Bet the Preakness: Garrity handicaps the 3rd Triple Crown race, explains how it will be run and who he thinks will win – he likes a longshot
Today will be the 145th time the Preakness Stakes has been run, and it’s an edition that nobody will ever forget. Because of the pandemic, it’s in October, not May, and it’s the third, rather than second, Triple Crown race. And it’s also the first time in memory that a Triple Crown will not be on the line in Baltimore: The Kentucky Derby winner always runs in the Preakness when it’s scheduled two weeks after the Derby, but this year, two different horses won the Belmont and the Derby, so there is no chance for racing immortality. But it’s a great race nonetheless, from both a sporting and wagering perspective.
Here is a look at the 11 runners in the field.
1-Excession, 30-1. This stretch-running son of Union Rags runs for Steve Asmussen, and has been away since finishing second, at 82-1, in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. We do not think coming off a 6½-month layoff will be an effective way to win the Preakness. He lacks early speed, another negative. A minor placing seems to be his ceiling, and that only if the early pace collapses.
2-Mr. Big News, 12-1. He finished third at 45-1 in the Kentucky Derby, behind Authentic and Tiz the Law. That was by far the best race he’s ever run, and continues a trend of steady improvement since his juvenile season. One could look at his Derby result as a fluke, but based on his race record and his pedigree (he’s by Giant’s Causeway, out of a Galileo mare) we are inclined to think that he’s a late-developing 3-year-old who could turn into a star. We think he’s a win contender.
3-Art Collector, 5/2. Any 3-year-old colt who can string together three consecutive races with Beyer Speed Figures over 100, as Art Collector has done winning his last three starts, is obviously highly talented. There’s no question that Art Collector is good. The questions here are whether he is good enough, and whether his odds are a good reflection of his chances. We think the answer to both of these is no: We think his chances to win the race will be less than his odds -- we call that an underlay, and Rule #1 in this game is to bet against underlays. He’s a win contender, but we think he is a poor wagering proposition.
4-Swiss Skydiver, 6-1. When trainer Kenny McPeek entered the filly Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness, it brought back memories of Rachel Alexandra, who won the race in 2009, the first filly to wear the blanket of Black-Eyed Susans since Nellie Morse in 1924. Unfortunately, the similarities end there: we think Swiss Skydiver has virtually no chance, and will be the biggest underlay in the race. She’s a non-contender, and we wish we could book the bets of all the casual racing fans who will be betting on her because she’s a girl.
5-Thousand Words, 6-1. This colt was a top Kentucky Derby contender early this year, before a couple of bad races relegated him to second-string status in trainer Bob Baffert’s loaded stable. He ran his way into this race winning a minor stakes at Santa Anita in August, earning a very big speed figure. We see him as part of the pace scenario, but doubt that he will be around at the finish.
6-Jesus’ Team, 30-1. This colt has won twice, both times when he was up for sale. He has marginally competitive speed figures, but otherwise is greatly overmatched. We think he has little chance. Non-contender.
7-Ny Traffic, 15-1. An intriguing New York-bred colt who finished second to Authentic in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. Authentic, of course, won the Kentucky Derby in his next start, of course, while Ny Traffic finished a well-beaten eighth. He may rebound today, but we think second or third is about the best he can hope for.
8-Max Player, 15-1. This is another late-running, late-blooming colt from the Steve Asmussen barn. We think that he may win some stakes races down the road, perhaps even some major ones, but he will not win today: his lack of early speed is going to leave him too far behind to have a shot at the win. He could very well clunk up for third or fourth, but we do not see him finishing better than that.
9-Authentic, 9/5. Bob Baffert sends out Authentic, who is favored off his gritty wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Derby on September 5. He ran huge that day, but we think that his chances today are much, much poorer, primarily because he will assume the mantle of the favorite, and all other runners will be gunning for him, as they were gunning for Tiz the Law in the Derby. He is a win contender, but at a short price, he’s an underlay.
10-Pneumatic, 20-1. The third of Steve Asmussen’s Preakness trio, Pneumatic, is the one that intrigues us most. He’s won three times in five starts, and other than a 4th-place finish in the Belmont, for which he was probably not quite ready, every race has been better than the last. Further improvement off his most recent race, a smart win in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park on August 15, stamps him as a threat to win the race, as does his forwardly-placed, stalking running style. We think he’s a big threat at a big price.
11-Liveyourbeastlife, 30-1. This colt has two wins in eight career starts, but has yet to run fast enough to beat horses as accomplished as those he will face today. He’s well-bred, and appears to be headed the right way, and a win by him does not seem totally impossible -- just extremely unlikely. We are marking him as a non-contender.
How the race will be run
Swiss Skydiver and Authentic will set the pace, with Art Collector, Thousand Words, Ny Traffic just behind the leading pair.
Just behind these five pacesetters will be the stalkers, a group that will include Jesus’ Team, Pneumatic, and Liveyourbeastlife. The three closers, Excession, Mr. Big News, and Max Player, will be farther back.
The horses will stay in this order for about a mile, at which point Swiss Skydiver will throw in the towel, and Thousand Words will move to the lead. Art Collector will begin to make his move, coming up near the leader, while Pneumatic leaves the stalkers and moves toward the leading horses. The closers at this point will still be pretty far back.
At the top of the stretch, Authentic will still have the lead, with Art Collector hounding him every step of the way. Pneumatic will loom as a big threat outside both. The horses who were close to the pace early will be falling back, while the closers begin to move forward.
By mid-stretch, Art Collector will have passed Authentic, but Pneumatic will be at his throat. After a strong stretch drive, Pneumatic will be in front of Art Collector at the wire, a half-length in front, and Mr. Big News will have made up enough ground from the back of the pack to nip Authentic for third.
That’s Pneumatic for the win, Art Collector for the place, Mr. Big News for the show, and Authentic in fourth. That’s a 10-3 Exacta, a 10-3-2 Trifecta, and a 10-3-2-9 Superfecta. We will bet Pneumatic to win, and play those combinations, in order, in all the exotics.
Enjoy the race.