Authentic became a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby winner for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)
In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a total makeover of the Triple Crown trail, there is a fragment of familiarity going into the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes (G1): the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner is set to tackle a few foes from Churchill Downs plus several new rivals at Pimlico.
But the 2020 twists are still very much apparent. The spacing between the Derby and Preakness is twice as long as usual. Instead of two weeks separating the classics, there’s a four-week gap from the Derby on Labor Day Weekend to the Preakness on the first Saturday in October. And they’re the last two jewels of the Triple Crown, rather than the first two, since the Belmont Stakes
(G1) was able to go ahead in June.
Beyond the scheduling, though, the annual storyline of “new shooters” stepping up to face the Derby veterans is a bit different. For the most part, these aren’t so much fresh faces as horses who have been on the trail for quite some time, but didn’t contest the Derby for one reason or another.
Kentucky Derby winner Authentic
could renew rivalry with runner-up Tiz the Law
, the odds-on Derby favorite who had won four straight including the Belmont and Travers (G1). Yet Tiz the Law’s connections are uncertain about his participation, and it would be no surprise if the New York-bred star skipped the Preakness to focus on a rematch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic
Two other Derby runners are in the mix. Mr. Big News, who outperformed his 46-1 odds in a bold third-place finish, is likely to advance to the Preakness. Eighth-placer Ny Traffic, who threw a shoe and came out with a couple of cuts, is listed as possible if he does well in the interim.
Three Preakness contenders – Art Collector, King Guillermo, and Thousand Words – were planning to run in the Derby, only to meet with various ill-timed hiccups that ruled them out.
Art Collector was widely expected to be the second choice on the morning line after victories in the Blue Grass (G2) and Ellis Park Derby, until a foot issue during Derby Week. He’s already gotten over it and back onto the worktab, with the Preakness his definite aim.
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) upsetter King Guillermo came down with a fever and had to be withdrawn two days before the Derby. Unraced since his second to Nadal in a division of the Arkansas Derby (G1), he’ll be returning from a five-month layoff now.
Thousand Words, a stablemate of Authentic’s from the Bob Baffert barn, got the closest to running in the Derby before suffering his heartbreak. Rearing up in the paddock and flipping over, he had to be scratched just minutes away from the race. Thankfully, Thousand Words turned out to be fine, and ready to bid for compensation at Pimlico.
Two Preakness hopefuls chased Tiz the Law in the Belmont, runner-up Dr Post and fourth Pneumatic. Both had the credentials to try the Derby, but their respective connections believed they were best served by passing the Run for the Roses. Pneumatic was better than ever last out when rolling in the Aug. 15 Pegasus at Monmouth, and now arrives fresh according to plan.
In contrast, Dr Post was rerouted to the Sept. 5 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga and disappointed in fourth. The top two from the Jim Dandy – Godolphin’s well-bred Mystic Guide and the improving Liveyourbeastlife – are themselves under Preakness consideration.
Happy Saver, like Dr Post trained by Todd Pletcher, is a late developer who didn’t make his career debut until Belmont Day. Now a perfect 3-for-3, he punched his Preakness ticket in the Sept. 7 Federico Tesio over a game Monday Morning Qb.
Rounding out the list of candidates are Lebda, twice a stakes winner at Laurel and most recently third in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town, and Mongolian Wind, coming off scores in a pair of minor stakes at Assiniboia Downs in Canada.