Study Guide: 2020 Preakness Stakes

Sep 30, 2020

The Triple Crown wraps up on Saturday with the $1 million Preakness (G1) at Pimlico. Normally the middle leg of the three-race series, this year's Preakness will conclude the 2020 classics after being postponed from May 16 due to COVID-19. Even with its rescheduled date, the Preakness has attracted 11 talented 3-year-olds to vie for victory over 1 3/16 miles.

Total 9 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (94) when finishing second in the Rebel (G2).
Wins: 1 Total Earnings: $288,612
Place: 1
Show: 3
Owner: Calumet Farm Sire: Union Rags
Breeder: Randal Family Trust, R. David and Marylyn A. Randal Trustees Dam: Draw It
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Color: Bay
Jockey: Sheldon Russell

This experienced colt ran nine times between July 2019 and March 2020, but hasn't started since finishing second at odds of 82-1 in the Mar. 14 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park. The son of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags rallied resolutely to finish just three-quarters of a length behind future Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Nadal, but it's worth noting Excession benefited from closing ground into fast fractions over a sloppy track. With a career-best 94 Brisnet Speed rating, Excession will need a step forward (and another favorable setup) to factor in the Preakness.

Mr. Big News
Total 8 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (101) when finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $468,553
Place: 1
Show: 1
Owner: Allied Racing Stable Sire: Giant's Causeway
Breeder: Don Alberto Corporation Dam: Unappeased
Trainer: Bret Calhoun Color: Bay
Jockey: Gabriel Saez

A stoutly-bred son of Giant's Causeway out of a Galileo mare, Mr. Big News is bred to relish classic distances, as he demonstrated when rallying to finish third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) at odds of 46-1. Mr. Big News isn't the most consistent colt in training, misfiring in his two previous graded stakes attempts, but a stretch-running victory in the Apr. 11 Oaklawn S. hints his Derby effort wasn't a fluke. Mr. Big News will be one to watch from off the pace if the Preakness pace is fast.

Art Collector
Total 9 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (104) when winning the Blue Grass (G2).
Wins: 5 Total Earnings: $664,380
Place: 1
Show: 0
Owner: Bruce Lunsford Sire: Bernardini
Breeder: Bruce Lunsford Dam: Distorted Legacy
Trainer: Tom Drury Color: Bay
Jockey: Brian Hernandez

A son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, Art Collector has been on fire this year, going 4-for-4 against tough company while employing a wide variety of running styles. A decisive winner of the Blue Grass (G2) and Ellis Park Derby during the summer, Art Collector missed the Kentucky Derby with a minor hoof issue, but a trio of fast workouts in the interim suggest he's back in peak form. With three straight triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings to his credit, Art Collector looms as the main threat to take down Authentic. 

Swiss Skydiver
Total 10 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (109) when romping to victory in the Alabama (G1).
Wins: 5 Total Earnings: $1,192,980
Place: 3
Show: 1
Owner: Peter J. Callahan Sire: Daredevil
Breeder: WinStar Farm Dam: Expo Gold
Trainer: Kenny McPeek Color: Chestnut
Jockey: Robby Albarado

Runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and a four-time graded stakes winner, Swiss Skydiver will attempt to become the first filly to win the Preakness since Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Overall, Swiss Skydiver fits well against her male rivals on paper—the 109 Brisnet Speed rating she posted when dominating the Alabama (G1) is actually the highest figure in the Preakness field. But she was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Art Collector in the Blue Grass and will need a step forward to turn the tables at Pimlico.   

Thousand Words
Total 7 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (104) when upsetting the Shared Belief S.
Wins: 4 Total Earnings: $327,000
Place: 1
Show: 0
Owner: Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm Sire: Pioneerof the Nile
Breeder: Hardacre Farm Dam: Pomeroys Pistol
Trainer: Bob Baffert Color: Bay
Jockey: Florent Geroux

What kind of performance can we expect from Thousand Words in the Preakness? Sold for $1 million as a yearling, Thousand Words has shown the ability to win with pacesetting, pressing, and stalking trips. But the son of Pioneerof the Nile was scratched from the Kentucky Derby after acting up in the paddock, which means he'll enter the Preakness off a two-month layoff. He was certainly impressive when wiring the Aug. 1 Shared Belief S. with a 104 Brisnet Speed rating, but the addition of blinkers for the Preakness makes it unclear what strategy he'll employ at Pimlico.

