The 2020 version of the Preakness is a real mixed bag. No longer the second leg of the USA Triple Crown, this year’s race is a lot of things, including a key test along the way to a potential three-year-old championship and an important prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Who will win? Let’s have a look at this group from the rail out.
Comes here off a long layoff for trainer Steve Asmussen. When he was last seen, he made a seemingly bold run in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn to get within a length of then superstar Nadal. But before we get too excited: he was 80-1 that day in the slop and flattered by both the flow of the race and the fact that he made his run up the favored inside. Recent worktab looks fine but I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Current odds of 40-1 feel right.
2 MR. BIG NEWS
Ran a blinder in the Derby to get third, in a spot where I dismissed his chances going in. Authentic set a fast pace and that probably helped him in the sense that he was able to pass some tired rivals in a Derby field that was subpar overall. In a normal year, a Derby third in the Preakness would be an auto include, and he has a right to keep improving as a fall three-year-old in his second start off the bench. That said, he doesn’t inspire me this time around either. A lower frame run would be no surprise but I think last time was the time to have him at 50-1 and current odds of 16-1 are fine but just the price.
3 ART COLLECTOR
Was poised to be the second choice on the first Saturday in September before his challenge was derailed by a minor injury. He looks ready to roll now and the works since the setback could hardly have been more impressive. Some figure makers had his body of work much closer to Tiz the Law going into the Derby and if he’s moved forward at all, he rates a massive chance.
4 SWISS SKYDIVER
Was a surprise entrant to this and she certainly spices things up from a storytelling point of view. She’s got a lot of talent as she evinced in the Alabama at Saratoga, notching a stylish victory at 10 furlongs. By her own lofty standards she was a bit flat in the Oaks, but she still showed her class trying all the way to the line. Rewatching the Bluegrass, I have trouble seeing her finishing ahead of a better rested, more progressive, more talented Art Collector, but I can see her running in right behind him. Current odds of high single digits are better than what I imagine she’ll be on the tote on the day. She’s a reasonable each-way option at that price.
5 THOUSAND WORDS
Freaked out in the paddock at the Derby and didn’t get a chance to compete. Heading into the race, I would have told you I liked his chances more than his ultimately victorious stablemate. He’s rebounded from his poor form earlier this year and looks workmanlike and capable if not brilliant. He’s got some speed and is a grinder, making me think he could make his way into the frame. But my gut tells me a win is going to be difficult to obtain for this one.
6 JESUS’ TEAM
Looks likely to find himself farther back than he likes to be, just looking at pace figures. He doesn’t appear fast enough to me to trouble the best of these even with a good trip. I feel like he’ll sit too close and get cooked. I can’t support.
7 NY TRAFFIC
Disappointed in the Derby as a seemingly live longshot though it must be noted that his rider, Paco Lopez, seemed more interested in riding other horses in the race than his own mount. Those antics rightly got him replaced and if you put a line through the last race and look at his form line to Authentic in the Haskell, a case can be built for this one. Odds of 20-1 aren’t bad at all, and I’d use him in USA-style exotics, but at the end of the day I think he’s likely to find two or three who will go better than him here.
8 MAX PLAYER
Undoubtedly a cool horse who has a couple of a few nice form lines to Tiz the Law, including his Derby run. Not bad for a horse who was discussed as a postmodern answer to Seattle Slew before the last disappointment. I see no reason Max can’t run on for a placing once again and at 20-1, I wouldn’t have a problem with any wanted to bet that way. He will need a real pace meltdown to win and let’s hope his new rider, Paco Lopez, doesn’t decide to get cute again this time.
All of a sudden finds himself in the hunt for a divisional championship – and/or possible favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This horse looked for all the world like he had distance limitations after his “just barely” run in the Haskell. But he was a completely different horse in the Derby, setting fast fractions and going on with it, making Tiz the Law look like just another good horse in the process. Will he back that effort up? Given the hands he’s in it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. But at 6-4 in a race with other quality speed I think it will pay to take a more cynical view. The two works since indicate he’ll hold his form and not I’m going to argue with anyone who sides with him but I’ll be looking elsewhere.
A good-looking son of Uncle Mo who did the business in the Pegasus at Monmouth and has trained forwardly since. On pace figures/running lines, this is another runner that might have to work harder early here to race in his customary position and I don’t love that, especially not from his wide draw. The 25-1 on offer feels like just the price to me and doesn’t inspire me to put my hand in my pocket
Ran well enough in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on the same day as the Derby at Saratoga, getting a win over Jesus’ Team in the process. He’s got a tricky draw and plenty to find on form and figures. I’m not going to argue with anyone who wants to make a case for a 50-1 shot but he leaves me a bit cold given the task he’s up against.
PETER'S PREAKNESS VERDICT
I’m going to go with ART COLLECTOR to spring the mild upset on Authentic. I love his consistency and the way he’s training suggests to me that another forward move is likely. I think Authentic pretty much has to go and Art has a push-button look where I think he can just run his race, flop outside of that one and pounce when the time is right. Let’s shake up the three-year-old male picture one more time with an Art Collector win in the Preakness.