Preakness Picks

Back on September 5th, AUTHENTIC took control of the lead on his way to Winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Now in the $1 million dollar Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, he has the same chance to gun early and repeat that effort.

But AUTHENTIC does take on new shooters in ART COLLECTOR and SWISS SKYDIVER, along with some other talented up-and-comers.

History does favor the running style of AUNTHENTIC. 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 Race 11 on a card of 12 with a scheduled Post Time of 5:35.

Here then is a look at the field along with Morning Line odds:

1. EXCESSION [ML 30-1] Trainer: Steven Asmussen. Jockey: Sheldon Russell. The trainer has chosen a tough spot off a long layoff for this closer’s return. Prior to the the layoff, he managed a surprising 2nd place finish (at 82-1) in the Rebel Stakes (G2). Losing to the invincible NADAL by only 3/4 of a length. 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 8th and 7th. A weak closer who may pick off tired horses, his best race likely puts him in mid-pack.

2. MR. BIG NEWS [ML 12-1] Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Jockey: Gabriel Saez. He gave a career-best effort in the Kentucky Derby, closing for a solid 3rd 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 against those two quality horses. 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. On the other hand, EXAGGERATOR was a closer and did Win this race in 2016. He could also be over-bet him off that closing 3rd place finish. But he might find a spot in the Superfecta.

3. ART COLLECTOR [ML 5-2] Trainer: Tom Drury Jr. Jockey: Brian Hernandez. After a minor health issue came up his trainer chose not to enter this talented runner in the Derby. He 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 shows a 124 and 123 Speed Figures for those two Graded Stakes Wins, but he likely needs another gear here to beat AUTHENTIC, who registered a 129 for his front-running Derby score. 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. He has talent and it seems probable to move forward off the 124 speed figure. Not a great Value at 5-2, but he is capable of Winning.

4. SWISS SKYDIVER [ML 6-1] Trainer: Ken McPeek. Jockey: Robby Albarado. Kudos to the trainer 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 Stakes result? She let ART COLLECTOR pass her in the stretch run with virtually no excuse. After the Blue Grass, she did capture the Alabama Stakes (G1) easily against fillies at Saratoga, then ran 2nd in the Kentucky Oaks. Here she faces ART COLLECTOR again, as well as the Derby Winner AUTHENTIC and other worthy opponents. This is a quality filly, but not one to use on top.

5. THOUSAND WORDS [ML 6-1] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: Florent Geroux. This is the colt that flipped over in the Churchill Downs paddock, forcing a late scratch from the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that untimely scratch, he upset HONOR A.P. in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. In early July, he ran 2nd in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) to UNCLE CHUCK, who later flopped (6th) in the Travers Stakes (G1). THOUSAND WORDS was a woeful a 11th in the Oaklawn Stakes and a distant 4th in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). We sense he got lucky after securing the lead through a moderate pace in the Shared Belief, which lead to him upsetting HONOR A.P. In this spot, he’ll be a stalker or mid-pack runner and will need to mow down some quality horses. Too big a burden.

6. JESUS’ TEAM [ML 30-1] Trainer: Jose Francisco D’Angelo. Jockey: Jevian Toledo. Just five starts ago, this colt Won a Gulfstream $25k claimer. Now, he competes in the Preakness Stakes. But c’mon man. He is not fast enough to Win and may not hit the board. After briefly taking the lead in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), he was twice passed in the stretch and hung on for 3rd. Two starts back, he ran 2nd in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth to PNEUMATIC but was never a threat to Win. Three starts ago, he was 4th in the Haskell Stakes (G1), 8 lengths behind AUTHENTIC. His is a nice story, but no fairy tail ending here.

7. NY TRAFFIC [ML 15-1] Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Horacio Karamanos. He ran well against AUTHENTIC in the Haskell Stakes (G1), almost catching him in the stretch after tracking him in 2nd position throughout. But after tracking AUTHENTIC once again in the Kentucky Derby, he quit and lost by 14 lengths. 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 plausible. His disappointing Derby effort takes away from his reputation as a horse who always fights late- which makes him difficult to endorse as an in-the-money horse here.

8. MAX PLAYER [ML 15-1] Trainer: Steven Asmussen. Jockey: Paco Lopez. This guy is a deep closer who made a decent closing run for 5th in the Kentucky Derby. Before that he put up mild late bids for 3rd in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. Earlier in the year, MAX PLAYER Won the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. But against the best 3-year- olds he seems only capable of picking up the pieces late and earning a minor check. To hit the board, he needs a fast pace and a clear trip behind horses. If those two factors fall his way, expect a 3rd or 4th place finish in the Superfecta.

9. AUNTHENTIC [ML 9-5] Trainer: Bob Baffert. Jockey: John Velazquez. Doubters will ask 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, continued strongly on the final turn and stretch run. When TIZ THE LAW came alongside, AUTHENTIC kept finding more and held him off for the Victory. It seems like Derby deja vu that there is no other true pacesetter here besides AUTHENTIC. There are a few with tactical speed, but they don’t want the lead, unless by default. MAX PLAYER, as a closer, will likely break slow from gate eight, which will give AUTHENTIC room to shift left slightly and aim for the front. From there, he can secure the lead again. His 129 Speed Figure is the highest in the field, giving him the pace and figure advantage.

10. PNEUMATIC [ML 20-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Joe Bravo. The Daily Racing Blog is always in search of Value. This guy raises our eyebrow. He began his career with two Wins before a 3rd-place finish in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. The Matt Winn was only his third career start, and he lost to the highly regarded MAXFIELD by 1 3/4 lengths after contesting the pace early. He then ran 4th in the Belmont Stakes after running wide on the turn. He followed that up with a strong Victory in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, with a 123 speed figure- which puts him roughly on the same level as ART COLLECTOR. PNEUMATIC owns useful tactical speed to keep him within range of the lead. This 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 begins to veer in, PNEUMATIC can follow him. As long as his price remains double digits, this is one Value option to consider on top.

11. LIVEYOURBEASTLIFE [ML 30-1] Trainer: Jorge Abreu. Jockey: Trevor McCarthy. The Post Position does no favors for this long shot, but he does come off a nice closing 2nd-place finish in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and beat a highly rated CANDY TYCOON two starts ago in a Saratoga Allowance race. Both of those races came at nine furlongs, giving the impression that he enjoys routing at longer distances. He has a distance pedigree and his form indicates a horse on the rise. If he 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. He should only be used by Superfecta players who want a long-shot bomb in the 4th place slot.

Analysis:  Value seekers that we are at DRB we are going to to with #10 PNEUMATIC to Win. He is a horse who seems to be on a forward progression and perhaps a forgotten horse after AUTHENTIC, ART COLLECTOR and SWISS SKYDIVER.

He should get a tracking trip behind the heavily-pressured pace. Will probably not go off at his 20-1 Morning Line, but will still be juicy odds.

#9 AUTHENTIC is very good and we can certainly see him being in the Trifecta. #3 ART COLLECTOR is also very good, but he won’t have the odds we’re looking for.

Finally, if there is a pace meltdown, look for #8 MAX PLAYER to come chugging down the stretch like a freight train.

And while we admire, and appreciate #4 SWISS SKYDIVER, she has had a long and strenuous year, and it might finally catch up to her Saturday.

The Play: Nothing fancy, or confusing here. We’ll take our top four choices- #10-9-3-8, and do a four horse Exacta Box, as well as use the same four in a Trifecta Box. If you’ve got the bank and think SWISS SKYDIVER can grab a share then add #4 to that Triple Box. We will also place Win Bets on #10, and 8.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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