Preakness Stakes 2020: Here are 12 that could challenge Authentic

Preakness Stakes 2020: Here are 12 that could challenge Authentic
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Four horses that were not supposed to be new shooters might provide Kentucky Derby winner Authentic some of his most recognizable challengers in next month’s Preakness Stakes.

Thousand Words, Art Collector, King Guillermo and Finnick The Fierce, all late withdrawals from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, were among the 13 possible starters reported Sunday by the Maryland Jockey Club that were not made doubtful or ruled out by their connections.

Mr. Big News, a deep-closing third to Authentic, is the only other Derby starter that appears to be on the Preakness radar, although his connections stopped short of confirming their interest Sunday.

A rematch with Derby favorite and Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law looks doubtful after trainer Barclay Tagg said it might be more prudent to wait two months for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. On Monday, he said in a text message that the Preakness "is a possibility but probably won't make a final decision for a couple of weeks."

Other Preakness possibilities include Saturday’s Jim Dandy (G2) winner Mystic Guide, Todd Pletcher stablemates Dr Post and Happy Saver, fourth-place Belmont Stakes finisher Pneumatic, Canada stakes winners Shirl’s Speight and Mongolian Wind and two-time Maryland stakes victor Lebda.

Foreign oddsmakers got the jump on Nevada casinos in booking futures bets. One, presuming Tiz The Law would go to the Preakness, made him an 11-10 favorite with Authentic next at 6-5. Another made Authentic a 1-2 favorite with Art Collector 7-2 and both Tiz The Law and Honor A. P. 5-1. After his colt’s fourth-place finish in the Derby, Honor A. P.’s trainer John Shirreffs said “I haven’t even though about” a next race.

After he took a spill before he could be saddled Saturday, Thousand Words will be a fresher horse than trainer Bob Baffert intended him to be at Pimlico. Despite the fall, which made him an automatic scratch from the Derby, he came away unscathed.

“He didn’t have a scratch on him,” Baffert said. “He fell on his side, so we were fortunate. We’re planning on sending both (Authentic and Thousand Words) if they’re doing well.”

Mr. Big News qualified in April for the Preakness with his 46-1 upset in the Oaklawn Stakes. But Sunday morning, trainer Bret Calhoun would not commit to a next race. He and owner Chester Thomas had been leaning to moving the Giant’s Causeway colt to the turf before they decided early last week to put him in the Derby.

Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Ellis Park Derby winner Art Collector was immediately pointed to the Preakness after he grabbed his left front heel and nicked it training last Monday for the Derby. “I knew after we gave him a little anti-inflammatory that he’d be perfectly sound,” trainer Tommy Drury said last week. “We wanted him to respond well to it, and it looks like that’s what happened. On to Baltimore.” 

Unraced since he finished second to Nadal in one division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) in May, King Guillermo spiked a fever Thursday that forced him to be scratched last week at Churchill Downs. At the time trainer Juan Carlos Ávila texted two prayer emojis when asked if the Preakness would be the new target.

On Monday, Ávila texted that King Guillermo in in "his third day without fever and his blood values (are) very close to normal. He will rest all week, and his next race will be evaluated (by) how difficult the Preakness is."

Seventh in the Blue Grass, one-eyed allowance winner Finnick The Fierce was scratched on the eve of the Derby because of a cough and questions raised by Kentucky veterinarians about his gait. Co-owner and trainer Rey Hernández said Friday that “if everything is 100 percent safe and everything is good, (the Preakness) could be a possibility.”

Owned by Godolphin, Mystic Guide had his trainer thinking right away about Baltimore after Saturday’s victory in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. “It certainly is a race that we’ll look at,” Mike Stidham said. “If we like the way he trains in the next couple weeks, the Preakness would certainly be on the table.”

An odds-on favorite for the Jim Dandy, Dr Post finished a flat fourth, which might discourage Pletcher from sending him to Baltimore. But he has 2-for-2 Happy Saver making his stakes debut Monday at Pimlico in the Federico Tesio, a traditional prep for the Preakness.

“We were very pleased with his debut and impressed that he was able to stretch out in his second start to a mile and an eighth and win against older horses,” Pletcher said. “We feel like the Tesio could potentially be a good segue toward the Preakness if he continues to develop.”

While tamping down the Preakness for fifth-place Derby finisher Max Player, trainer Steve Asmussen said Sunday that he was looking to sending Pneumatic to Pimlico after a first-place finish last month. “He ran his best race to date in the Pegasus at Monmouth,” Asmussen said. “We thought he obviously responded to the timing from (finishing fourth in) the Belmont to it, so we followed the same plan to the Preakness.”

Coming off a win in the Marine Stakes (G3) at Woodbine, Shirl’s Speight was a Derby possibility before trainer Roger Attfield said he caught a cold late last month. At the time, owner Chuck Fipke said on social media, “we expect a complete recovery quickly. We’ll be looking forward to the Preakness.” A 2-for-2 winner on Woodbine’s turf and synthetic courses, Shirl’s Speight could make his dirt debut at Pimlico.

Owned by a member of the Stronach family that runs Pimlico, Mongolian Wind prepped with a 7-1 win early last month in the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs. Right after the race, Andy Stronach committed the Mucho Macho Man colt to the Preakness.

Three of Lebda’s four victories have come at Laurel Park, including a pair of black-type stakes during the winter. Trained by Claudio González, the Raison d’Etat colt was sixth in the Ohio Derby (G3) and sixth in the Haskell (G1) before he was third last month in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town.

“The plan before (the pandemic) was to wait for the Preakness no matter what,” González said during the summer. “We’re local. We’re going to be at home.”

Once mentioned by trainer Kenny McPeek as a Preakness candidate, Swiss Skydiver might have been knocked off the trail by her second-place finish to Shedaresthedevil on Friday in the Kentucky Oaks. She suffered cuts to a front ankle, so McPeek said Saturday that plans the filly are “undecided.”

Originally scheduled for May 16, the Preakness was postponed to Oct. 3 because of the pandemic. The Maryland Jockey Club announced Wednesday that fans will not be admitted. This is the first time that the race will be run as the finale to the Triple Crown.

Despite qualifying for the Preakness with a wintertime victory in the El Camino Real Derby, Azul Coast was ruled out by Baffert. He confirmed it in a text message Sunday afternoon. The Super Saver colt has raced only twice since that February win, finishing seventh in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) before coming in fifth last month making his turf debut in the La Jolla Handicap (G3).

2020 Preakness Stakes (G1)

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