a disappointing sixth in the Travers Stakes (G1). Thousand Words also shows a disappointing 11th in the Oaklawn Stakes and a distant fourth in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). The feeling is that Thousand Words became lucky after securing the lead through a moderate pace in the Shared Belief, leading him to upset Honor A. P. In this spot, Thousand Words is almost certainly a stalker or mid-pack runner and needs to mow down some quality names in Art Collector, Authentic and possibly more. The task is too difficult. Toss.
6. Jesus’ Team, 30-1 (Tapiture – Jose Francisco D’Angelo/Jevian Toledo – 10: 2-3-2 - $146,640): Here is another claimer-to-riches story. Only five starts ago, this colt won a Gulfstream $25k claimer. Now, he competes in the Preakness Stakes. But realistically, he is not fast enough to win and questionable to hit the board. After briefly taking the lead in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), he let both Mystic Guide and Liveyourbeastlife pass him in the stretch. Two starts ago, he ran second in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth to Pneumatic but never gave the impression of threatening him. Three starts ago, he was fourth in the Haskell Stakes (G1), 7 3/4 lengths behind Authentic. He has a nice story, but this field is tough. Toss.
7. Ny Traffic, 15-1 (Cross Traffic – Saffie Joseph Jr./Horacio Karamanos – 10: 2-3-2 - $565,470): Ny Traffic ran well against Authentic in the Haskell Stakes (G1), almost catching him in the stretch after tracking him in second throughout. But after tracking Authentic again in the Kentucky Derby, he quit and lost by 13 3/4 lengths to a resilient Authentic, who would not let Tiz the Law by him. Did Ny Traffic chase a different, more focused version of Authentic in the Kentucky Derby, or did he throw an odd clunker? The former explanation is more probable. Ny Traffic’s disappointing Derby effort takes away from his label of a horse who always fights late, making it difficult to endorse him for an on-the-board spot here. Toss.
8. Max Player, 15-1 (Honor Code – Steven Asmussen/Paco Lopez – 6: 2-1-2 - $463,500): This deep closer made a decent closing run for fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that effort, he also put up mild late bids for third in the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes, both won by the impressive Tiz the Law. Earlier in the year, Max Player won the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. But against the best 3-year-old horses, he is only capable of picking up the pieces late and earning a minor check. To hit the board, he also needs a fast pace and a clear trip behind horses. If those two factors fall his way, expect a third or fourth-place finish in the superfecta. Use underneath.
9. Authentic, 9-5 (Into Mischief – Bob Baffert/John Velazquez – 6: 5-1-0 - $2,871,200): Some doubts might exist about his ability to repeat or improve upon the Derby win. But why? He overcame a wide post position to secure the lead. From that point, he set a decent pace with a 46.41 half-mile and 1:10.23 for six furlongs, before continuing on strongly on the turn and stretch run. When Tiz the Law came alongside Authentic, Authentic kept finding more and kept him at bay for the victory. In this spot, once again there is no other true pacesetter besides Authentic. Sure, Art Collector, Swiss Skydiver and Ny Traffic own tactical speed. None of them explicitly want the lead, though, unless it falls into their lap by default. With his neighbor Max Player likely to break slower as a deep closer, Authentic has room to shift left slightly and aim for the front. From there, he can secure the lead again. His 129 TimeformUS Speed Figure is also the highest in the field, giving him the pace and figure advantage. Even at a low price, he is the top choice. The pick.
10. Pneumatic, 20-1 (Uncle Mo – Steve Asmussen/Joe Bravo – 5: 3-0-1 - $110,035): For those demanding a higher price on top, Pneumatic is interesting. He began his career with two wins before a third-place finish in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. Pneumatic’s third in the Matt Winn came in only his third career start, and he lost to the highly regarded Maxfield by 1 3/4 lengths after contesting the pace early. Despite his inexperience, Ny Traffic only beat him by 3/4 of a length for second. Pneumatic then ran fourth in the Belmont Stakes after running wide on the turn. He came back with a strong victory in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Jesus’ Team with a 123 on TimeformUS, which puts him roughly on the same level as Art Collector. Similar to Art Collector, Pneumatic also owns useful tactical speed to keep him within range. This Asmussen colt is developing at the right time and might pop up with a “coming out” win when fewer bettors are talking about him. The wide post is a negative, but when Authentic steers a diagonal left, Pneumatic can follow him. As long as his price remains double digits, this is one value option to consider on top. At a minimum, he fits directly underneath Authentic in vertical wagers. Win contender.
11. Liveyourbeastlife, 30-1 (Ghostzapper – Jorge Abreu/Trevor McCarthy – 8: 2-1-1 - $110,035): The post position does not help this long shot, but he does come off a nice closing second-place finish to Mystic Guide in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and beat Candy Tycoon two starts ago in a Saratoga allowance race. Both starts came at nine furlongs, giving the impression that he enjoys routing at longer distances. For what it is worth, he is also a half-brother to the excellent turf router Time and Motion. The pedigree is great, and the form indicates a developing horse on the rise. If Liveyourbeastlife can somehow tuck in behind horses early and not lose too much ground on the first turn, he might hit the board with his best shot. But he is mostly for superfecta players who want a long-shot bomb in fourth. Use underneath.
Authentic remains the probable winner, but Art Collector and Pneumatic are players. If Authentic fails to secure the lead or throws in a clunker for any other reason, one of those two horses can win. The latter is possibly a double-digit long shot, giving pick 4 bettors extra incentive to throw him in, just in case.
In multi-race wagers, Authentic is an A, and Art Collector and Pneumatic are Bs.
As for vertical tickets, a straight Authentic over Pneumatic exacta might work, along with an Authentic win bet to cover it in case Authentic wins and Pneumatic fails.
Exacta: 9 / 10
Why not play a straight Authentic over Art Collector exacta? The expected payoff for that ticket might not be worth the risk. But that is another option to consider. Alternatively, bettors might find a long shot to use with Authentic in either the Pimlico Special-Preakness Double or the Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness Double.