Jesus' Team
Total 10 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (100) when finishing second in the Pegasus S.
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $146,640
Place: 3
Show: 2
Owner: Grupo Seven C Stable Sire: Tapiture
Breeder: Pamela P. Gartin Dam: Golden Memories
Trainer: Jose D'Angelo Color: Bay
Jockey: Jevian Toledo

Jesus' Team has made impressive progress in 2020, climbing from the claiming ranks to hit the board in the Haskell (G1), Pegasus S., and Jim Dandy (G2). A consistent colt with enough tactical speed to be involved from the outset, Jesus' Team has assembled solid Brisnet Speed ratings, but has already been defeated by four of his Preakness rivals. He'll need a step forward to challenge at Pimlico. 

Ny Traffic
Total 10 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (107) when finishing second in the Haskell (G1).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $565,470
Place: 3
Show: 2
Owner: John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman, and Team Hanley  Sire: Cross Traffic
Breeder: Brian Culnan Dam: Mamie Reilly
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Color: Gray/roan
Jockey: Horacio Karamanos

Ny Traffic enjoyed a productive and consistent journey on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, cracking the trifecta in four straight graded stakes while boosting his career earnings above the half-million mark. He peaked with gallant runner-up effort in the Haskell, beaten just a nose by Authentic, but weakened in the Kentucky Derby to finish eighth by 13 3/4 lengths. Handicappers must debate whether Ny Traffic's Derby effort was a fluke, or a sign that the gray colt is regressing after a busy campaign.

Max Player
Total 6 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (107) when finishing third in the Travers (G1).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $463,500
Place: 1
Show: 2
Owner: George E. Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds Sire: Into Mischief
Breeder: K & G Stables Dam: Fools in Love
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Color: Bay
Jockey: John Velazquez

It's hard to knock Max Player, a stretch-running colt who always tries his best. Winner of the Withers (G3) back in February, Max Player unleashed relentless late rallies to finish third in the Belmont Stakes, third in the Travers (G1), and fifth in the Kentucky Derby during a productive summer campaign. Two-time Preakness-winning trainer Steve Asmussen has sent the son of Honor Code through three workouts since Derby Day, so fitness shouldn't be an issue. If the pace is hot, Max Player can fight for a prominent spot in the trifecta. 

Total 6 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (107) when winning the Haskell (G1).
Wins: 5 Total Earnings: $2,871,200
Place: 1
Show: 0
Owner: Spendthrift Farm, MyRacehorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing Sire: Into Mischief
Breeder: Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds Dam: Flawless
Trainer: Bob Baffert Color: Bay
Jockey: John Velazquez

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has gone 5-for-5 when saddling Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness, so you can bet the recently-crowned 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic will be formidable at Pimlico. A pure front-runner with four graded stakes wins under his belt, Authentic carved out a steady pace at Churchill Downs, then turned back a challenge from heavy favorite Tiz the Law to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:00.61—the seventh-fastest Derby in history. But whereas Authentic was relatively unheralded at Churchill Downs, he'll be racing with a target on his back in the Preakness. Don't be surprised if his rivals get aggressive in pressing the early pace.

Total 5 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (103) when cruising to victory in the Pegasus S.
Wins: 3 Total Earnings: $256,850
Place: 0
Show: 1
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds Sire: Uncle Mo
Breeder: Winchell Thoroughbreds Dam: Teardrop
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Color: Dark bay/brown
Jockey: Joe Bravo

A stoutly-bred son of Uncle Mo out of a Tapit mare, Pneumatic has been specifically pointed to the Preakness since rolling to a decisive victory in the Aug. 15 Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park. The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred couldn't quite hold his own against elite competition when finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes, but his pedigree suggests he'll improve with maturity, and a small step forward at Pimlico can put him in contention for a major piece of the purse.  

Total 8 start(s) Top Speed Rating: (95) when finishing second in the Jim Dandy (G2).
Wins: 2 Total Earnings: $110,035
Place: 1
Show: 1
Owner: William H. Lawrence    Sire: Ghostzapper
Breeder: Phillips Racing Partnership Dam: Ellie's Moment
Trainer: Jorge Abreu Color: Dark bay/brown
Jockey: Trevor McCarthy

Liveyourbeastlife is bred to excel over classic distances, and he's definitely lived up to his pedigree since stretching out around two turns, winning a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Saratoga before rallying hard to finish second in the Jim Dandy. A stoutly-bred youngster progressing in the right direction is usually a good bet in a Triple Crown race, though Liveyourbeastlife will need improvement from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective to challenge against Saturday's caliber of competition.

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